I grew up in Yuma, and one of the first memories I have as a child is of sitting on our back porch in the shade squishing ruby-red pomegranate seeds between my teeth, eating green figs and many different kinds of juicy citrus fruits that grew wild on the trees in our backyard. I would eat them until my stomach hurt! We also had a tall date tree in the front yard that I risked life and limb to climb up and get fresh dates when my parents weren’t keeping a close eye on me.
My mom told me that she could sometimes just throw out some seeds in the yard, and something would grow. It was true at times—I saw it happen! The climate in all parts of Arizona is perfect for growing some of the best fruits, vegetables and herbs around.
That’s why the Arizona Farmers Markets are such a joy for me. It just reminds me of when I was a kid as I strolled through and looked at all the gorgeous and wholesome goods they had to offer. I’ve been to farmers markets in other states and even other countries (even Paris, France) and none of them hold a candle to those in the Copper State. Here are a few I’ve visited around Arizona that make the top of my list for sheer awesomeness:
Phoenix: Roadrunner Park Farmers Market
[3502 E Cactus Rd - Phoenix, AZ]
Phoenix offers up several farmers markets throughout the area that are open different days of the week. Roadrunner operates year-round and is open every Saturday morning. The market has been operating for more than 24 years and was awarded the 2012 Best Farmers Market in a Park by the Phoenix New Times. However, it makes the list for me because of the vast and unique selections they have available.
You’ll find rows and rows of brightly colored fruits, vegetables and other goods, but the eclectic food choices that the vendors make available are something I’ve always enjoyed. From R Sauce’s Raspberry Chipotle meatballs, to Detlaff Farm’s cream sausage tomatoes, you’re bound to find something to delight you. My all-time favorite thing to do there on hot days is to stop by AZ Pops and try some of the unique popsicles on the menu. I’ve tried passion fruit, chocolate and caramel balsamic fig pops from there—all were excellent, and I’m ashamed to say that I wolfed down two in one hour.
Food trucks are popular in Phoenix, so be sure if you are out and about at Roadrunner, you grab some freshly squeezed lemonade or gourmet ground coffee to sip from the Torched Goodness company truck while you’re browsing the aisles. The last time I visited the Roadrunner, I picked up tangerines and lemons to take home to squeeze, walnuts in honey and squarresants to take home to my mom. She loved them. For those of you that don’t know what a squaressant is, it’s a yummy croissant and doughnut hybrid, and you should go to this market and educate yourself on its flavor immediately!
The Roadrunner market has arts and crafts, seasonal farm produce, eggs (check out the green eggs from the Easter egg chickens), freshwater fish, grain-fed beef and pork, dripping honey, herbs and flowers, locally made jams, jellies and salsas, cheeses, freshly baked goods and artisan breads. The market also has children's playgrounds with play equipment, ducks and geese, fishing pond, swimming pool, special events, and a soccer field. It’s also dog friendly to well-behaved pups.
Flagstaff: Flagstaff Community Market
[Corner of Right Route 66 and N Sitgreaves Street - Flagstaff, AZ]
Whether you hail from Flagstaff, or are just visiting the gorgeous surrounding area, you can find the usual kaleidoscope of fresh-cut flowers (some are even edible), citrus, pretty bell peppers, eggplant, squash and more during your time at the Flagstaff Community Market (FCM). The market operates to bring awareness and support to small and medium-sized independent growers and producers.
There is a big focus on the local farmers who sell at the market, such as Camp Verde, Jerry’s Urban Farm and the Hernandez Farm, owned by Maria and Reuben Hernandez. I’ve always enjoyed taking some of Reuben and Maria Hernandez’s handmade tortillas and some squash blossoms back to the campsite to make squash blossom omelets for breakfast. The market is community-focused and fun with live entertainment and other exciting venues to take in while you hang around, eat and shop.
One of the more enjoyable things to do while you’re there is to talk to some of the friendly vendors and farmers whose backgrounds are often as diverse as the exotic eggplants and heirloom tomatoes they sell. One even saved my roses and carnations from evil bugs with their sage advice.
FCM features fresh produce and vegetables, nuts and gourmet peanut butter, pickles, jelly and salsa, homemade pasta, fancy soaps and unique, handmade gifts and seasonal crafts. Prepared foods include breakfast burritos, crepes, tamales, wood-fired pizza, brewed coffee and iced tea. In addition the market offers educational workshops that teach beginning and well-seasoned rural and urban gardeners how to be efficient at growing their own food—they teach the community tricks of the trade, such as composting, seed saving and rainwater harvesting.
Prescott: The Prescott Farmers Market
[1100 East Sheldon Street - Prescott, AZ]
The most recent farmers market I’ve visited is the Prescott Farmers Market (PFM). It’s one of those markets where you can find specialty items that you just can’t find anywhere else. The PFM is a non-profit organization that operates two markets in the Prescott area. They support local farmers, and provide access to natural, freshly grown and baked food while teaching the local community about agricultural methods and its benefits. I’m always excited about the selections they have at this particular market, too, and during my last visit, I went to Jan’s Baked Goods and bought a whole fruit pie to take home to the family. The vendors here only use local fresh, natural produce and veggies in their baked goods, so the pie was a real treat. I also bought some gorgeous artichoke flowers and lavender salt.
One thing that really stood out when I was looking up things to do in Prescott and came upon the PFM website for the first time, is that this particular farmers’ market organization also knows the importance of social media. It is great to see how the farmers markets supply us with some old-fashioned, farm-grown veggies and produce, but also use the modern tools to make sure we can find them and read more about them. A note to the farmers markets in the state: to be successful it’s so important to, make sure you stake your claim on the biggest billboard in the world—the Internet!
This market is a great place to get fresh baked goods, jams and jellies, beverages, crafts, dairy and eggs, flowers (they have sunflowers as big as your head) and plants, seasonal fruits and vegetables, honey and herbs, tons of great prepared hot food - from wood fired pizza to tamales and specialty items. Another highlight is the PFM which is a FoodCorps member and provides outreach and educational projects that help children in the community be involved with growing their own food. They help build and tend school gardens, and provide outreach programs at the Saturday PFM where they set up a kid’s education booth for the kids to enjoy food crafts such as constructing veggie butterflies, apple stamps, and seasonal vegetable scavenger hunts.
The community activities that the FoodCorps is involved in with the local schools were recently featured in Prescott’s publication, The Daily Courier, where they were teaching the students how to grow gardens at Prescott's Mountain Oak Charter School.
There are so many great farmers markets in Arizona that selecting just a few of my favorites really does all an injustice. Be sure, though, to escape the concrete jungle and corporate produce, vegetables and other goods every once in a while to enjoy these diverse and bright markets near you.
For more farmers marketsaround Arizona, click here: http://www.farmersmarketonline.com/fm/Arizona.htm
Holly Chavez is a multidisciplinary writer who grew up in Yuma, Arizona. Prior to becoming a writer, she was an engineer for several years. She enjoys writing about the many things that make Arizona so unique and wonderful. Holly is a part of the Arizona Office of Tourism's Guest Blogger program.