In spring 2020, two Paonia nonprofits joined forces to help the residents of the rural North Fork Valley weather the effects of the pandemic. Viva la Vida and The Learning Council, both dedicated to supporting local agriculture and people in need, worked to establish the weekly Arbol Farm Market. The goal was to support farmers who had lost restaurant contracts, as well as farm market venues that weren’t operating due to COVID restrictions. In addition, the partners wanted to provide nutritious meals from fresh local produce to anyone in need.
Organizers began a farm market each Tuesday evening, welcoming people in a safe, open-space environment to buy local produce from local farmers. An additional offering was a delicious meal, lovingly prepared and offered free to anyone in need, or by donation to those who wished to contribute. Every week the volunteers bought produce from local farms and prepared wood oven pizzas, salads and a hearty vegetarian meal. They accepted Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) vouchers to further assist people.
Organizers also introduced their Buddy System, where young or developmentally challenged people were paired with an elderly or housebound person. Each week meals were delivered, often by bicycle, to those in need.
The program was supported by grants from Alpine Bank, the Delta-Montrose Electric Association, Colorado’s Coronavirus Relief Fund and NextFifty.
The market proved to be the highlight of the week for many people unable to socialize, providing a safe outdoor venue, a place to buy organic produce, have a meal and meet others. It was so successful it outgrew its original location. Now, supported by the Town of Paonia and Valley Organic Growers Association, the market will continue and relocate to Paonia Town Park with educational classes, demonstrations and music.
Arbol Farm Market in Paonia Town Park, May – October 2021, Tuesdays 5-8 p.m.
Learn more at thelearningcouncil.org.