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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Best Farmers Market: Arizona Community Farmers Markets

In our first Best Of Issue, Green Living Magazine is proud to acknowledge the individuals and businesses that have made a conscious and sustainable impact on the community — all as voted on by readers. Arizona has experienced substantial growth in recent years, and, as such, the focus on sustainability and living more healthful lives has also been in the spotlight. Here, we invite you to learn more about the movers and shakers in the green living space. Congratulations to our winners!

The idea for the Arizona Community Farmers Markets originated in the office of the former Mayor of Phoenix (Terry Goddard) in 1988 and was soon approved by the Phoenix City Council. In March and April of 1989, a graduate student at ASU, Amy Zoravitch, put together a pilot market at Heritage Square as part of her masters program. The Heritage Square Farmers Market officially launched in October 1989 with eight vendors. The next market to open in 1990 was the Roadrunner Park Farmers Market.

“Although the Heritage Square Farmers Market closed in 1998, the Roadrunner Park Farmers Market is now in its 32nd season, providing the surrounding community with local fresh crops and ethically raised beef, pork, lamb, poultry, an

d eggs,” says Dee Logan, Founder and Senior Coordinator, Arizona Community Farmers Markets. “It also hosts local food producers—some of whom have been with the market for two or three decades. In fact, families have grown up with this market, and were seeing two and three generations of customers who use this as their weekly market.”

AZ Community Farmers Market

Today, Arizona Community Farmers Markets consists of 11 total markets. The group’s mission is to provide venues where local, direct producers of farming and specialty foods can meet face-to-face with the public—encouraging buying local and using reusable bags. The group also acts as advocates for these kinds of markets, as intermediaries for its vendors and more traditional marketplaces, and as facilitators to educate both its vendors and regulatory agencies. 

Arizona Community Farmers Markets vendors fit into one of three categories—agriculture, food and artisan (arts and crafts)—and must meet a couple of requirements. “Before entering the markets, vendors must have all health permits and licenses, (both city and state), and, for food and skincare products, they must have current product or business liability insurance,” Logan says. “Most all of the growers and farmers are certified as Organic or Naturally Grown, or they organize their growing areas around sustainable principles such as biodynamic farming. Our focus is to encourage our vendors and customers to buy locally especially from our farmers and growers.”

Another offering, the education series, is free to the public and has included chef demonstrations, especially focusing on how to use seasonal crops; healthy lifestyle demonstrations; specialty foods platforms; how to use and identify native or wild crops that can be foraged; and composting and water conservation techniques. The City of Scottsdale also has given away low-water-usage plants like mesquite trees over the past several years. Check the website for markets and hours. www.arizonacommunityfarmersmarkets.com

Runner up: Fry’s, www.frysfood.com

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