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phx farmers markets

Got the huge list of farmers markets from Winedubar: http://www.foodconnect.org/farmers_ma...

We've gotten a major bug after visiting Vincent's market the past 2 weeks and figured to start making our way through the list.

We hit the Market at DC Ranch today as we were going to be near. Only had a bit of time and was going to return if it was great. It was actually quite small and mostly crafts. Only saw 2 food booths and think one was aimed at selling big packages of steaks to take home & the other was prepared Italian food to take home. Think they both had some to eat there but it didn't seem the focus. There was one booth of produce but we didn't have the chance to really check it out. As a major focus of ours when going to these is having a good lunch, we didn't end up returning and will probably move on down the list. Definitely didn't seem a food focused market.

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  1. Unfortunately, the phrase "quite small and mostly crafts" seems to describe just about all the farmer's markets here, even the celebrated ones Downtown and at Town and Country. Right now, I think that local farmer's markets are torn between two contradictory needs: The first is to satisfy consumer expectations that a market should be at least 75% food vendors with at least 50% vendors of unprepared food (produce, meats, etc.) and maybe a smaller number selling prepared foods. The second is the impulse to put a farmer's market in every corner of our large metro area. Unfortunately, these two trends work against each other. Each of the scattered markets has only a handful of actual unprepared food vendors. Ultimately, I think there's going to have to be some consolidation. If all the unprepared food vendors that are dispersed at markets throughout the area, many of them occurring at the same time on Saturday morning, were to consolidate centrally at the Downtown Market, then we'd have a farmer's market worth a drive from anywhere in the metro area. Without such consolidation, unfortunately, I don't find any of them worth visiting on a consistent basis.

    1 Reply
    1. re: silverbear

      I haven't been to the T&C Market but we have been often to the downtown market(not since spring though...now I usually work on Saturday so it's hard to get odwn there).

      The downtown market is OK. There aren't a lot of vendors but the ones that are there do offer quality products(One Windmill Farm, Maya, Crooked Sky for example). It's not the kind of market where you go and browse and spend a morning...we're usually in and out in about 25 minutes when we go...basically just to do the weekly shopping. we live in Chandler so it's a long way for us also...another reason we don't go more than once a month when we are able to get there.

      We've also tried a CSA...I had mixed feelings about that. We did it over summer though and that is admittedly not the best year of time to judge somethign like that here in the Valley. We're not sure if we'll try again, maybe in the future but probably through a different one.

      I will say that Tucson has a good farmer's market. Too far for us all to travel to from here but it would be great if one of our local ones got to the level of the one we've been to down there(St Philip's Plaza).

    2. This is such a timely post, since I was thinking about posting similar experiences with the Downtown market, we finally went to this morning.

      Quite frankly, I didn't see much in the way of food. We did buy some of the flavored pastas, but that was about all we found.

      We will probably hit up some of the other markets on other weekends, but for us downtown was a bust.

      They were having a festival, on 7th St, by all the galleries (think it was called the Harvest Festival), so we stopped in there. Still not big on food, but we did get a Oatmeal Apple Cookie from Tammie Coe's (permanent shop) and it was wonderful. My wife is still complaining that she had to share.

      I strongly agree that it would be far superior to have a single market, where all vendors could attend than a bunch of small ones. We would probably shop weekly at a large market if it was worthy, but likely won't be repeat visitors at any of the smaller ones.

      Of course, the farmers market operators are notoriously weird about the way they run their operations, so I wouldn't expect anything that makes good business sense to happen any time soon.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Booger

        Farmer's markets have it rough here. (not too many farmers who want to take the time to sell in such limited circmstances, for one thing) Town and Country is usually pretty good, and even though Chandler usually only has Jeff Scott - well, he's great, it's organic and he usually has a fairly wide variety. (wish he'd bring back the heritage produce, but...ya gotta go with what'll sell. alas.) It seems to me that the market up around36th and Cactus - there's a city park there - was not too bad the couple of times I trekked there. I think that's on Saturday too. Bear in mind, too - the reason the markets are as they are here, is because so many people will not buy from them. If they were completely jammed every week, we'd probably have a better response from the producers.

      2. tara17 had a thread on this a few months back:
        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/416409

        Those of us from non-desert environs (she from Minnesota, me from Maine) expect anything labeled "Farmers Market" to contain stuff that is grown by farmers. The few vegetables I've seen around here at the markets looked like some sort of failed experiments. I'm all for locally sourced items, but at some point you need to face reality. The markets here basically suck compared to what I'm used to and expect. We went to Young's Farm a few years back when they were still in business and their vegetable selection was much more like what I'm used to. What we're left with now, however, just aren't Farmers Markets in the conventional sense. I know the markets here have their supporters, but we aren't among them.

        1. it's no secret i'm a big supporter of the farmers market. i understand if people don't see the full blush of fresh fruit everywhere like you would in the midwest or even san francisco. but i get about 95% of my food from the downtown farmers market. so when people say things like 'there's no food there' im at a loss since its basically my grocery store.

          like today :

          genovese basil from sea cat gardens
          arugula, pink & japanese turnips from maya's farm
          red onion & dill farmers cheese from rainbow valley farm's
          pickled african burr gerkins from cotton country jams
          apple cider, refrigerator water melon, cantaloupe, salad mix, shallots, garlic, red bell peppers, carrots, tomatoes, leeks, pears and apples from one windmill farms
          pita chips, pepper salad, garlic hummus from dr hummus
          9 grain bread from bread basket
          dozen eggs from chili acres
          andalusian potato salad from sapna chillout cafe
          brown & white tepary beans from the bean guy
          weird aztec grain things i can't even find on google from the aztec grain guy *yulu on the package??*
          and a pork sandwhich to go from the dude with the bbq sauce. to die for :D

          if i could afford it, it buy the organic grass fed beef maya has at maya's farm. but heck i try :D

          i understand everyone's mileage may vary. and it does. like i said - sometimes i wonder if i'm at the same market as everyone. maybe one day i'll offer tours!! ;)

          4 Replies
          1. re: winedubar

            Some fans of the Downtown Market may approach it the way I approach Trader Joe's. I like TJ's so much that I sometimes make decisions of what to cook at home based on what the store has to offer and will not go to another store to get a special ingredient. Instead, I'll bend recipes and menus to accommodate my "Trader Joe's diet."

            Likewise, for a person really committed to the Downtown Market, it's possible to shape menus around what is offered there each week. In fact, in some ways that's a locavore ideal -- building one's diet around what is produced locally.

            None of this redeems the Downtown Market for me. I'm not a locavore to begin with, and the artsy-crafty vendors tend to drive me away. Nevertheless, looking at the Downtown Market from the point of view mentioned in my first two paragraphs helps me understand its appeal to others.

            1. re: winedubar

              I went to the downtown Phoenix Public Market for the first time this past Saturday and I had a blast. Yes, there were craft venders there, but I kept walking past those. I first stopped at One Windmill Farms where I got two bunches of tomatoes, on the vine, 3 yellow onions, shallots, garlic, arugula, italian parsley, spinach, a butternut squash and I could have gone on if it were not for lack of space in my bags. I purchased a dozen eggs (can't remember the vender) with a mixture of brown, white and blue!. I also bought an arugula plant to plant at home and some fresh baked bread from another vendor. I've been using this stuff all week and I've already been kicking myself for not buying more.

              Yes, I'm sure other parts of the country have better and bigger markets (I've witnessed them in Seattle, San Fran and D.C.) but we are in the desert here folks and the farmers that are here are dedicated and provide a beautiful crop for those of us willing to take the time and effort.

              1. re: scorpioscuba

                ss -- I read your blog posting about your trip to the Downtown Market and the egg dish created with the ingredients purchased there. While I continue to be frustrated by the Downtown Market, I'm glad it worked out well for you.

                Interesting comment about walking past the craft vendors. It makes me think about what I consider one of the fundamental problems with the Downtown Market: Most of the produce vendors, including One Windmill Farm, are usually lined up along the Pierce Street side of the lot, which from most visitors' perspective is the "back" of the market. I think the majority of visitors enter from the north side facing McKinley Street, which I consider the "front" of the market.

                I think that placing One Windmill and some of the other produce vendors closer to most visitors' point of entry would go a long way. I think the need to walk past the craft vendors on the way to the produce vendors is a major force in creating the impression that the market is mostly arts-and-crafts with minimal food.

                1. re: silverbear

                  interesting perspective, sb, i hadn't considered that point!!

                  the downside of that tho is that one windmill scoped out that spot - if you peek along the street you can see their trucks lined up there, which makes restocking easier for them. and, if you look carefully, chris bianco usually shows up around 9:30 to grab his flats of tomatoes off the trucks. ;) one of the benefits of showing up late is seeing the chefs pick up their weekly orders ;)

            2. Went to Vincent's on Saturday morning pre-golf on Saturday morning and had a great time. I LOVED the duck tamales, as did my tamale-disliking girlfriend. She had a sweet crepe ($6.50) while I went with a ridiculously-overstuffed savory crepe ($7.00) - this was a meal in itself. Definitely not a market where you can stock-up for the week, but a nice meal and great for a few local high-quality items. Finally I have fingerling potatoes back in my house! Need to get to T&C this week to see how they're doing.

              1. For a farmers market - I want to see farmers selling produce, eggs, and maybe some cheese and meat. I am doing my shopping for the week, not buying lunch! We have been going to the Ahwatukee Farmers Market and Warner and 48th, they are consistantly getting 4 - 6 farmers, with a very nice selection... still getting a few melons, lots of green veggies including some nice Asian varieties, squash, tomatoes, eggs, and goat cheese.

                1 Reply
                1. re: firecooked

                  I'll second a recommendation for the Ahwatukee market. I prefer it over the downtown one that always seems to run out of produce by the time I get there. In the past few weeks the Aw Market seems to have been increasing it's offerings. There are always a few ladies selling a nice range of vegetables and seasonings, with much I want for SE asian cooking (lemon grass, tumeric root, lime leaves, chiles, and stuff I've never seen before). Never seen much in the way of meat and fortunately not too many craft booths.

                  And easy parking.

                2. I just moved here from Virginia. And, as someone with a local-organic-seasonal-sustainable-fresh produce obsession, I am horrified to see the food options in Phoenix. To begin, agriculture in this state is per se unsustainable, due to the amount of water required to grow anything. It's heart-wrenching to be so torn between imports and locally-grown stuff because neither option represents reasonable consumption.

                  I agree that farmers markets are mostly crafts and doesn't have anything to do with "farmers." It's funny that I too made the trip to the downtown market on the day of the harvest festival... and ended up in the wrong place first, before realizing that the right place didn't look all that different either!

                  And, even where you have the isolated few farm stands or farmers (which is at every market I've seen so far), I was utterly horrified to see that these "farmers" are selling conventional produce out of boxes shipped from California, Wisconsin, and Idaho, just to name a few. Some of these farmers also have great reputations for being stellar local producers (like McClendon farms, who tried to hide the boxes under the tables, and then were evasive when I asked about them, looking at me like I was from a different planet and talking at me like I didn't understand English)

                  So, basically, farmers markets here are terrible. And, if anybody has any word on a person or farm that actually farms in a relatively sustainable fashion, and won't sell conventionally grown imported garbage, please share because I am utterly bereft of any hope.

                  The only glimmer of hope I got was from the single proprietor farm (don't even know their name) who sells a slim variety of vegetables... including the holy grail of tomatoes: Cherokee Purples which taste better than my most outrageous tomato fantasy.

                  However, ccl: if you thought Vincent's was any good for produce, you would love T&C.

                  16 Replies
                  1. re: oryza

                    I share your observations about the dismal state of local farmer's markets as well as your doubts about the appropriateness of trying to make a desert region self-sustaining in food production.

                    Where we differ, however, is that once I get over my frustration with trying to shop at farmer's markets in name only, I feel no horror about the food options in Phoenix. Living here has made me appreciate the benefits of global capitalism more than ever before. I buy ginger root from Brazil, grapes from Chile, tomatoes from Mexico, asparagus from Peru, blueberrries from Argentina, and just about everything from California -- and I don't feel the slightest bit of guilt about any of it because in most cases it represents the most efficient use of resources possible.

                    1. re: oryza

                      Do you know for sure that the produce itself was shipped in from out of state?

                      Even at the Berkeley farmer's market (all organic, all local), the vendors use produce boxes from other farms. Waxed cardboard boxes are great for hauling produce, but small growers don't often have the money to spend on getting their own boxes printed up.

                      1. re: hohokam

                        Good point. As frustrated as I am with the local farmer's markets, I would not accuse any of them of misrepresenting the origin of their goods.

                        Interestingly, when I used to shop at the Roadrunner Park Farmer's Market a few years ago, there was at least one vendor who openly sold produce brought in from out of state to supplement her own product. She would clearly state things like "I got those from a grower in Washington State." It might have been at odds with the locavore mission assumed by some farmer's markets, but it didn't bother me at all because I go to a farmer's market more for a fun outdoor shopping experience than to buy exclusively local product.

                        I don't know if the vendor is still there (can't remember the name) or if policies have been tightened at Roadrunner, but it was interesting to see the mix of local and out-of-state produce side by side at the market -- with full disclosure of the origins of everything sold.

                        1. re: hohokam

                          um, yes, i'm sure there were lots of out-of-state things attempting to pass off as local because there were signs on some indicating out of state or country origins, and some were contained in sealed containers... and it's probably not fraud on the part of the growers but some of the hectic nature of farmers markets (which I am well-acquainted with, having worked in farmers markets before); but STILL, it's sad bad news anyways

                          1. re: oryza

                            this makes no sense to me. the downtown phx market requires food to be produced in az (apples come from wilcox, as do some tomatoes, etc).

                            so how can someone trucking in out of state/country foodstuffs be contributed to the hectic nature of farmers markets, as you put it?

                            either its locally grown. or its not.. and from what i've seen and bought, its locally grown. esp since i've been to most of the farms - one windmill, maya's, mcclendon's..

                            1. re: winedubar

                              living in Phoenix = evil and unsustainable; therefore, Phoenix farmer's market vendors = exploitative charlatans.

                              Q.E.D.

                            2. re: oryza

                              I have purchased one item from McClendon Select that was still labeled as being grown out of state - an Arkansas Black Apple - the only item I've ever seen with a sticker. Talk to Bob about his products, and he'll make it quite clear that the remainder comes from their local farm.

                              1. re: azhotdish

                                ... and an Arkansas Black apple is worth having ... I've bought them at Wild Oats ... never seen or eaten another like it.

                                1. re: azhotdish

                                  Just for clarity, Arkansas Black is the apple variety, not the place where it was grown. Not that it wasn't grown out of state as indicated.

                                  1. re: zebcook

                                    It was indeed grown out of state, as indicated by the sticker on the apples, but I understand your clarification.

                            3. re: oryza

                              i can assure you if you were at the downtown market that the produce was not brought in from out of town - it was locally grown. they farmers/folks in question were recycling materials with respect to the boxes.

                              having been to mcclendon's farm on several occasions, he's growing it himself. in fact, if you want, feel free to sign up for the slow food is local farm tour. bob's farm is one of the best ones on the tour. no offense to crooked sky, one windmill farms, maya's farm, etc. all organic, all local.

                              clarification tho - bob mcclendon doesn't sell at the downtown farmers market - only at t&c.

                              what time were you at the downtown farmers market? the roosevelt row harvest festival didn't start til after 10. for the downtown farmers market, that means several farmer stands have already packed up and gone home for the day.

                              1. re: oryza

                                I think you are painting Phoenix with a very broad brush. No, Phoenix cannot sustain the amount of agriculture that other parts of the country can. However, we can easily sustain some very good aspects of agriculture including citrus, olives, native plants, and some nuts.

                                Of course we cannot have the rich farmer's markets that they have in the Midwest or New England or the Mid-Atlantic, but this is, after all, the desert, so we make due with what we have and relish our poolside Prickly Pear Margaritas on Christmas Day.

                                1. re: Seth Chadwick

                                  Good point. While I love filling my Trader Joe's bags with food from around the world, I also appreciate those items that are legitimate local specialties. Let's not forget about dates, which are entirely appropriate for cultivation in an arid region.

                                  1. re: silverbear

                                    citrus, dates, honey, olives - there are indeed some good local sustainable options here.

                                    Now if only I could find a local fig farm, eh? :P

                                    1. re: ziggylu

                                      You and me both, ziggy. Oh, and an independent quality cheese shop to go with those figs. :o)

                                      1. re: Seth Chadwick

                                        I dunno, guys. The local figs I've had don't compare in taste to those from elsewhere (I think it's just too hot here and they ripen a tad too quickly). BUT - that said. Don't forget to explore the urban gardens and farms that ARE here (and if you go to www.gardenbalance.com, you'lll learn a lot - Eric and Vanessa Mytko are young eco-aware landscapers and gardeners. Native Phoenicians, they are doing amazing things in cultivation and garden promotion.)

                              2. We went to the downtown market this morning for the first time since late spring/ early summer. As I've mentioned before for us it's a long haul from Chandler so not something we do weekly(driving those miles offsets the benefit of "buying local")...plus I work most saturdays now. We do like to try and support it though since the only way it WILL grow to a market we all want to see is with support in its younger days...

                                We arrived around 8:45 and were really surprised at how many cars there were in the parking lot. This is the most crowded we'd ever seen it. Nice to see there's growing support for the market. We were also surprised to see more vendor tents and hopefully abou what new offerings we might find.

                                Seems most of the new vendors are more craft vendors which is too bad....hopefully more food/produce vendor will be attracted with growth.

                                We made our usual stops at Maya's, One Windmill Farm, and Crooked Sky for produce. Have never been disappointed in the quality these folks offer. Picked up some eggs from Dave the egg guy and some Farmer's Cheese from Rainbow Farms(sidenote - was pleased to find the new Whole Foods in our neighborhood is carrying their cheese!).

                                As usual took us about 20 minutes to get what we wanted and get out. For us, it has yet to become the type of market we linger over but as a functional market for me to do my weekly produce shopping it suffices fine in terms of quality and variety. Yes, yes I remember fondly the markets in Northern California and in the Pacific Northwest...sure I'd love to see something like that here but we don't have it yet...in the meantime we do some have quality local purveyors and I'm happy to support them where I can find their products.

                                I mentioned above we were really impressed with the St Philips farmer's market in Tucson...they pull in farmers, growers, etc from all over the Southern Arizona region...hopefully with support the Phoenix markets can grow to something similar with our support. We asked both a cheese vendor whose offerings we loved and the grass fed beef vendor if they would ever come to Phoenix and they said at the moment it isn't worth the travel and time for them at this point...who knows in a couple years if that might not change if the markets here get bigger.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: ziggylu

                                  hi ziggylu,

                                  glad you got some nice finds..did you see seacat gardens? i call him the gucci gardener ;) small selection, super premium produce..he had multi-colored haricot verts today. fan-tastic..

                                  plus 2 new food vendors had their inaugural day today - belle fleur chocolates and 602 chocolates...i was forced to try both ;) they were GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD

                                  i'm not sure i've met a truffle i didn't like tho ;)

                                  1. re: winedubar

                                    I did see SeaCat Gardens...I was shopping for Turkey Day today and he wasn't offering anythign that was going to fit in the menu for that day(I've been the one in charge of Thanksgiving for over 15 years now and my family will not hear one word about me not using the same recipes I've been using since that very first year I took over. sigh...! LOL) Will have to try something from him next time...did look nice. Wonder if he goes to the Ahwatukee one? I know Maya does but One Windmill doesn't. Sundays are a better day for me...I didn't find much at Ahwatukee when we tried it last year but do notice someone mentioned it's grown...

                                    I noticed the chocolate people too...didn't try any though. Didn't want to be tempted and we had our dogs with us so were going quickly to just get what we needed(we were the ones wandering with the two tall black greyhounds if you were there around 9AM).

                                    1. re: ziggylu

                                      Is the Ahwatukee market getting any better? I was there towards the end of the summer and the selection was abysmal, but of course, I haven't been back since. I think I remember two produce vendors and the rest were jams, honey, crafts, etc.

                                      1. re: azhotdish

                                        We haven't been since this time last year so I don't know what the current situation is. I thought I remembered seeing someone either on this thread or another farmer's market discussion mentioning it had grown?

                                        1. re: azhotdish

                                          With the fall, the market has gotten better. The past couple of times there have been about 5 or more produce sellers with several related Thai families running some of them. There's fresh eggs, an apple and cider vendor, a fellow who ran a fishing boat in Alaska during the summer and sold his catch down here in the winter, Willow bread, and the usual assortment of salsas the crafts. It's been doing pretty well for my wife and I.

                                          1. re: zebcook

                                            I picked up most all the vegetables I needed for Thanksgiving dinner this week at the Ahwatukee market... green beans, butternut squash, onions, celery, potatoes plus some great tomatoes and greens, plus apples and eggs. There is a cheese guy there with goat cheese from Black Mesa Ranch.