The phrase “farmers market” might evoke images of colorful produce for sale under tents in a park. A cold-season twist is the Colorado Farm & Art Market‘s indoor winter displays.
The eclectic market features food, beverages and art from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the second Sundays of January through May at Cottonwood Center for the Arts, 427 E. Colorado Ave. The next one is Feb. 10.
“We only have hand-grown Colorado products. It’s all family-run and small businesses,” said Natalie Seals, the market’s manager. “It’s a wonderful partnership because we are a farm and art market, and Cottonwood is so focused on art.”
The Jan. 13 kickoff market was bustling. Even before the doors opened, shoppers gathered outside, some getting a bite at the BF Chew Chew Gastrotruck. Inside, a steady stream of customers visited vendor booths in three rooms and a kid’s corner with a free craft.
Booths featured jewelry, chocolates, wine, wood crafts, breads, meats, coconut butter, cheesecakes, candles, hand pies, sauces and more. No produce was available, but some cold-season veggies might be sold at upcoming markets, Seals said.
Danette Tritch, a West Side resident, was picking up a six-flavor sampler of Cheesecake Artist mini cheesecakes to “defrost when I have a craving.”
“We tend to go to the farmers market in Old Colorado City in the summer for vegetables,” Tritch said. “We came here today for Sourdough Boulangerie bread and the cheesecakes. I also like that there are some alternative foods like coconut butters and teas.”
Kami Coldiron, aka the Cheesecake Artist, was selling slightly bigger than bite-sized cheesecakes in classic chocolate ganache, caramel cashew and double raspberry for $3 each, four for $10 and six for $12. She has been selling gourmet cheesecakes and pastries for five years, working out of the Cupcake Doctor downtown. Coldiron said she was pleased with the turnout at this year’s first winter market.
“I love the climate,” she said. “People are so welcoming. I love how people are so excited about being here. It’s a nice combination of food and crafts.”
Attendance hinges on the weather, Seals said. “But even when there’s actually a foot of snow on the ground, you’ll still find the vendors here, because they plan to be here for the day. It happens snow or shine, just like the summer markets are rain or shine.”
About 30 vendors — most from El Paso County — pay $40 to rent a booth plus 5 percent of the day’s sales, Seals said. At the summer markets, with about 60 vendors Wednesdays at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum and Saturdays at the Margarita at Pine Creek, a booth costs $25 with the same sales percentage going to the “house” for market upkeep, marketing and Seals’ salary.
“We’re the only market in the Springs that accepts and doubles SNAP food stamps, part of a federal program (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). And we do accept SNAP for food vendors, too. Last year, we did $10,000 in SNAP, which we doubled to almost $20,000,” Seals said.
Cottonwood is only blocks from downtown’s main drag, so Seals places placards at key intersections on market days. One of those caught the eye of Sharon Tharakan, who recently moved to the Springs from San Diego, and her boyfriend, Rodrico Sanchez, who relocated from Olympia, Wash.
“We’re both used to going to farmers markets all the time,” Tharakan said. “Today we were downtown and saw the sign and came here. Specifically, we wanted to check out the grass-fed meats.”
Fountain’s Frost Farm was selling grass-fed beef and lamb as well as local honey. During summer markets, the farm also sells vegetables.
“We were on the fence about doing the winter market, but it turned out to be a good decision,” Sam Frost said. “It’s a good day for a Sunday.”
Lauren “Lu” LaVallie, owner of Lu Style Giardiniera, was selling her spicy pickled vegetable salsa.
“It’s a bunch of veggies, spices, olive oil and apple cider vinegar. The apple cider comes from Big Bees in Hotchkiss, and the olive oil from the Olive Tap in Monument. I try to source as locally as possible,” she said. “I use 400 pounds of vegetables every time we make it, always organic. We probably produce about three times a month in the winter, five to six times a month in the summer.
“We keep it all small. We still have kind of a hand-shopping mission. So there’s still lots of love and attention that goes into it.”
Robin Bouricius, a jack-of-all-trades for Decadent Saint Winery, comes from Boulder to sell concentrated white and spiced sangria and other libations.
“We’ve been coming since last year. It’s a good little market,” he said, handing out cocktail samples. “We encourage people to play with our product at home and make up their own recipes.”
This is Rebecca Cornell’s third year selling Luna Lucerna candles, bath products and wax melts at the summer and winter markets.
“I make handmade soy candles with wood wicks, which crackle when they burn. It’s kind of a comforting sound, good for massage businesses or meditating,” Cornell said.
She charges $6 for a small candle and $18 for a large version, or two for $30. Lemongrass Sage, Falling Leaves and Oakmoss Sandlewood are top sellers.
“Last year we were still growing in this location, so the January market was the slowest. Today is actually a good turnout. Sometimes it is crowded in here, shoulder to shoulder. You’ve got to get here early if you have your eye on something,” she said.
Alex Thompson, owner of Colorado Springs-based Mountain Man WoodWorks, has been participating since the first winter market. “It was upstairs at Ivywild two or three years ago. But Cottonwood has more buyer traffic,” he said.
His blond maple cutting boards start at $12. “I like all the character, the knots. I fill the knot holes with epoxy,” he said.
Other big sellers are aspen logs and old fence posts fashioned into candle holders.
Michael Sucharski manned a booth for Cocoprana Coconut Superfoods, a part-time business that he and his wife brought to Colorado Springs three years ago from Illinois.
“It’s just whole coconut. We grind it down like you would regular peanut butter. The spread you can turn into coconut milk or use as a butter replacement,” he said. An 8-ounce jar sells for $12 and a 16-ounce jar for $20 in vanilla, chocolate, golden turmeric and jalapeño. They also sell dehydrated coconut snacks.
“We’re slowly growing every year,” Sucharski said. “As soon as we moved to town, we started researching farmers markets. The first one here in the winter is usually pretty happening.”
Samples of Radiantly Raw organic, fair-trade, gluten- and dairy-free chocolate were going fast.
“It’s been a pretty steady flow of customers. People seem genuinely interested in the product,” said Anthony Schmidt, brand ambassador for the Colorado Springs company. “The biggest seller has been a 12-piece assortment for the chocolate lover. It sells for $32. We also sell CBD-infused honey, local raw honey and healthy (hazelnut spread).”
Tucked in a back hallway was Sourdough Boulangerie. Owner Shawn Saunders had breads by the loaf, including two kinds of sourdough and jalapeño cheddar, ranging from $8 to $16. There were also rows of quick breads, danish, lemon bars and muffins, as well as a bin of small rolls for 50 cents each. The $2 baguettes sold out early.
“Literally, they (customers) just pound us for three hours,” Saunders said. “People love this market. They support us. Even the artists come and support us and buy a cinnamon roll to start their day.”
Artists with studios at Cottonwood also were open for business.
Jennifer Hanson, owner of Spinning Star Studio, was in her first-floor studio with a display of pottery soap dishes, plates and other items.
“I think the Colorado Farm & Art Market brings in a really good, educated crowd, and they appreciate art, which is nice,” said Hanson. “As far as foot traffic, I think we get a lot of new people in town.”
Painter Laura Brown greeted visitors in her second-floor Red Door Studio.
“We’re very excited to have the market here. After they shop, people walk around the whole building,” said Brown, who works mostly in acrylics. She’s retired from teaching at the Bemis School and a career in graphic design. “I’ve been getting some big movement up here today. I’ll take it.”
Artist Al B Johnson also had a lot of visitors to his studio, filled with his mostly abstract expressionist paintings in acrylic.
“People are asking a lot of questions, not only about the artwork, but about classes offered at Cottonwood,” he said. “It’s really grown here the past couple of years, from one or two classes once in a while to sometimes five classes going on at once.”
Johnson has taught at Cottonwood for eight years, since just after the building opened. He said 85 to 90 artists work at the building. “I wish we had more here today. We’ve become very successful here. Colorado Springs is basically a community that’s starved for art, and as a result we plan to keep on giving it.”
Contact the writer, 476-1602.