Big Brain Awards 2013

As New Times sat with Zimmerman in the back of Hayden Flour Mills' cozy headquarters, Emma entered through the back door carrying a large white pastry box and declared, "It's a cake for Charles' birthday."

She was referring to Charles Hayden, original founder of the Hayden Flour Mill. April 4 marked the 188th anniversary of his birth, and Emma made a cake using the very same flour he would have milled.

The Zimmermans do well to pay homage to their inspirational founder and his heritage grains. So well, in fact, that direct descendants of Charles Hayden himself have reached out to offer their praise and their support to the operation.

The Simple Farm
Jamie Peachey
The Simple Farm
Jon Arvizu
Jon Arvizu

Location Info


The Monarch Theatre

122 E. Washington St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004

Category: Dance Clubs

Region: Central Phoenix

In this sense, Hayden Flour Mills is very much a community organization, a tight-knit family of farmers, chefs, and local food enthusiasts working under the Hayden Flour Mills umbrella. "We have a network of farmers passionate about growing it and a network of chefs passionate about using it," Jeff Zimmerman says.

Even with all this success, Zimmerman does not claim be an innovator. In fact, he modestly denounces it. "If I've thought of something, at least a hundred other people have thought of it before."

True, perhaps. But the Zimmermans are the ones who did it. — Katie Johnson


Picture Grant Wood's American Gothic with a really, really, really good-looking couple and you've got Lylah and Michael Ledner.

It's amazing that reality TV hasn't snatched up these two — yet. They've got all the elements: They're baby boomers who met (relatively) late in life, moved to North Scottsdale, and started a church in their home, then leased a few acres of old horse property between ritzy housing developments to start a farm.

"I used to buy designer shoes; now I buy designer seeds," Lylah Ledner says with a smile, pausing for a moment to chat as The Simple Farm's Thursday morning "French Market" winds down and the April day begins to heat up. Lylah's got fresh dirt under her nails from picking weeds; somehow, her bubblegum-pink lipstick is just as fresh.

She relaxes in a plastic chair at a table draped with black-and-white-checked oilcloth, pausing to empty the big pockets of her apron: a syringe from giving a goat an enema; a French knife given to her by a customer; someone else's business card; and an iPhone with a screen so shattered it's hard to believe Lylah can get it to work. But she does, and you know because she's a frequent poster on Instagram (@thesimplefarm) and Facebook, and you can find The Simple Farm's blog at

The Ledners got a head start on the local farm craze, moving to the Valley in November 2009, ripping out "oleanders to the sky," and planting a garden as a way of connecting with the land.

Sounds corny, but there's a lot of love on this farm. Love for the customers, the animals (they are now up to six goats that are milked twice a day — that's a lot of milking), the sweet, ramshackle French décor. Lylah tears up more than once, talking about this business that is clearly much more to these two.

A customer walks by and asks Lylah about a tree.

"It's a Pakistani mulberry tree and it won't make you sneeze," she says, not missing a beat, adding that she gives the leaves to her goats to get their milk to dry up. Another wants to know if you can make ricotta cheese out of goat's milk (yes) and another asks how to make quark (Lylah's got several websites to recommend).

For a while, she and Michael sold what they grew (and milked and made — Lylah's a whiz at jellies and apple and pumpkin butters and recently started making caramels) at local farmers markets, but they didn't like that, so they decided to open their own farm on Thursdays. Crowds have reached 500 a day.

The summer squash is coming in; life is good. And the Ledners' goal, Lylah says, is simple — like the farm: "To earn a living." — Amy Silverman



Jon Arvizu is a hired gun. That's how he describes his day-to-day work as a designer, illustrator, art director, and printmaker at Trapdoor Studio.

When he isn't working on freelance projects for a Swiss brewery, a local motorcycle club in need of a fresh logo, or Phoenix-based entertaining guru Cheryl Najafi's website, the 37-year-old indulges his hobbies of letterpress and mono-screen printing.

Arvizu does it all in the backyard studio of his Scottsdale home, where he lives with his wife and their two young sons. The space is a den full of his ideas, experiments, and projects — many of them look like they'd fit right into the Midcentury Modern world of Mad Men. The retro imagery is everywhere from Ralph Haver and Al Beadle homes to a record player, tikis, and pinup girls.

People ask Arvizu about Mad Men a lot, he says. Though he watched the first few seasons of the show, he walked away with more of an appreciation for its style and design than its plot.

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OK wow, lets roll that beautiful bean footage!


He sounds like a future famous designer.  I liked reading about him.  Much luck and success to him in his future in design and hopefully I'll see his clothes in the best shops in the future.

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