Carol Morales: Vail Market fixture |

Carol Morales: Vail Market fixture

Brenda Himelfarb
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the DailyLocally grown, fresh produce is available at both Minturn and Vail Markets during the summer.

There is lettuce to be picked, rows of crops to clear and soil to turn over. From May through October the work is continual, from sunrise to sunset, for farmers Joe and Carol Morales of Morales Farms in Granby.

At an altitude of 8,300 feet, on a mesa called The Great Divide Head Lettuce Colony in what was once known as the lettuce capital of the United States the Morales’s raise an array of vegetables and berries that include at least a half-dozen types of lettuce and herbs, raspberries, gooseberries, asparagus, spinach, peas ” the list is endless.

“At our high altitude, the weather varies greatly,” says Carol Morales. “The key thing for us is for the ground temperature to be right. It really doesn’t behoove us to get into the ground early until the temperature settles. And although the farm is not “certified” organic, the farm is pesticide-free and incorporates organic practices.”

“After years and years of experience we’ve learned to farm differently,” continues Morales. “For example, we do things that allow us to have, say, spinach early in the season. We have an approach that is unique and different.”

“And that’s a secret,” she adds, with a laugh.

The 200-acre Morales Farm is one of the remaining lettuce farms that once flourished in the area in the 1930s and ’40s, when Joe’s father farmed. Today, lettuce makes up only 10 percent of everything grown on the land.

And, these days, summer markets have become a way of life for the farmer to sell crops.

“In the beginning, we had no choice about attending the markets,” says Morales. “But, now, it’s something we look forward to. It’s wonderful to see the response we get from our customers and how much they appreciate how hard Joe and I try to bring a quality product.”

The Morale guarantee their product will keep fresh for a week. All products are iced, and the greens bagged up and kept cold.

“One of the things that causes vegetables to deteriorate is temperature,” explains Morales. “So they (vegetables) go from the field to our cooler to rinsing to cooler truck to farm stand. We bring ice with us and we put ice on everything that can tolerate ice. That’s one of the reasons we can guarantee the longevity of our products, once it gets to your home.”

Morales Farms is represented at the Edwards and Vail Farmers’ Markets throughout the summer.

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