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From Back Yard Grower to Farmers’ Market

Growing up in the Midwest or on the East Coast you could easily believe in your innate ability to grow things. Everyone back East it seems is blessed with a green thumb. Homes are filled with healthy house plants and prolific back yard gardens. Gardening  it seems takes little skill outside of the brute force required to rototill frozen ground in Spring.  Overall, you can count on more rain, richer soil and more humidity. Plus you don’t have to import your worms.

In fact, Back East the main problem is not growing stuff. It is finding enough neighbors who aren’t already growing their own to take your overflow zucchini, tomatoes and apricots. 
Ahhh, but that was then, and this is now. Now, you are in Arizona, where day and night time temperatures swing wildly in the Spring and by Summer remain at 90deg even when the sun goes down. The soil is Alkaline. It rarely rains, and when it does, the rains come in big, late afternoon downpours which threaten to rip young plants from their precarious march towards maturity. Oh, and worms are not found in the soil…unless you import a few.flourish16

Grower, Jerry Ulm at his booth on Market day.
Grower, Jerry Ulm at his booth on Market day.

  Toto, We’re Not In Kansas Anymore

So why would anyone try to garden here? Driven on by memories of successful gardens and the pure deliciousness of home grown produce, we persist. We plant. We water. We  wait. But if, like me, all that planting, watering and waiting gets taken away in a nano second of forgetfulness (as in, I forgot to water today), or swarms of aphids or wild javelinas attack your little garden plot …then take heart. Master gardeners and community stakeholders have been conspiring with a VISTA volunteer to bring a first rate Farmers Market to Globe-Miami, and this summer will mark the third season of fresh produce at Simply Sarah’s where her store becomes an outlet for fresh, organic produce brought in from Reavis Mountain Ranch just an hour or so east of Globe.

Peter BIgfoot with a bushel of cucumbers ready for market
Peter BIgfoot with a bushel of cucumbers ready for market

Sarah Bernstein, who is a business woman, mother, wife, and artist in equal measure, runs her store as she does her life. Practically. With an eye towards quality, beauty, value and common sense.  So when her friend, Peter Bigfoot was fishing around for a local outlet for his fresh organic produce that made sense with all the other demands he was juggling, Sarah came up with a plan.

 Looking for an outlet to sell organic

“I had tried Farmers Markets,” Bigfoot says. “ I like supporting them.”  But he finds it hard to justify sitting at a booth to sell a few flats of apricots when there are over a hundred fruit trees, flocks of chickens, turkeys and ducks and a half acre garden to keep up and classes to teach. Plus, with gas getting so expensive, it is impossible to even break even selling lettuce, unless you happen to be going that way already.
Sarah’s idea would take both things into account. She would make room on her counters and shelves for whatever fresh produce Peter wanted to bring into town while he was running errands. That way it wouldn’t cost any more gas than he was already going to use for errands, and she would work with her customers to let them know when produce had arrived. The money for the produce goes to the Ranch. For both Sarah and Peter, the arrangement is primarily a community service since if either of them ever tracked the amount of time, gas, floor space or any other measure of cost of goods you normally apply to a venture like this, it would hardly make sense.

Each week or so when when Peter delivers produce at the store, Sarah will assess the bounty and calls customers she knows will be interested. She even remembers that ‘so-n-so’ loves arugula, or that another said they would like a dozen eggs. So these are her first calls when items arrive but she makes a dozens calls each time and within a few days the produce has flown out of the store and onto someone’s kitchen table.

Persimmons in all their glory are only available during a small window of time, so you have to grab them when the time comes!
Persimmons in all their glory are only available during a small window of time, so you have to grab them when the time comes!

So, this summer, as you are shopping at Simply Sarah’s for a linen blouse, or elegant evening wear, you may surprise yourself by walking out with persimmons.

 Selling the sizzle of Persimmions

Sarah Bernstein runs "Simply Sarah's a retail women's shop which also carries gourmet foods. She makes space on her counter during growing season for Peter Bigfoot's Fresh , Organic produce from his farm out in Roosevelt
Sarah Bernstein runs “Simply Sarah’s a retail women’s shop which also carries gourmet foods. She makes space on her counter during growing season for Peter Bigfoot’s Fresh , Organic produce from his farm out in Roosevelt

 

Persimmons? Hmmm, you wonder to yourself while standing in the store staring at a flat of acorn shaped wrinkly fruit. You quickly search your midwest memory bank for anything resembling persimmons…and come up blank. That’s when Sarah walks over. “Oh yes!” Sarah says, as if reading your mind, “these are wonderful.” It is the same enthusiasm she has when describing the heirloom fabrics found on her latest collection of clothing from Afghanistan. She then launches into the finer points of picking persimmons when they are ripe and suggestions for preparing them.

Your mind begins to see the fruit in a new light. These small wrinkly morsels are beginning to look more and more like the “fruit of the gods” – the ancient Greek meaning of the word.  Yes, those Greeks knew what they were talking about, and now you can see clearly what you have been missing. You take a dozen.flourish16

 

Big Beautiful Bouquets of Greens

 

Or take mixed greens. Those big beautiful “bouquets” of lettuce and other greens may seem alittle overwhelming until you listen to Sarah talk about the best way to cook up a batch of greens. “…Just heat your pan and then roast some walnuts,” she says and then pauses. “Better yet,” she suggests, “roast the walnuts by drizzling some lemon olive oil from Queen Creek on them.Then throw in your greens and wilt them just slightly and add fresh ground pepper and sea salt.” She pauses again to let the image and aroma of that sink in. She smiles as you contemplate your newfound appreciation for ‘greens.’

”Please give me two bags of the fresh greens and some of the Queen Creek olive oil.”

And so it goes through the growing season, with Sarah providing the counter space, connections and conversation to keep produce flying out the door, and Peter supplying what he can, when he can…which still equates to a bounty of fresh produce at Simply Sarah’s. First up. Asparagus in April.

Fred Jimenez, known as "The Worm Man" began selling his 'worm motels' last year.
Fred Jimenez, known as “The Worm Man” began selling his ‘worm motels’ last year.

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Globe-Miami Farmers’ Market………

 Another group has been hard at work establishing the framework for a new – and improved – Farmer’s Market which is scheduled to launch this summer in downtown Globe.  Yes, Globe has had a succession of Farmer’s Markets over the years with varying success, but this new evolution of a Farmer’s Market promises to kick off with all the right ingredients. It began with Laura Gottschalk, who was assigned to the community through the AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer program to help launch a Farmer’s Market. She put in months of legwork to research the needs of the community and pulled together the many stakeholders who could help not only get the thing off the ground but sustain it over time.

Managing a Farmers’ Market

Two of those stakeholders, Pat and Manuel Romero, who operate the Sunrise and Sunset Chili and Herb garden, have spent summers visiting Farmer’s Markets in several states and talking to market managers to find out what makes one successful and another not. It seems a key to many successful markets is an active board made up of people who are growers themselves…and a charming, but firm market manager who can effectively coordinate the needs of the vendors and buyers, enforce the rules and regulations set forth by the Board, and serve as  part cheerleader, part principal for the enterprise. That is where Paul Buck comes in.

Paul Buck is the Market Manager for the Farmers' Market and ensures it runs smoothly each week for both buyers and sellers.
Paul Buck is the Market Manager for the Farmers’ Market and ensures it runs smoothly each week for both buyers and sellers.

 

The 6-ft soils specialist has a winning smile and a passion for home-grown, community projects having volunteered his time and talents for multiple projects over the years from laying brick pavers, painting old buildings, cleaning up trash along the roads and scouting locations for a community garden. Although he was willing to take on the role for free insisted on paying him 5% of the proceeds from the market. He will earn it.

His role includes coordinating, marketing and managing…with some cajoling thrown in here and there. He is currently working closely with Laura Gottschalk and the Board to get everything in place for June.

“We want the emphasis on fresh garden produce grown in this area ,” says Buck. Although the Market will accept arts, crafts and baked goods as well, Buck makes it clear that the number one rule guiding this Farmer’s Market is “NO re-sale. You have to grow it, make it, or bake it yourself.”

Vendors will be required to fill out an application which details what can and cannot be sold, who is required to have a business license or health department permit, how disputes will be handled, what items need to be juried before being accepted and the requirements of booths, etc. Thanks in large part to the research by Gottschalk and the previous experience of some Board members, the application leaves no stone unturned, including, for instance, a rule against “amplified music.”flourish16

No boom boxes.  “Music will be restricted to live performances only…..and must be approved prior to Market by the Market manager.” The goal of the regulations is to establish a framework which will provide a good experience for both Vendors and Buyers. This winter, the Board sponsored two Backyard Growing workshops with the first one held in Globe on January 29th, the weekend the temperatures dropped into the teens and pipes broke all over town. Laura Gottschalk still smiles about that event. “Honestly, I was thinking we might get 30 people,” she says. “But my phone rang all the time! We cut it off after 122 people signed on, and we scrambled to restructure the day so each speaker/educator could talk to a group of 20+ people and there would be more of an opportunity to interact with each group. Topics included soils and composting, designing irrigation in desert climes, building cold-weather frames, starting seeds, and working with the Farmer’s Market.

“We had Board members pitching in to park cars, register people, and answer questions and because of having to split into groups, each speaker gave their talk 5 times that day! Yet, it all went so smoothly! I just didn’t realize that many people in Globe were interested in gardening!” she says.

Pat and Manny Romero have been growing chilis and tomatos for years and selling them out of their own greenhouse on Six Shooter Canyon.
Pat and Manny Romero have been growing chilis and tomatos for years and selling them out of their own greenhouse on Six Shooter Canyon.

It takes a Village to make a Market

But Gottschalk is quick to point out the attendance wasn’t just Globe people. Jeffery Ferns who owns Triple C Coffee House in Superior, brought a group over from Superior who are interested in growing…and supporting the Globe-Miami Farmer’s market. He has offered his commercial kitchen to those in Superior who want to make items to sell this summer and she hopes all of this will encourage more cross-marketing between the sister communities.

Cayci Vucksanovich, who owns Matlock Gas and ran her own successful nursery/ feed store business for nearly 15 years, is one of several Master Gardeners helping to spearhead the new market. In addition to serving on the Board and agreeing to participate weekly, Cayci said a real benefit of having the master gardeners on-hand during the market is their expertise. Cayci, who is also a well- known voice on KIKO radio where she hosts a weekly garden program and answers people’s questions about growing things in this area says the presence of master gardeners at the Farmer’s market this summer will make it easy for people to stop by and get answers to a host of questions people have about growing in this region.

Vendor Orientation

There will be a Vendor Orientation barbecue on June 4th down at City Hall’s “Centennial Park” and potential vendors are invited to come down to meet the Board and fellow growers. Those interested in participating this year can pick up a registration form at the event, or download the form by going to :  www.gmteconnect.com/businessdirectory/FarmersMarket.
The Farmer’s Market is scheduled to open on June 25th in downtown Globe, in front of City Hall. Hours are 8 am – noon and the Market will run for 16 weeks through October 1. You can check out the latest information on the Market by visiting their facebook page: Globe-Miami Farmer’s Market, or logging on to www.gmteconnect.com, where they will be hosting a market page with updates, downloadable forms, and photos.

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