Farmers Market Know How

I had the perfect day yesterday.  After nearly 10 hours of apparently needed blissful sleep I woke to a sunny Saturday morning.  Upon stretching and rubbing my eyes of sleep I turned to find my fun-loving and energetic boxer Moxie, with the look of “please mom, take me outside” so it was quickly decided that a brisk walk was on the agenda.  With the sun shining on my winter white face and the breeze bringing a little cherry color to my nose I decided it was time to meet my friend for a challenging morning of yoga.  I now felt strong, lean and centered, I was ready to pop over to one of my most favorite places in Denver, the farmers market. As you should all know, I love my farmers market.  I love the community, the gathering of like-minded people, the smells of coffee brewing, fresh-baked bread, food trucks and the local flower shops.  I step in, take a deep breath and let it all sink in.  With tea in my hand and a friend at my side I venture in to the many booths of fresh, local and beautiful food.  

Cottonwood Creek Farms offers a one of a kind food experience.  Picture this; green pastures, filled with white and brown birds, pecking, clucking and playing in the field.  Full of life, living a content and peaceful existence.  As they sit in their egg mobile, upon mounds of fresh hay, these lovely birds lay the most exquisite eggs you will ever eat.  The color, the texture, the flavor are unparalleled.  If you are a baker you must, absolutely must try a fresh from the farm pasture raised egg from Cottonwood Creek Farms.

Not to speak lightly of the meat, I think it goes without saying pasture raised meat far surpasses that of conventional meat.  And I think there is something to be said for an animal that is left to be raised in a happy, healthy environment.  I was told “the pork is the best”.  I intend to find out.

Circle Fresh Farms
Over the years I have come to learn that getting “certified organic” is a very pricey endeavor.  Circle Fresh Farms like many of the farmers here at the market, offer organically grown foods that are not “certified organic”.  It makes no difference to me if they are certified as long as they offer fresh, local and clean food, grown with a conscience.  These pictures do not do justice to the vibrant color of the lettuce, both purple and green with a light texture and mild flavor.  Once I grew my own heirloom tomato plant I can confidently say there is no other kind of tomato.  As you can see the colors are outstanding!  The flavors are superb!  They are rich, sweet and delicate.  A must have to any salad or sauce.

Teton Waters Ranch is a pretty cool ranch located in Idaho.  They took land that was once used for industrial growing of food and turned it into a beautiful and vibrant pasture of native grasses.  These cows look happy to me.  With clover, alfalfa and wild grasses to chew on, a majestic mountain view and lots of other cow friends to be happy with, I think these cows are some of the most content out there.  I purchased a couple of steaks and as  soon as the weather cooperates I will throw them on the grill and let you know the amazingness they are guaranteed to offer.

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I encourage you to find a farmers market near you.  Colorado Fresh MarketsColorado Farmers Market Association , and Denver Farmers Market are a great place to start looking.  I strive to buy all of my food and meat from the farmers market throughout the summer months, follow this crop calendar to see when foods are grown and will be at their peak freshness.  It will not only taste better and look better, but you are also supporting our local economy and bringing life to the Colorado farmers community. 

Not sure where to start when you enter the Farmers Market?  Click here to learn about why it is important to eat locally.  Here are some questions to ask farmers in order to get the best food possible.  

Meat Farms

Q: Where is meat sourced from?  
A: You want it to be as close to your home as possible.

Q: Is the animal raised on grass (cow and game meat), pasture raised and able to eat bugs and ruminant (poultry and pigs)? 
A: You want your animal to have the most natural life possible, which includes eating grass native to the land, getting lots of sunlight and for some animals eating bugs. 

Q: Is the animal grass-finished?
A: When the animal is allowed to eat it's natural diet it's whole life it will be higher in nutrients especially Omega 3's. 

Q: Is the animal fed any grain?  If so is is GMO free?
 A: Most animals do not eat any grain in their natural habitat, but sometimes it is needed due to weather (lack of grass) and as a supplement to their foraging diet.  Non-GMO is absolutely advised. 

Q: Is the animal humanely slaughtered?
A: Farms that can slaughter on property are the best and often times the most humane.  At the very least look for farmers who use the Temple Grandin approach. 

Vegetable Farms

Q: Are you USDA Certified Organic?
A: If yes, great. If no, ask them is they raise their food organically, but just do not have the certification.  Organic certification is very expensive and just because the farm does not have the certification does not mean it is not organic. 

Q: If they do not have an organic seal or practice as them if they spray with fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals.  
A: If they do try and find another farmer to buy from.  However, because these are local foods they will be more nutrient dense and seasonal so better then what you get in the grocery store. 

Q:  Are your foods raised without GMO's? 
A:  Avoid GMO foods as much as possible.  

Cheese and other misc. foods

Q: Is your cheese raw? Grass-fed? Organic?
A: All of these are ideal, but at the very least grass-fed and organic is best and of course full fat whenever possible

Q: Is your honey raw? Where was it sourced from?
A: Raw honey has enzymes and many nutrients.  Local honey helps with seasonal allergies and supports our local economy.  

Q: Were your bees fed any artificial or natural sugar, antibiotics or other un-natural chemicals?  
A: Many honey companies will feed the hives sugar and other medications to avoid infections in the hives and to increase production.  Bees just like cows and pigs should be left to do their natural thing, get nectar from flowers and bring it back to the hive to make honey.  

Q: Is your sourdough bread made with a sourdough starter?
A:  If you are going to indulge in any bread sourdough might be your best bet.  That and sprouted grain bread.  Sourdough bread made from a starter will be fermented making the bread more digestible.  Many sourdoughs are not made with a long living sourdough starter.