Last week, as temperatures plummeted overnight, farmers across the Front Range were preparing for the worst.
Starting out a peak month in Colorado produce — from tomatoes to cucumbers, peppers, green beans and squash — growers had to act fast. The weather forecast predicted 30-degree highs and lows in the 20s just after Labor Day, meaning much of their late summer produce would be lost.
“At that point, that’s a killing frost,” Chris Corrigan, director of DeLaney Community Farm in Aurora, told The Denver Post. “It’s not a light frost, it’s not a hard frost; it puts you in danger of losing pretty much everything.”
At DeLaney and other local farms, crews scrambled to collect all of their tomatoes, peppers and more, a month ahead of schedule.
Anne Cure operates 12 planted acres outside of Boulder at Cure Organic Farm. Before the frost, she halted all of her fall planting and put extra hands to work harvesting whole plants of basil, three tons of tomatoes, all of the peppers, eggplant and winter squash.
“Farmers are now sitting on a lot of product, and we have to move it,” Corrigan said. “That product is what the farmers are counting on for their income. And I think that it’s incumbent on the public — if they can and want to — to go out and support farmers in that way.”
“You’re voting with those dollars,” Cure added, “so you’re supporting Colorado agriculture in the best possible way you can.”
Now, with temperatures back up, farmers like Corrigan and Cure are back to work planting for fall and moving their harvested summer produce. And they want consumers to know that buying local is still on the table, whether at farmers markets or directly from farm stands.
“September is really a favorite month for growers,” Cure said, explaining how hot summer plants are still producing, while cool crops like sweet potatoes, radishes and root vegetables are starting to pop. Even leafy greens develop a different flavor this time of year from temperatures dropping at night.
“It’s kind of this place where you’ve got the bounty of both seasons,” Cure added. “For folks who haven’t really had a chance to dive in to supporting local farms, (…) there’s no better time than September to start.”
Cure Organic Farm sits just across the street from Munson Farms, where the two, 7-day-a-week farm stands provide complementary products. While Cure sells its greens, carrots, radishes and turnips, Munson will offer sweet corn and melons and then pumpkins, gourds and squash, Cure explained.
“It makes a really nice shopping experience on that corner,” she said.
DeLaney Community Farm provides most of its produce to CSA members, half of whom are single, refugee mothers, Corrigan explained. (The farm also employs refugees.) But each week, extra produce is offered to non-members through a farm-direct pickup. Items like mixed peppers, tomatoes, potatoes and onions are available now.
“If you have to get onions for your family, (…) instead of heading down to Safeway, find your local farm and see what they have in stock,” Corrigan said.
That, or head to the local farmers markets, many of which are still operating through the end of October. Just a few days after the freeze, temperatures were back in the 80s, and markets such as Union Station’s on Saturday were full of summer fruits and vegetables, among other things.
While the frost threatened to cut short the season, a week later, Cure said she was looking over her crops, feeling hopeful still.
“As of today, the plants are green and still standing, the tomatoes are flowering,” she said. “It looks like we might just end up having the September we’re used to having here in Colorado.”
If you go:
- Cure Organic Farm, 7416 Valmont Road, Boulder, noon-5 p.m. daily, cureorganicfarm.com
- DeLaney Community Farm, 170 S. Chambers Road, Aurora, dug.org or order at instagram.com/delaneycommunityfarm/
- Union Station Farmers Market, 1701 Wynkoop St., 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays through Oct. 24, bcfm.org
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