Best Boutique Farm 2012 | Singh Farms | Food & Drink | Phoenix

Nestled under canopies of mature mesquite trees, the soft ground at Singh Farms produces some of the most beautiful herbs and exotic plants, which we could only dream of growing in our own backyards. Owners Lee and Ken Singh have created a sustainability masterpiece that opens to the public every Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Take a stroll in the desert oasis before you fill your basket with freshly picked squash, seasonal summer corn, and even a couple loaves of bread baked by local favorite MJ. If you have your own garden, skip the store-bought compost — the stuff that Singh Farm churns out is the best $12 you can spend on your garden.

Farmer Frank and crew have a pretty smooth operation running on their South Phoenix farm. Their veggies are raised without the use of pesticides, and you won't find a single genetically modified seed on-site. The farm grows everything from watermelons to corn to exotic heirloom tomatoes and even has a pick-your-own artichoke harvest in late spring. Crooked Sky sells its produce at local farmers markets, through its very own CSA, and you can just pop into its centrally located farm, order what's in season, and someone will go out and pick it for you. You can't get much fresher than that! The crops are always changing, so be sure to check the farm's website before you go.

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"That baby cow is so ugly," said absolutely no one, ever. And baby cows are just the start of why we love this amazing Mesa dairy farm. Owned and operated by brother and sister team Casey and Allison Stechnij, the full-fledged dairy farm is home to a couple hundred cows and a handful of goats, horses, chickens, and donkeys that are happy to let you pet them — for a small fee. (Hey, a goat has to make a living, too!) The farm is all about involving the community and providing a place for people to learn and enjoy the farm. hosting a number of events throughout the year, including the popular Dinner on a Farm event. Hayrides, an indoor farmers market, its very own food truck, and handmade ice cream can all be found right here. Tell Farmer Casey we said hi and make sure you try one of Udder Delight's sweet treats!

Editor's note: This Best of has been edited from its original version.

In a state that constantly is tearing down its history and pushing its agriculture culture further and further away, it's nice to know that the 71-year-old family-owned Schnepf Farms isn't going anywhere. Designated an "Arizona treasure" by former Governor Janet Napolitano, the Queen Creek farm is a mecca for fresh organic fruits and veggies, and it's just a short drive from anywhere in the East Valley. Stop by the farm Thursday through Sunday, grab a basket, and head out to the fields to pick your own carrots, peaches, apples, lettuce, cauliflower, and more. Your haul will cost you just $1.50 per pound, which is cheaper than most grocery stores. What's available changes with the seasons, so it's best to call ahead to see what they've got. Although we highly doubt you'll be disappointed if you just show up unannounced.

No Saturday is complete without a trip to this upscale market for a little breakfast and a whole lot of shopping. Only the best of the farmers market circuit (and a few that sell at this market exclusively) come out to sell their goods every Saturday in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale. Here you can find an extensive roster of top-of-the-line vendors showcasing their exotic fruits, colorful veggies, decadent sweets, and classy crafts to the picky Scottsdale crowd. Look for favorites like Essence Bakery's flaky croissants, locally made goat milk cheese from Crow's Dairy, and even fresh seafood from Alaskan Pride. And don't forget your pooch! Fido is welcome at this dog-friendly market, and he'll probably score a treat or two from the market's puppy-lovin' vendors.

Start off your lazy Sunday with a trip to Ahwatukee's favorite market. For more than seven years, farmers, chefs, bakers, artists, and crafters have been bringing their goods to the parking lot of Ahwatukee's community center. Here you can find everything from locally grown flowers, soft-baked breads, fresh seafood, grass-fed beef, and a whole bunch of pretty produce from a variety of local growers. Don't bother stopping for breakfast before you go — with more than 10 food vendors on any given Sunday, there's something for everyone and you're not going to want to miss out on the offerings.

Venture outside while the sun is still out during our summer months? Oh, hell, no. Thankfully, one of Phoenix's biggest and best year-round farmers markets takes place every Wednesday during the slightly cooler and shadier evening hours. Every week for the past seven years, produce vendors, bakers, cupcake makers, jam peddlers, jewelry creators, and more come out to sell their goods from 4 to 6 p.m. And don't worry about dinner — food trucks like Hey Joe! and Torched Goodness park their mobile kitchens at the market for your dinnertime enjoyment.

In our sea of concrete, parking garages, and strip malls, it's nice to know that once a week, we can escape to a park to enjoy the sunshine and pick up our weekly ration of locally grown produce and handcrafted goods. For more than 22 years, this North Phoenix market has been attracting folks looking to purchase everything from plants for their own gardens to fresh picked veggies grown by their neighbors. You can also find delicious handmade goat cheese from Crow's Dairy Farm, healthy greens from Southwest Herbs, and Saturday market eats from Gina's Homemade. And don't leave your pooch at home — since the market takes place in a park, he's more than welcome to join in on the fun.

Sprouts Farmers Market is celebrating its 10th year, and there's good reason why this Arizona-based grocery chain has lasted a whole decade and successfully expanded into California, Colorado, and Texas. Sprouts combines the benefits of a small, charming health food boutique with the variety and convenience of a large grocery store, making it possible to do the whole week's shopping under one roof. There are fresh breads, quality meats and cheeses, specialty foods like agave syrup and gluten-free pasta, and bulk goods including cereals, dried fruits, and spices. And unlike its big-name competitors, you won't have to leave your whole paycheck at the checkout register — even though Sprouts' produce is just as fresh and the food consistently top-quality. Thanks to Sprouts, Valley residents can whip up healthy gourmet meals at home while remaining within budget, and that's no small feat.

Big-box grocery stores devote about three feet of shelf space to spices, crammed with name-brand jars full of bland powders that may not be so fresh. To get specially sourced, carefully curated spices, there's always the Internet. But if you want to skip the shipping fee and, more importantly, inhale the aroma of your prized picks before you commit to putting them in your food, there's nothing like a trip to Penzey's. Not only is a specialty spice shop a great place for locating hard-to-find treasures, like mahlab and black cumin, but it's also useful for stocking up on quality pantry staples, like cinnamon, mixed peppercorns, Italian seasoning, and paprika. But be careful: What you thought would be a quick errand can easily turn into a half-hour of wandering around gaining culinary inspiration.

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