Each of the Valley's farmers' markets has its own distinctive atmosphere. That's fun to suss out, but we're all about the produce, too. The Roadrunner Park Farmers' Market, just off the 51 on Cactus Road, is Phoenix's oldest -- it'll celebrate its 20th birthday in October -- and both the setting and the vendor lineup have a mature, settled feel, like a portable weekly neighborhood where everybody's known each other for years.
These farmers, cooks, and crafters settle into their stands under 50-foot pines lining a grassy field for a Saturday morning of serious business mixed with easy conversation. You'll get an earful of weather developments, economic theory, art criticism, local politics, and intense networking, not just from vendors but from their longtime customers, neighbors, and other park visitors.
Loyalty runs in both directions; we want to hit a market and, given the vagaries of the food-growing business and urban farming, still be able to count on a certain level of grower participation. On a visit to Roadrunner last week, we peeped no fewer than eight hardworking produce stands -- some expansive, some teensy, but all with a good variety of local, seasonal wares, including Hom's colorful peppers, mini-eggplant, and other Asian specialties, Pinnacle Gardens' rounded baby summer squash, and plump, spotless green beans and cauliflower from Lewis' Hen House and Veggie Farm.
Around this time of year, locavores get antsy for fruit, and One Windmill Farm is obliging with a crop of gorgeous blushing peaches already. Doug Lewis mentioned some precious strawberries, but they were long gone to his CSA subscribers by the time we arrived. (It's good advice to get to any farmers' market early, but Roadrunner shoppers in particular are so seasoned, they practically snap up the best stuff right off the trucks.)
After browsing the harvest, you can take a break with Sonoran-grown and -roasted Café Justo and P & M Pastries' European treats (plum crumb cake, kolacky, etc.). You deserve it, you dedicated produce hunter, you.
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Roadrunner Park Farmers' Market's summer hours are 7 to 11 a.m. on every Saturday except holidays. One Windmill Farm also vends at Downtown Phoenix Public Market and the Mesa Community Farmers' Market.