New CAA location provides better connections between consumers, producers
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Community Agriculture Alliance has moved to a new location and expanded the hours of its popular market, and Executive Director Michele Meyer said the organization’s mission to connect local agriculture producers with consumers may be more important than ever.
“We’ve actually expanded our hours and are offering a bunch more stuff, including delivery, just trying to kind of respond to everything that’s going on and help support the local producers,” Meyer said. “There’s been a lot of interest in the local products, you know, the meat, the eggs, the produce, honey, all that kind of stuff.”
The nonprofit’s new location at 743 Oak St. offers more space and a better layout. Customers can stop by the new space and find a larger selection of locally grown items. The new store hours are from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and people are invited to come by and shop for locally produced food.
“It’s a bigger space, but it’s also just more open,” Meyer said of the location in the former Photo Express House. “We have two fridges, we have two big freezers, and there’s shelving so it definitely looks more like a store even though we’re still a farmers market.”
Meyer said CAA will continue to offer an online market at caamarket.org that offers a range of locally grown, raised and produced items from 50 different producers in Routt and Moffatt counties who are a part of the program year-round. The number can grow to 60 depending on the season.
Several other nonprofit organizations will be moving into offices in the upstairs of the building later this spring, including Historic Routt County, Friends of the Yampa, Colorado River Network and the Northwest Colorado Cultural Heritage Program.
“For us, it means the ability to stock more products there, which means more walk-in sales,” said Colby Townsend, who owns Hayden Fresh Farms with his wife, Michelle. “I think there’s better visibility and accessibility compared to the previous location, so that should translate into more retail sales as well. It also offers easier parking.”
Connecting with customers has become even more important for Hayden Farm Fresh in the past three weeks. Townsend said the majority of his business before the COVID-19 pandemic was restaurants.
“When we got the news that all the restaurants were closed and 90% of our business was restaurant sales, we basically went from thinking that we were out of business to our phones just absolutely ringing off the hook within 24 hours, and people wanting to know how to get how to get the product,” Townsend said.
Townsend said they quickly switch gears and started participating in the 41North Community Shared Agriculture program and started direct sales with farm stands.
“There’s been a lot of different opportunities that have arisen because of this, and fortunately, many people are coming to us,” he said.
Townsend, who feeds about 2,800 chickens on his farm in Hayden, has seen an increase in sales at CAA and has been impressed by the support he and other local producers have found there recently.
“We’ve had about a five-fold increase in sales, so that has been tremendous,” Townsend said. “Our plan is to still stay loyal to our restaurants when they come back, and if that means increasing our production to meet the needs, that’s what we’ll do.
“In a small business environment like this, I really don’t feel that we can turn anything away because you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow,” Townsend added. “We obviously don’t want all of our eggs in one basket.”
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