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"What's important is everyone be in the same place, just like a grocery store," Bo Mostow explains.
With a furrowed brow, she studies a well-worn piece of graph paper, a map of the bi-weekly Uptown Farmers Market in North Phoenix. On it, each vendor's space is outlined and labeled in faded pencil.
As the market's manager, Mostow is responsible for placing each of the dozens of vendors, which vary from week to week, in the best space. Taking into account everything -- from the type of products (because you can't put a salsa vendor next to another salsa vendor) to the position of the sun (because chocolate, for example, will melt in an east-facing tent) -- she tries to design the perfect market experience.
See also: Announcing the 2015 Big Brain Finalists
Making every detail just right -- from the layout to the visual appeal gained by using only matching white tents -- is important to Mostow. For her, finding the perfect farmers market proved pretty much impossible -- before she opened her own.
"It was a total deal-breaker for me, dealing with parking and kids," Mostow says.
For the mother of four young children, markets with no parking (let alone parking for a large SUV) made shopping at farmers markets impossible. And with all the kids in tow, shopping become more of a hassle than anything else.
So she solved that.
The Uptown Farmers Market, held at the North Phoenix Baptist Church, offers an abundance of parking, along with activities to keep kids entertained. There's a bounce house and live music, and on Saturday mornings you'll often find parents lounging on the spacious lawns while kids run and play under the shady trees.
Mostow and partner Jennifer Woods opened the Saturday morning market last November. (Woods left the market in early January.) By February, Mostow had added a Wednesday morning market, anchored by well-known local farmer Bob McClendon and his McClendon's Select produce. These days, she's got an impressive lineup of vendors selling everything from produce and dairy to salts, baked goods, and spices.
The market's instant success comes in no small part because of Mostow's extensive experience in both farmers markets and the North Phoenix community. Before opening Uptown, she opened and operated the Central Farmers Market, and before that she spent a year and a half as a CSA coordinator for Crooked Sky Farms.
Mostow, who studied nutrition at ASU, says she knew she wanted to open a farmers market after completing an internship with Cindy Gentry at the Downtown Phoenix Public Market.
"I just felt alive," Mostow says of working at the market.
Her ultimate vision is to make Uptown Farmers Market a hub for connecting the whole community, including farmers, consumers, and gardeners. She'd like to add a Growers Market to the mix, where master gardeners can gather and find supplies. At some point, she'd like to have an onsite nutritionist and to offer classes on growing food, nutrition, and more.
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"If I can get home cooks back in the kitchen, for the kids' sake, that would be great," Mostow says.
The 2015 Big Brain Award winners will be announced onSaturday, May 9, during New Times' Artopia, an evening of food, drink, art, and music at Monarch Theatre. For details and tickets, $25, visit www.phoenixnewtimes.com/bigbrainawards.