Some of our favorite agritourism activities and events

By Lisa Truesdale

Longmont is known for both its rich agricultural history and the diversity of its residents, and as it turns out, the two are somewhat connected.

The Chicagoans who headed west in 1870 to establish Longmont (first called the Chicago-Colorado Colony) were pretty smart. The soil was rich and fertile, but they knew the climate was dry, so they situated their new town near the banks of the St. Vrain River.

They planted fruit trees, wheat and peas, and then they built advanced irrigation ditches to get the needed water from the river to the fields. The town grew quickly, thanks to agriculture, with flour mills, a vegetable cannery and a sugar beet factory all opening by 1903. The richness of the soil and the abundance of the successful crops attracted farmers from all over the world—like Sweden, Germany, Japan and Mexico—and according to Erik Mason, curator of history at the Longmont Museum, many of these immigrants’ descendants remain in the area today, adding to the city’s diversity.

The cannery and sugar factory both closed in the 1970s, but agriculture never disappeared completely. Although Longmont has grown to more than 90,000 residents, the city continues to celebrate its agricultural heritage with annual festivals, museum exhibits and public art. The city’s thriving agritourism industry features tours at local farms, abundant farmstands, farm-to-table dinners, a U-Pick-It apple orchard, farm-related summer camps for kids, a weekly farmers market, and numerous agriculture-themed small businesses.

Here are some of our favorite agritourism activities and events happening in the summer in Longmont. Check our Events listings for more, and also see Visit Longmont’s carefully curated, three-day “Foodies & Agritourists” itinerary at www.visitlongmont.org.

Longmont Farmers Market

At the shady, tree-lined Longmont Farmers Market, now in its 30th year, farmer produce always makes up 60 percent or more of the offerings, says Elyse Wood, the operations manager. “We have nearly 40 farmers, including Rocky Mountain Fresh, a greenhouse grower that makes it possible to have tomatoes most of the year, and Placerita Ranch, a pork vendor that raises heritage pigs.” There’s also a food court with farm-fresh offerings, live music, and family-friendly activities. Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Nov. 17 at the Boulder County Fairgrounds (enter on the north side, off Boston Avenue). www.bcfm.org.

Loving cheese

Love cheese? Tour Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy (www.haystackgoatcheese.com) or, better yet, learn to make your own cheese by taking a class from The Art of Cheese (www.theartofcheese.com).

County Fair

Now in its 148th year, the Boulder County Fair is the oldest in the state. It runs Aug. 3-12 at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, with rodeos, horse events, 4-H demonstrations, live music, children’s activities and much more, and many events are free; www.bouldercountyfair.org.

Dougherty Museum

Summer is the only time to visit the Dougherty Museum, a sprawling building on the south edge of town that’s filled with restored automobiles and farm machinery like antique (but still working) tractors and threshing/baling machines. Pay the $5 admission fee once, sign the guest book, and return all summer long for no charge. The museum also hosts a free three-day Yesteryear Farm Show Aug. 24-26; check www.yesteryearfarmshow.org for more details. For general museum info, visit www.bouldercounty.org.

Pick your own

Pick your own apples, cherries, pears, veggies, flowers and pumpkins at Ya Ya Farm and Orchard, 6914 Ute Highway 66. First up is the cherries, which normally ripen in early July. Ya Ya also hosts a cider-making workshop (date TBD) and an Applefest in October. www.yayafarmandorchard.com

The Agricultural Heritage Center in Longmont features a 1909 farmhouse, two barns, a milk house and a blacksmith shop. (photo courtesy the Agricultural Heritage Center)

Agricultural Heritage Center

The Agricultural Heritage Center—a “living history or farm museum,” according to Jim Drew, the site’s volunteer coordinator—is often the first farm that many people experience. “They get to walk on the dirt, smell the barn, meet the pigs and see how carrots come from the ground.” The 265-acre site features a 1909 farmhouse, two barns, a milk house, a blacksmith shop, hands-on museum exhibits and antique farm equipment. It’s run by Boulder County Parks & Open Space, which also oversees about 25,000 acres of agricultural open space that’s leased out to Boulder County farmers. On Barnyard Critter Day (June 24, 10 a.m.–3 p.m.), a wildlife biologist introduces wild creatures that live on farms. During Crafts and Trades of Olden Days (Sept. 9, 10 a.m.–3 p.m.), visitors can view blacksmithing, candle dipping, doll making and wool spinning. The center is at 8348 Ute Highway 66 and is open Friday through Sunday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m., through the end of October. www.bouldercounty.org.