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How four of our farmers markets measure up, from beets to balloon animals

Crop clash

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It used to be a guy named Dawa selling yak butter on a roadside. Now it's a guy named Butch peddling organic heirloom tomatoes at a card table.

I think we can all agree that in the past 10,000 years, farmers markets have come a long way.

And based on current trends, it appears this graceful evolution will continue. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the number of farmers markets jumped by 16 percent between 2009 and 2010, to a total 6,132 markets nationwide. In 1994, when the agency began its directory, there were only 1,755.

Locally, our small band of food producers continues to create new markets annually, and awareness of food issues has spread with the help of advocacy organizations like the Peak to Plains Alliance. Many people are opting to become urban farmers themselves, as evidenced by the hundreds who attended this past year's Pikes Peak Urban Gardens classes and started community and backyard gardens.

All this said, we figured it was the ideal time to highlight the growth by pitting four of our dozen area markets against one another in an Indy food fight.

Where, we asked, can you find the tastiest snack while you peruse produce? Who's selling organic goods? Which market offers the most variety? (We're avoiding price comparisons; they're all good, and often better than at supermarkets.)

In this spirit, we visited each of these markets during the first week of September, a time that our harvest schedule (coloradofreshmarkets.com/crop_calendar.html) revealed to be inside the most bountiful window of the season.

Most markets will conclude their season sometime next month. Visit the calendar section of csindy.com throughout the year for an up-to-date and comprehensive market list, and check our spring InSider guide for information on both markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) food shares.

Colorado Farm & Art Market (CFAM)

Atmosphere (Winner: CFAM on Saturdays)

Selection (Winner: CFAM for quality, F&M for the bag deal (tie) )

Site Bites (Winner: CFAM on Saturdays)

First & Main Town Center Farmers Market

Atmosphere

Selection (Winner: CFAM for quality, F&M for the bag deal (tie) )

Old Colorado City Farmers Market

Atmosphere

Selection

Soda Springs Farmers Market

Atmosphere

Selection

Overall winner: CFAM

matthew@csindy.com

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