Surging demand for locally sourced food drives expansion of Skip’s in Basalt
Market will double space for fruits, veggies and other goodies
A farmers’ market that’s been connecting local growers and consumers in downtown Basalt for almost four years is ready to double down on its effort.
Skip’s Farm to Market plans to expand from its current space at 227 Midland Ave. by adding the similarly sized space next door.
Owner Skip Doty said it’s time to expand and provide additional fruits, vegetables and greens, as well as meats and variety of prepared foods.
“It’s been wonderful,” he said of the store’s performance in Basalt. “Produce from the beginning has been our bestseller.”
The market is among the businesses that ended up thriving during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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“Everybody wanted to know where (their food) was coming from,” he said. “It went from chugging along to a 100-yard dash.”
Once people discovered the shop, they kept coming back. He gave general manager Dalene Barton and her staff credit for nurturing the business.
“We have a real following,” he said.
Doty doesn’t have a flashy style and he doesn’t really toot his own horn, but he’s passionate about providing an outlet for farmers and ranchers in the Roaring Fork Valley and western Colorado. He said it’s important for him to “walk the talk” of supporting local agriculture.
Although he grows a lot of produce on his properties near Palisade, he is currently focused on supplying peaches to his store in Basalt and buying other produce from other local growers.
Harper Kaufman of Two Roots Farm in Emma has benefited from that arrangement. She’s been providing produce to Skip’s Farm to Market since it opened in 2017.
“It’s been an awesome outlet for us,” she said.
Two Roots Farm has a community-supported agriculture program where customers sign up in advance and receive the bounty of the harvest on a regular basis. It also has its own farm stand from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Friday on its property just past the old Emma schoolhouse. But selling through Skip’s vastly expands exposure to the public, Kaufman said.
She provides a weekly list of what produce she has available. Barton selected from that menu and sells it through the store.
In the most recent load, Two Roots Farm supplied 30 pounds of tomatoes, colored greens, mustard greens, pea shoots and salad greens.
“Each farm finds its own little niche,” Kaufman said.
A recent newsletter from Skip’s Farm to Market showcases a delectable selection of local foods. There were all-grain rolls and other breads from Slice O’Life bakery in Palisade; a variety of cuts of meat from Nieslanik Beef and Pork on Carbondale and Mountain Primal Meats in Emma; duck prosciutto from Il Porcellino Salumi in Basalt; cucumbers from Wild Mountain Seeds in Aspen; and greens from Osage Gardens in New Castle — just to name a few.
Skip’s also operates fruit stands during the summer from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily at Buttermilk base area outside of Aspen and at Catherine Store along Highway 82 in the midvalley.
There is also a Skip’s Market in Fruita, which Doty plans to expand into a larger space he owns this fall. Doty also owns his current space and the adjacent space in Basalt. With escalating rents, ownership is vital for the long-term health of the market.
Doty has greenhouses and insulated tubes called caterpillar tunnels on his farmland in Palisade, so he is able to provide produce to his Basalt store through the winter. He is looking forward to the expansion because the existing shop has no space for storage. Expansion will also allow more display of produce and expansion of its grab-and-go selection of sandwiches and other food.
Skip’s expansion comes at a time when Basalt officials are debating whether the town can support a more traditional grocery store in downtown. A development proposal for the former Clark’s Market building includes plans for a 9,000-square-foot grocery story on the ground floor and 70 apartment units on upper floors.
Doty said he had a cordial discussion about taking that space with Tim Belinski, one of the partners in the development team. Doty concluded that while he was ready for expansion at his small space, he wasn’t ready for 9,000 square feet.
“That’s a huge, quantum leap,” Doty said.
He and Barton want to focus on offering locally grown foods and knowing the customers, something that’s better achieved in a smaller space.
“We’ve stabilized where we’re at,” Doty said.
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Somewhat vanilla on the outside, relying on a heavy dose of the power run, the Basalt High School football team’s offense has always had its share of wrinkles under coach Carl Frerichs. The latest involves the twitchy arm of junior Kade Schneider, who is in his first season as the Longhorns’ QB1.