This is so much more than just outdoor grocery shopping. The Boulder County Farmers Market is one of the most happening events in Boulder. A trip to town wouldn’t be complete without it.
This is Boulder at its purest. Walk past colorful booths selling local produce and products and shake hands with the farmers who grew them. Indulge in enough healthy free samples to qualify as a full meal, while listening to free live music. Grab a snack for lunch and take it to the next-door park or creek, before heading to the dazzling Dushanbe Tea House for a cup of chai surrounded by statues and then taking a tour of the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art.
The Boulder County Farmers Market is always busy, ever-changing and well-established as one of the best farmers markets in the nation. In fact, Clean Eating Magazine and Cooking Light Magazine both named it one of America’s 50 Best Farmers’ Markets. Vegetarian Times also crowned it one of the country’s best.
It’s a foodie paradise, blending local fare with entertainment and socialization. It’s also a great way to spend a free or super cheap weekend in Boulder, whether you’re with family or traveling solo, looking to make new connections.
Boulder’s Farmers Market is on 13th Street in downtown Boulder, between Canyon Boulevard and Arapahoe Avenue, next to Central Park.
Here’s all you need to know to get the most out of the Boulder County Farmers Market.
When is the Boulder County Farmers Market?
There are actually three Boulder County Farmers Markets in the county: two in Boulder and one in Longmont. Other smaller towns in the county also hold their own markets.
Boulder has two markets: on Saturdays and Wednesday. Longmont’s is also on Saturdays.
[column type=”1/3″]Boulder’s Saturday market
April 7-Nov. 17
8 a.m.-2 p.m.[/column][column type=”1/3″]Longmont’s Saturday market
April 7-Nov. 17
8 a.m.-1 p.m.[/column][column type=”1/3″ last=”true”]Boulder’s Wednesday market
May 2-Oct. 3
Want to beat the crowds? The best time to shop on Saturday is 8 a.m., when the streets still aren’t packed and you have the biggest selection of products. The busiest hours are 10 a.m.-noon. During peak season, the market draws 6,000 to 7,000 people.
“It is a full day event where you can get a lot of things done on your day off. There’s music, an artisan shop, opportunities to shop for gifts, be with friends and go shopping for groceries for the week,” says Elyse Wood, operations manager. “I think the best part is you can meander and slow down and take your time when the rest of your week could be really busy.”
Come rain or shine; the market is open no matter the weather.
What Makes the Boulder County Farmers Market So Special?
The nonprofit Boulder County Farmers Market has been around for a while. The Saturday market is celebrating its 32nd year. The Wednesday market has been open for 26 years.
All vendors here must grow or produce their own food in order to sell it, which sets Boulder’s market apart from others on the Front Range. No re-selling or buying from a wholesaler allowed. This means everything is completely local and authentic. Most produce is organic and GMO-free.
“We have a rigorous application process,” says Wood. “We do sampling and farm visits to get to know our vendors and we share that with the public.”
All waste is composted or recycled, so this is an environmentally friendly event.
What Food is at the Boulder County Farmers Market?
Obviously, there is the locally grown, in-season produce. The farmers and their work is the highlight of this event. Produce changes with the seasons, naturally, from peaches and plums to apples in the fall.
The food court vendor list is long (more than 150 participants), but in the past you could find everything from gyros to polenta and marinara to dumplings to die for. Look for kettle corn, fresh pastries and fantastic tortilla chips with artisan salsa. You can also typically buy pasta, local honey, a wide range of meats and dairy products (mmm, gourmet cheese). Pick up some hot sauce as a souvenir of your trip in Colorado.
New for 2018: There’s a growing emphasis on vendors using local products for their packaged foods and pre-made meals (like using locally grown raspberries for chocolate).
Although the Saturday Boulder market is the most popular, Wednesday night is our favorite because, well, thinner crowds, but also the later timing means you can also buy alcohol. Wednesdays include a beer garden, with local wine and brew. The beer garden has a different brewery every week. Pours are always $5 for 16 ounces. You must keep the beer in the food court. Local breweries include Sanitas, Upslope, Twisted Pine, Post and West Flanders.
Coffee-lovers will be happy to know it’s often served at the farmers markets, too.
- Yoga in Central Park: Look for yoga classes 6-7 p.m. on Wednesdays in Central Park. After yoga, your $15 pass gets you a beer or kombucha in the beer garden. If you’re lucky, a local farmer might join the yoga class.
- Tours of the market: Organizers hope to offer market tours in 2018, although details haven’t yet been announced. These tours would include tips on shopping for seasonal produce, how to buy in bulk, how to shop on a budget and more.
- Sol Food: A new vendor is Sol Food, selling pre-made, packaged, frozen food made with local ingredients. These meals are ideal for people on the go or who need inspiration cooking with seasonal ingredients. In the future, look for recipe cards that you can use on your own.
- Pastificio: This new vendor sells pasta made with 100 percent whole, organic, heirloom grains from Aspen Moon Farm. Buy prepared food or frozen pasta to take home.
- Black Cat prepared food: Black Cat, a local restaurant and farm in Boulder, has repped the market in the food court in the past. This year, Black Cat is also selling prepared food, to showcase the full circle of growing food, packaging products and preparing food, from start to finish.
Longmont Versus Boulder Farmers Markets
[x_pullquote type=”right”]Local tip: Longmont can get excruciatingly hot in the summer because there’s no shade, other than from vendor tents, so bring extra water and make sure to wear sunscreen and a hat. Yes, it can get that hot.[/x_pullquote]The Longmont market has a totally different feel than Boulder. It’s a little more separated from the community because it’s in the expansive fairgrounds parking lot rather than tucked between tall trees near the downtown park.
A benefit of the Longmont market is ample free parking and the pavilion, where you can find free, fun events. Parking is much trickier to find in downtown Boulder and it’s not all free on Saturdays. Some is, though, like the city lots and parking garages. Beware of meters, though. They’re not free and parking enforcers have a knack for knowing the second your meter expires and distributing a ticket.
Tips for Shopping the Farmers Market
- It’s not polite to ask for discounts and haggle. The farmers set their prices to keep their farms open.
- If you are on a budget, consider buying “seconds,” which are items that are slightly bruised or not in beautiful condition. Also shop in season and buy in bulk what is in surplus. Prices may be lower when there’s extra.
- Don’t forget to bring reusable bags to help you tote your groceries.
Some Surprising Facts About the Boulder Farmers Market
[x_icon_list style=”padding-left:30px;”][x_icon_list_item type=”check-square-o”] Although Boulder loves its dogs, no pets are allowed at the market. [/x_icon_list_item]
[x_icon_list_item type=”check-square-o”] You can find unique produce here, too, such as purple beans, seedless yellow watermelon and golden beets, to name a few. [/x_icon_list_item]
[x_icon_list_item type=”check-square-o”] Booths sell more than just food. Also look for fresh-cut flowers, crafts, soaps, home decor, potted seedlings and wreaths. [/x_icon_list_item]
[x_icon_list_item type=”check-square-o”] Even when the farmers markets aren’t running, you can get local food. The farmers market also runs the Seeds Library Cafe at the Boulder Public Library, where you can find food and coffee (at least 75 percent of the menu is all local). This is a fun place to grab a salad or sandwich near Boulder Creek. It’s open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and noon-5 p.m. Sunday.[/x_icon_list_item]
[x_icon_list_item type=”check-square-o”] While crafters and artists aren’t regular vendors, on the second Saturday of each month, the Boulder Farmers Market has an artisan show, featuring about 25 different Colorado crafters like jewelers, knitters and even a company selling reusable produce storage clothes made with local beeswax. [/x_icon_list_item]
[x_icon_list_item type=”check-square-o”] The Farmers Market wants to reach out to low-income families, so it accepts food assistance benefits and will double up to $20. It also hands out WIC coupons.[/x_icon_list_item]
[x_icon_list_item type=”check-square-o”]Prices for produce are comparable to grocery store prices. “There’s a common misconception that prices are a lot higher,” Wood says. “There are specialty products that can be, but often the prices really do compare to what’s in the store. But you have to walk the market and find those things and be willing to take that time.” [/x_icon_list_item][/x_icon_list]