Spring weather hereabouts is famously capricious, and no one knows that better than produce growers and their fans. Right now, we're sitting smack in the season of dependable year-round crops like tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, and citrus. Some farmers have other items at the moment, and some don't, and it changes day by day.
Every field -- even each side of the same field -- is a unique microclimate that might produce a new harvest next week or might get crotchety and make you wait. Temperatures in the next couple of weeks will determine when cruciferous vegetables give up for the summer and melons start rolling in.
Kathy Porter of Big Happy Farms (pictured above, right) is able to roll with the punches. When we caught up with her at last Friday's Mesa Community Farmers' Market, she was running a stall featuring her farms' own produce along with items from Rousseau Farms, McClendon's Select, and Love Grows Farms, whose tiny, sweet baby carrots made us wish for a little rabbit to share them with. (Big Happy also vends Saturdays at the Roadrunner Park market and Sundays in Ahwatukee.)
Some grower/vendors supplement their wares with produce that wasn't grown locally, if a particular market's administration allows it. Sunny Boy Produce's Brent McCaleb is picky about what makes it to his Gilbert stall, all the same; it has to be in season, perfectly ripe, and super-fresh -- a standard supported by a taste of his mango samples last month.
Even if there's demand for an item, McCaleb won't carry it unless it meets his criteria. "I can go to the produce warehouse and get it," he says, "but I don't like to do that, because it's not as good." Sounds like he's on the way to a solid reputation and happy customers.
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While you're at the markets, keep in mind that we're approaching Easter, Mother's Day, graduations, and Father's Day, and the supply of local, funky, reasonably priced gifts does not depend on the weather. From the Mesa market's crafters, we like Siobhan Falen's teensy-weensy sculpted clay earrings (cupcakes! bunnies! mermaids! puppies!) -- they'd be sweet in a girl's Easter basket. Falen's only at the Mesa market every other week now, because she's launching the semi-monthly Saturday afternoon Wilted Garden Boutique at Chandler Cinemas.
The Mesa market's coordinator, Patricia McNaught Foster, has a deft hand with beads, as you can see below.
Foster's also a graphic designer with prints and bookmarks available at her booths in Mesa and Ahwatukee, along with a few items from other artists, including super-cute kids' aprons.
Check future posts for more gift ideas as the weeks go by, plus up-to-the-minute agricultural developments, of course. Happy grazing!