Union Station Farmers Market reopens under new management

Nicole Jarman had four months to prepare for the start of the Union Station Farmers Market.

The HobNob Events founder received a call from the Union Station marketing team in February asking if she could help them since the market’s former organizer, Boulder County Farmers Market, had stepped down.

HobNob Events also operates the South Pearl Street Farmers Market, Highlands Square Market and Central Park Market. Jarman had already shut down vendor apps for others by the time Union Station sought his help.

But she was ready for the challenge.

“We definitely weighed the decision in a sprint,” Jarman said. “I was surprised at the turn of events and when Boulder pulled out. I think as Denver’s local pick and because of the relationships I’ve built over my years leading other markets, I think it made sense for us to run it.

Boulder County Farmers’ Market pulled out of Union Station and Lafayette Farmers’ Markets in February after launching Union Station Market in 2016, citing a lack of diverse vegetable growers, according to previous coverage.

The weekly market was previously open from May to November. HobNob Events opened this year’s version on June 4.

Since taking over, Jarman has made a few changes.

Previously, Union Station Farmers Market had about 20 vendors. But under HobNob Events, it now has 34 and operates on either side of Union Station. Most of them are new, like Hearth Bread and Forte Farms, but some vendors are coming back, like Morton’s Organic Orchards and Bjorn’s Colorado Honey.

Jarman has also brought back live music and each weekend a chef from downtown will visit the market, whip up a recipe using produce from local vendors and hand out samples to attendees. Joining the first weekend was Chef Tim Kuklinski, Rioja’s Culinary Director, who prepared a panzanella salad.

“I really want to make this a community for chefs,” Jarman said. “Hopefully the chefs downtown will come out to shop and build new relationships with the farmers or growers, and all of a sudden they’ll find themselves with a great new relationship that will support both the restaurant and the farmer. and will help everyone grow.”

Jarman and his mother, who helps run the market, arrive at 6:30 a.m. for set-up and usually finish around 2:30 p.m. The market is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays and admission is free.

Jarman wanted it to be a smooth process for sellers. It has designated drop-off and parking spots for its vendors to facilitate the unloading process. And she has a crew of people meeting them there with carts.

“When I’m planning the market, I think a lot about flow and flavor palate,” Jarman said. “So when everything is working perfectly, which is not always the case, you will notice a flow in the market. You will see a bread vendor next to a honey vendor next to cheese and wine. I want to take care of my vendors and make sure if they need electricity, extra space or a shady spot.

Jarman’s early days in the events industry were unorthodox.

The 41-year-old Denver native previously owned a tourism-focused television channel that played at hotels across the city and featured the channel on South Pearl Street just as the organization was trying to get its farmer’s market together. Instead of signing with the TV station, the organization asked Jarman if she would run the deal.

“All of a sudden it was my career,” she said.

Jarman sold the chain two years later and has run the South Pearl Street Farmers Market since 2007, the same year she launched HobNob Events. In 2013, she launched Highlands Square Market, and she took over Central Park Market in 2020.

HobNob Events also hosts the Steamboat Food & Wine Festival, Cherry Creek North Food & Wine Festival, and Denver Oktoberfest, among other events in town.

“Something that I would like to apply to all markets is to understand what the objective of each is, why they are here, if it is a side business or if they want to find a retailer for their product, and help them achieve that,” says Jarman. “We’re actually small business incubators, so we’re here to help people test their product.”

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This story was reported by our partner BusinessDen.

James V. Payne