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Bringing a passion for agriculture to Golden

New farmers market managers bring 26 years of experience

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Chris and Michele Burke, cofounders of Colorado Fresh Markets, always heard wonderful things about the Golden Farmers Market, they said.

So in January, when the Golden Chamber of Commerce asked them to help manage the market because the previous managers retired, they happily accepted.

Their goal, Michele Burke said, is to “retain the original flavor and community aspect while bringing some new ideas” to the market. In fact, she added, every community they operate in shapes its market.

As far as products are concerned, it will probably be about half-and-half of the well-known and the new introductions, she said.

There should be a “nice mix of everyone's favorites, plus some fun, new Fresh Market vendors,” Michele Burke said.

One favorite that people can look forward to is Colorado fruit, Chris Burke said. It's one thing they are highlighting this year. The fruit will provide lots of opportunities to do some canning or make some delicious pies, he said.

“From what we hear, it's going to be a great season of Western Slope fruit,” Chris Burke said.

It will start off with cherries, followed by apricots, and in July, the peaches will come in, then apples.

“Pay attention to the variety of peaches,” Chris Burke said. But with all the fruit, he suggests that people “ask questions and find out what the growers like.”

Near the end of July through about September is when most everything is in, Chris Burke said. “It's the height of the harvest season in Colorado.”

The Burkes, a husband and wife team, are bringing to Golden their passion for agriculture, Michele Burke said.

“It's been a part of our lives forever,” she said.

The two started off as organic farmers in Boulder 26 years ago, then turned their focus to operations.

Chris Burke earned a bachelor of science degree in environmental studies/ecological agriculture from Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. He was the executive director of the Boulder Farmers' Market for eight years in the 1990s.

In 1997, the Burkes found Colorado Fresh Markets in order “to be open to all growers without boundaries,” Michele Burke said, and help launch small food product businesses.

“Everything's about fresh,” she said. “That's how we brand our events.”

Including Golden, the Burkes operate six Colorado Fresh Markets in the Denver metro area.

Although now a Colorado Fresh Market, the name of the Golden Farmers' Market will not change, and it will remain a Golden Chamber of Commerce event. The chamber will also continue to feature a local business or nonprofit.

The Burkes feel it's important to support nonprofit organizations, and they seek them out to participate at all Colorado Fresh Markets, Chris Burke said.

One such organization is Dirt Coffee Bar, a coffee truck that employs people with autism.

“They are a fun group we're bringing to the market,” Chris Burke said.

Admission into the market will be free, and the Burkes are working with community partners to bring the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to the market. SNAP, formerly known as the federal Food Stamp Program, offers nutrition assistance to eligible, low-income individuals and families.

In addition to high-quality vendors, market-goers will enjoy a café area, food trucks and live music every Saturday, Michele Burke said.

The continued success of the Golden Farmers Market is important to the Burkes, and they have been having a lot of fun meeting all the new people, Chris Burke said.

But they knew taking it on would be a lot of work, he said. And because the couple usually starts planning the markets one year in advance, some things at the Golden Farmers Market are still a work in progress, Michele Burke added.

But, “the emphasis is on fresh food, in general,” she said. “We're creating an enjoyable market (with a) fun, festive environment.”

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