Nicole Jarman was given four months to prepare for the start of the Union Station Farmers Market.
The founder of HobNob Events got a call from the marketing team at Union Station in February asking if she could help them out since the market’s previous organizer, Boulder County Farmers Market, had pulled out.
HobNob Events also runs the South Pearl Street Farmers Market, the Highlands Square Market and the Central Park Market. Jarman had already closed vendor applications for the others by the time Union Station was seeking her help.
But she was up for the challenge.
“We certainly evaluated the decision at a sprint,” Jarman said. “I was surprised at the turn of events and the timing of Boulder pulling out. I think as a local Denver choice and because of the relationships I’ve built through my years running the other markets, I think it made sense for us to run it.”
Boulder County Farmers Market pulled out of the Union Station and Lafayette farmers markets in February after launching the Union Station market in 2016, citing a lack of diversified veggie 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 it over, Jarman has made some changes.
Before, Union Station Farmers Market had around 20 vendors. But under HobNob Events, it now has 34 and operates on either side of Union Station. Most of them are new, such as Hearth Bread and Forte Farms, but there are some returning vendors, like Morton’s Organic Orchards and Bjorn’s Colorado Honey.
Jarman has also brought back live music and each weekend a downtown chef will visit the market, put together a recipe using products from local vendors, and pass out samples to attendees. Chef Tim Kuklinski, the culinary director for Rioja, joined the first weekend and made a panzanella salad.
“I really want to make it a community for chefs,” Jarman said. “I hope downtown chefs will come shop and build new relationships with farmers or producers, and all of a sudden they’ll end up with a great new relationship that supports the restaurant and farmer and helps everyone grow.”
Jarman and her mom, who helps manage the market, get there by 6:30 a.m. for setup and are usually done 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 to make it a smooth process for the vendors. She’s designated drop-off and parking spots for her vendors to make the unloading process easier. And she has a crew of people that meet them there with wagons.
“When I plan the market, I do a lot of thinking about flow and flavor palate,” Jarman said. “So, when everything works out perfectly, which it doesn’t always, you’ll notice a flow in the market. You’ll see a bread vendor next to a honey vendor next to cheese and wine. I want to take care of my vendors, and I make sure if they need power, extra space or a shaded spot.”
Jarman’s start in the events industry was unorthodox.
The 41-year-old Denver native previously owned a tourist-centric TV channel that played in hotels around town, and was pitching the channel to South Pearl Street at the same time the organization was trying to put its farmers market together. Instead of signing on with the TV channel, the organization asked Jarman if she would run the market.
“All of a sudden, that was my career,” she said.
Jarman sold the channel two years later, and she’s been running the South Pearl Street Farmers Market since 2007, the same year she started HobNob Events. In 2013, she launched the Highlands Square Market, and she took over the Central Park Market in 2020.
HobNob Events also runs the Steamboat Food & Wine Festival, Cherry Creek North Food & Wine Festival and Denver Oktoberfest, among other events in town.
“Something I’d like to apply to all the markets is understanding what everyone’s goal is, why they are here, whether this is a side hustle, or they want to find a retailer for their product, and help them reach that goal,” Jarman said. “We’re small business incubators in reality, so we’re here to help people test their product.”