When the Dillon Farmers Market begins its season on Friday, June 6, vendors will be displaying wares from scarves to kitchen accessories to fresh produce from all over the state of Colorado — and beyond.
This year’s Dillon market will feature items from Arizona and New Mexico along with vendors from as far away as California. Matt Lope, of the town of Dillon, said purveyors from all over keep coming back to the market because the wide variety of products available ensures a varied customer base.
“If you’re looking for apparel, it’s there. If you’re looking for lunch, it’s there. Fresh, organic produce, it’s there,” he said. “There’s a huge, wide variety, and you’re going to be happy no matter what you get because of the variety.”
Steve Gloss, president of the nonprofit Sustaining Cultures, based in Taos, New Mexico, said attending the Dillon Farmers Market offers his organization an opportunity to increase awareness among residents and tourists about fair trade. Sustaining Cultures has been a part of the Dillon market for three or four years.
“There’s always lots of foot traffic at markets up here, so we reach quite a few people,” he said. “I’d like to see more consciousness and more awareness here. … There seems to be a little less interest in awareness on the part of the population up here that we serve in terms of the concept of fair trade so that automatically tells me there is a need to be here.”
Gloss said there are quite a few repeat customers in Dillon for the fair trade products sold by Sustaining Cultures, including high-quality Vida Nueva rugs from Mexico and earth and clay La Chamba Cookware from Columbia. If people aren’t buying things that are fair trade, there’s a good probability that in some part of the supply chain, people or the environment or both are being exploited somewhere, Gloss said.
“We have a lot of people coming back to our space because they’re aware of those products and they like them, so that tells me that we’re having some impact,” Gloss said. “And we see a lot of new people, as well.”
Grate customer base
Grate Roots, a vendor from Scottsdale, Arizona, is very popular throughout the state of Colorado, owner Stephanie Sherman said, because the company offers a product not available anywhere else.
“It’s a premium horseradish,” Sherman said. “Meaning it’s an organic root and it’s all handmade, hand packed and it’s made fresh every week. It’s a novel product; hardly anyone makes fresh horseradish anywhere, period, throughout the whole world.”
The three flavored styles of horseradish, Beet the Heat, Double Trouble Citrus and Naturally White, are labor intensive to produce, and Sherman has been bringing these high-end, specialty products to foodies in Dillon for three years.
“I’ve done Dillon from the get-go because I had an interesting customer base there,” Sherman said. “I have a huge crossover of customers between Arizona and the mountains of Colorado. … I love the market itself. It’s a beautiful market, it’s very well orchestrated, and it’s a beautiful setting. And the community is extremely supportive of their farmers markets.”
Sherman said she’s looking forward to greeting her customers from previous years and growing her business through word of mouth at this year’s market.
“I have a huge amount of tourists in Dillon and those tourists end up following up throughout the rest of the year with orders, mail orders, gift orders,” she said. “It’s a tremendous following, and they really appreciate my product.”
Savoring the weather
Patty Moriarty, owner of Gourmet Graters out of Lake Havasu, Arizona, has brought her products to Dillon every summer for the past three years to escape the hot weather in her home state. She said she found the market through a website and has had a fantastic response for her graters.
“I do a culinary product,” she said. “It’s a grater that will grate all kinds of different foods for you that are difficult to grate, like garlic, ginger roots, chocolate — those are hard things to grate, and my grater makes it a lot easier. And I also have a new product this year. It’s called a forever rock candle.”
The rock candles burn oil with a fiberglass wick that never burns down, Moriarty said. She said in addition to the climate, Dillon is the best market because of all of all the fresh foods that are available.
“I come from Arizona, and you get fruits and vegetables up here that we’ve never even seen down there before,” she said. “I love to meet all of the people who come to your market and eating really well up here. The people who run the Dillon market are fantastic; they know what they are doing, they’re running an excellent market. It makes it really easy for vendors.”
Bringing the whole family
Andrea Kocian’s husband, Patrik, started PK Fine Imports in Palm Desert, California, more than 15 years ago, and Andrea has been traveling with him to Dillon for the past five years. The company imports affordable hand-made, lead-free and food-safe pewter bowls, trays, platters and more crafted by Mexican artisans.
“In Palm Springs, it gets super hot in the summers, too hot for an outdoor market,” Andrew said. “Our family has been coming up to Colorado and the mountains for many years. We started looking at outdoor markets and thinking we could bring the whole family up and stay the whole summer and sell in the outdoor markets there, get out of the heat and find a new audience for our pewter.”
The Kocians come back year after year because consumers here have been very receptive to their products, Andrea said.
“At the Dillon market, I love the variety of vendors,” she said. “It seems to be able to have merchandise, home décor pieces, as well as as lot of fresh produce, fresh flowers. It has a good variety of the type of vendors that attracts a lot of people there. … We have some new pieces this year, and I hope people continue to come to the Dillon market and find some new, affordable pieces in our booth.”
Lope said the vendors who come to Dillon for the summer are like one big family, traveling among the High Country markets together.
“They’re excited to be here because they can rely on other vendors to help them out, as well, if they need to take a break,” he said. “It’s kind of laid back and easy going.”