There are lots of exciting things to do on a cool summer morning in the High Country – fishing, hiking, biking, horseback riding, sight-seeing – but if you’re looking for something different and wondering where all the locals have gone, check out the local Farmers Markets; you can find a market somewhere along the Sangre de Cristo range that will delight your senses and titillate your tummy.
Saturday is market day in Santa Fe, from early morning to early afternoon. Santa Fe Farmers Market is the granddaddy of the high country markets. The largest in the state, it has been a gathering place for farmers from 17 northern counties since the late 1960s. With 130 vendors, the Railway Yard is a happening place to go on Saturday. All the produce is grown in northern New Mexico, and it’s open year-round, selling out of its new Leeds certified building in the winter months. The produce is usually picked the day before market day, and most of the product has traveled less than 60 miles to market, cutting down on gasoline and travel time for the produce. Having a market for their produce allows local farmers to stay on the land and keep on farming. It keeps the water on the land, provides wildlife refuge, and preserves the acequia systems which are so important to the culture and history of New Mexico.
But it’s much more than an epicurean experience that awaits you. Santa Fe, Taos, Angel Fire, Eagle Nest and Red Willow Farmers Markets all have a vision for the future – the future of the land, the future of the people, and the health of the resources they depend upon. Their goal is to sustain and preserve agriculture in New Mexico, while making a living in a rural area. New Mexicans are proud of their heritage and their traditions; growing local food is a way of showing that pride.
New this year, Angel Fire will have a Farmers Market Sundays 10 am-3 pm at Frontier Plaza across from Lowe’s.
Red Willow Farmers Market is located on the Veteran’s Highway, which winds from the Town of Taos to Taos Pueblo. It’s open on Wednesdays, 10-5 year-round. Growing fresh produce in their three large greenhouses operated by solar energy, the farmers use organic seed, some of which has been used by the Pueblo for a thousand years. The farm was conceived in 2010 as a model for adaptive farming in a time of climate change. They have programs for Pueblo youth, teaching sustainable farming, land and water protection, healthy eating, historical agriculture, and renewable energy. They have fresh and frozen grass-fed beef and bison for sale as well as fresh produce, baked goods, chicos, soaps, and surprise delicacies from the oven. A ramada and picnic tables provide a shady and cool spot to relax in the shadow of Taos Mountain.
If you drive the Enchanted Circle you can catch another market in Eagle Nest on Fridays at the Golden Eagle RV Park. Located at an altitude of 8,000 feet, the market doesn’t begin until mid-June and operates through Labor Day. The tiny town of Eagle Nest is nestled in the mountains overlooking beautiful Eagle Nest Lake. Like all the high country Farmers Markets, Eagle Nest supports the local school children. 100% of the money that a farmer pays to lease space to sell in the market goes to the local school. And on the third Friday of the month, kids can sell their own garden produce at the market at no cost to them, allowing them to experience the full cycle of growing to marketing. All of the produce, dairy, and meats sold at the market are non-GMO, hormone free, and chemical pesticide-free.
At the Taos Farmers Market on Saturday, you might be treated to a selection of arias in a Flash Opera performance by the Taos Opera Institute’s students while mulling over the wisdom of eating eggplant instead of beets… or you might pause to have your palm read, hoping that your personal palm reader can help you with that weighty decision. The lady who sells alpaca yarns will let you hold a silky skein of wool from El Griego, her alpaca, who goes to the nursing home to give out kisses when he’s not busy. The produce displayed on the farmers’ tables is a treat for the eyes: bright red radishes snuggled up to elegant orange, yellow, and purple carrots, the fresh green of baby lettuce, rainbow chard, and peppers, short yellow ones, or long green and red glossies, sometimes from seed saved over the centuries to grow well in the high desert country. Taos Market also welcomes EBT buyers.
Tooling around on the roads of the southern Rockies you’ll also stumble onto roadside stands selling piñon nuts, chile ristras, jerky, local jams and honeys, wild mushrooms, apples, peaches, all kinds of cool stuff. And don’t forget pick-your-own farms, like Mora, NM’s Salman Raspberry Ranch. So you might want to bring a cooler along. It’s all about supporting sustainability and healthy lifestyle choices.
— Linda Fair lives and writes in Taos.
This article appeared in the summer 2016 issue of HighCountry Magazine, page 20.