Our local food economy, sometimes fragile in the best of times, now teeters above an abyss. Buying local and keeping your dollars in the network of Arizona producers has become even more crucial than before. You still have to shop for food, so why not buy the good stuff?
If you want to get produce from local farms, you have options: farmers markets, farm stands (found at farms), CSAs (farm subscriptions, which most farms offer), and new collaborations. It all starts at farmers markets, sure, but in our highly developed scene, those are just the beginning.
Farmers Markets in the Age of the Coronavirus
Empty lanes between vendors. Broad swaths of pavement devoid of people. Shoppers snapping on gloves, a few even wearing face masks, as they went to inspect purple cabbage and chicken eggs under palm trees and a blue sky. The Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market was a completely different experience this past Saturday, and not just because you could find parking.
In the last week, many local farmers markets have closed altogether. Recently New Times ran a list of those staying open. Begin here when thinking about fresh local produce.
One place I like to begin is in Old Town on Saturdays. We've foraged in the streets around this market. We've checked in with a vendor who sells food prepared from her desert gatherings. Then, the market had a light feeling. But as recently as March 21, a gloom hung over shoppers.
Why? Getting local farm produce has changed in the age of the coronavirus.
The pandemic has disrupted global, national, and local food systems. Across greater Phoenix, restaurants have been closing, leaving hospitality workers of all stripes without jobs. The chain of devastation has reached every sector of the food system, jarring, even from its first days, the small farms that supply our better independent restaurants.
Farmers markets keeping doors open have adjusted, letting consumers buy food from farms, and farms sell the produce they have seeded, grown, and harvested.
At the Open Air Market at Phoenix Public Market this past Saturday, some stands were spread so far that you could have played horseshoes between them. Old Town wasn’t so spaced, but took its own precautions: wipeable tablecloths, ubiquitous hand sanitizer, elimination of dining areas, restroom cleanings every 15 minutes, preordering, and a move to prepackaged prepared food, mirroring the grocery store model.
Why be stuck in a grocery store, though, when you can shop outside and support local?
“If you have to shop, it’s a better option than going into a petri dish of a store that’s recycling its air,” says Michael Reid, manager of the Old Town market for something like nine of its 11 years.
At his market on Saturday, some vendors went next level.
Blue Sky Organic Farms had shoppers queue, order, then got produce for them. At McClendon Organic Selects, only 20 people were allowed in at once. Gloves were provided before entry. McClendon employees disinfected scales and carts between customers. Many shoppers avoided the market and used a new McClendon-specific preordering system that routed boxes to a drive-thru area on First Street. Bob McClendon said they received so many preorders that his team packed boxes on Friday until midnight.
Still, shopping today is fraught, whether grocery store or market. You have to be careful. Keep your space. Get in and out fast. Squirt that sanitizer like it’s the elixir of life, because now it kind of is. And through they’ve been crowded in the past, if you stay smart you can still feel good about buying from your farmers market.
Single and Niche Sources of Fresh, Local Produce
Farmers markets, however, are only open a few days a week. They don’t work with everybody’s schedules. There are means beyond farmers markets to buy local farm produce — some old favorites, and some beautiful new collaborations arisen as a small answer in these weird times
Here’s a list of good options, one that doesn’t include CSAs (like the new one launching at Jobot, or those sold through community stalwarts like Tracy Dempsey Originals).
Greenhouse Gardens13103 East Chandler Heights Road, Chandler
Hours: 9 a.m. to noon. Saturday
Greenhouse Gardens is an urban market and garden offering seasonal vegetables, fruits, and herbs.
The Farm Store300 East Ray Road, Gilbert
Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily
Found at The Farm at Agritopia on the west side of the Barnone building, The Farm Store sells in-season, certified organic produce.
Amadio Ranch4701 West Dobbins Road, Laveen
Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily
Amadio Ranch is a family-run self-serve farm stand offering pies, peaches, and more.
Pinnacle Farms8841 South 27th Avenue, Laveen
Hours: Sunup to sundown daily
Pinnacle Farms is a small farmstand with specialty produce.
Blue Sky Farms4762 North 189th Avenue, Litchfield Park
Hours: Noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday
Blue Sky Farms has an open offer to stock its farm store with other farms’ produce if items are “as close to organic as possible.”
Steadfast Farms5111 South Inspirian Parkway, Mesa
Hours: 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday
Find fruits, vegetables, eggs, and flowers at the Steadfast Farms store.
Arcadia Meat Market3950 East Indian School Road, #130
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
The Arcadia Meat Market butcher shop carries local fowl, eggs, microgreens, raw milk, and other products items like bread and pasta.
Pane Bianco Central4404 North Central Avenue
Hours: Call 602-234-2100
Pane Bianco Central is stocking farm boxes from Rhiba Farms, which are known to sell out, so call ahead.
Spaces of Opportunity Garden1200 West Vineyard Road
Hours: 8 a.m. to noon Saturday
Spaces of Opportunity Garden is offering fresh produce from its community garden.
Singh Meadows1490 East Weber Drive, Tempe
Hours: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday to Sunday
Singh Meadows is offering baskets of in-season vegetables, citrus, herbs, eggs, and more for curbside pick up.
Rhiba Farms Farmstand40792 North Rattesnake Road, San Tan Valley
Hours: 8 a.m. to noon Saturday
The Rhibafarms Farmstand sells same-day harvested vegetables and leafy greens.
Arizona Microgreens3146 East Wier Avenue
Hours: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday
Arizona Microgreens is run by a team of brothers that produce and sell organic microgreens.
For more information, follow these markets on social media or visit the individual websites.