Left to my own devices, I hit my stride in the afternoon and I could go until midnight without the bat of an eye. All of that is behind me since our bright and early daughter came into our world. I don’t know how it happened but I gave birth to a morning person. Now I rise early to “Mama, I like yogurt!” bellowing down the hall from her room. Getting up at the crack of dawn isn’t all bad, really. I act like I don’t like it but the truth is I appreciate the solid Mama-Daughter time with my girl and we often go out in search of adventures while Jacob catches some Saturday morning ZZZ’s. Sometimes we do mundane chores like groceries, post office and bank. Other times we treasure hunt at a thrift shop or run around the park with our arms out to the sides pretending to be airplanes. Sometimes we stay in our jams, eat kid cereal and watch TV. When it is not oppressively hot we enjoy a trip to the Downtown Phoenix Farmer’s Market.
On a recent Saturday morning adventure we picked up fellow Wilderness Girl Christie and hit up the market. Our first stop was the Market Café. A few months back the café changed ownership and it is a whole new experience. The food is simple, fresh and healthy, often made with ingredients from the farmer’s market next-door. So far the frittata is my favorite dish. The griddled new potatoes are not to be missed but the two together are a feast so I recommend finding a friend to split the bounty. You’ll have plenty to satisfy you but still leave a little room for a mid-market snacking and sampling.
Our second stop on this particular morning was the One Windmill Farms farm stand where I spoke with Dave. I asked what is most important to know about the farm and he explained to me that all of the produce is grown organically without chemicals or pesticides. He went on to say that everything is Arizona-grown on land in Queen Creek or Wilcox. This means all of the produce travels less than 200 miles from farm to table. There were red and green champagne grapes, a few varieties of beautiful purple eggplants, beets bigger than my fist, rows and rows of red ripe tomatoes — all of it just a few days removed from the soil. I selected some potatoes and leeks, patty pan squash, sweet potatoes and three of those lovely beets. The food was selling fast and Dave told me that most days they nearly sell out but what is left is donated to charity and the scraps are fed to the free range barnyard chickens. Nothing is ever wasted.
A few rows down at a much smaller booth a woman sells cucumbers, melons, parsley and eggplants. At the very center of the table is a large stack of flatbread. The woman is an Iraqi refugee. She and her husband till, plant, tend and harvest a small piece of urban farmland in partnership with the International Rescue Committee (IRC). When we ask more, the woman reveals she fled Iraq four years ago and she misses home. She is working hard to learn English and takes classes at Rio Salado Community College four days a week. Her hard work is paying off and we enjoyed the conversation with her. She offered us a taste from the tall stack of naan and we were hooked. Her bread was flecked with white and black sesame seeds. It had a crisp texture on the bottom and dough bubbles throughout balanced with an incredibly satisfying chewiness. For me, this is a market must-have.
One of the largest booths at the market is Maya’s Farm which is an organic farm that practices sustainable, biodynamic methods of cultivation. This booth has the most variety and is so beautifully arranged that the produce practically jumps out at you. We saw lovely varieties of squash, peppers and beans. Maya herself was at the booth to answer questions about her beautiful flowers and interesting fruits.
In the very center of the market amid all the hustle and bustle, a woman spins yarn from wool. Celia is her name and she owns the Chili Acres farm. They started out raising goats for cheese and other goat’s milk products. A few years ago Cecilia took a weaving course from Navajo elders and fell in love. From there she started getting interested in sheep and spinning. On this morning she was spinning wool from her Navajo churro sheep, Cousin It. Into the wool fibers she spun bits of red and pink from the cochineal she harvested from the cactus on the farm. There are bits of green in the skein she just finished and those are derived from carrot tops. No chemicals go into the yarn she spins, the cheese she crafts or the gluten free baked goods she offers for sale. Next week (9/26) in partnership with the Phoenix Permaculture Alliance, Celia is teaching a class on felting with a “make and take” project for students.
My favorite baker, AZ Bread was at the market with their beautiful hand-formed, hearth fired loaves of country sourdough, chili cheese and cranberry orange. Husband and wife team Gretchen and Ron man the booth together and they’re always happy to talk about the different breads and even share samples.
What’s bread without a little peanut butter? Our last stop of the morning was at the Peanut Butter Americano booth. This was my first taste of PB Americano but Wilderness Girl Jenny has been a fan for quite some time and she has impeccable taste so I knew we were in for a treat. The company was founded by two classmates who share a passion for service, believe free enterprise is the solution to poverty and are working in a very personal way to help make that change for some of the poorest people in the Americas. While the founders weren’t able to make it to the market that morning they did send a proud mother in their stead. It was such fun to talk to her and hear the story behind PB Americano’s philanthropic mission.
Café: Daily 7am-10pm
Open Air Market: Wednesday 5pm-8pm, Saturday (May-Sept) 8am-Noon, Saturday (Oct – April) 8am-1pm
Food Truck Friday: Friday 11am-1:30pm
Payment: Cash is best but there are several vendors with card readers attached to their smart phones. You can also use the market ticket system to collect tickets as you browse for everything you want to buy then settle at the main tent and go around with your receipt to pick up your wares.
Parking: Parking in the adjacent lot is free and there are several metered spots in the surrounding blocks. Meters don’t have to be fed on Saturdays.
Dogs: Polite leashed dogs are always welcome.
Don’t forget: A reusable bag for your treasures. During summer it is a good idea to leave a cooler in the trunk of your car to prevent wilting/melting/spoiling.
Where are your favorite farmers markets? Do you have vendors you have to see every time? Tell us all about it in the comments — we love to hear from you!