Sierra Vista, Arizona
January 27, 2011
My first morning in town, I visited the farmer’s market. My main reason for going was that I wanted to find some decent food to eat. I also wanted to show you all what a mid-winter farmer’s market in the high desert looks like. When my parents first moved here over twenty years ago there was no local food movement here. Look at it now.
In the two hours I visited the Sierra Vista Farmer’s Market, the line at Grammy’s was a constant. The potatoes, broccoli, and peppers were sold out before I left. I purchased those as well as green beans, spinach, and blood oranges.
Bell peppers from Grammy’s, a produce and pasta booth operated by George and Sue Wykoff and family from Cochise, Arizona.
from Grammy’s in Cochise, Arizona
Don Smythe named his egg operation Coyote Corner Eggs because his place in McNeal, Arizona, backs up to 3,500 acres of open land, which is coyote habitat. His chickens lay about 60 eggs a day. Don has been bringing his eggs to the Sierra Vista Farmer’s Market for three years now. I bought a dozen jumbo eggs for $3.50.
Arizona honey; mesquite blossom, desert wildflower, and various catci.
Allegria Hayes and Lyle Ford started Awaken Organics last fall in the neighboring town Sonoita. Once they get their commercial kitchen certification, they will add raw chocolate, nuts and nougats to their product list.
Gabe Sochor says he only needs about four hours sleep a night. The rest of the time he is baking—often inventing new bread recipes—or selling or donating his bread. The Bisbee resident works three farmers markets a week, and he supplies to regional restaurants. His labor is fueled by his passion for charity. Since the beginning of the year, he’s donated over a hundred loaves of bread to the St. Vincent de Paul food bank. Since Gabe is comfortable “on his retirement checks” he also gives all his profits to one of two charities, the Order of St. Francis or St. Vincent de Paul. I watched as he gave a cinnamon-raisin pull apart to a woman for her two little children, who were hungry. Somebody should make a movie about this guy. I bought a gluten free loaf of hominy and rice bread for $6.
A young mom buys her family some pastured meat from SanYsidro Farm. I learned that Nathan and Jackie Watkins provide tours of the farm, and I’m putting that on my list. San Ysidro Farm seems to be a Polyface South. Watkins even looks a little like Salatin, both in appearance and countenance. Their ruminants are fed on grass, not grain, and their pigs have plenty of room to run and rut. San Ysidro Farm doesn’t use hormones or antibiotics. They also sell free range chicken and eggs. I came home with a pound of bacon, two skinless, boneless chicken breasts, and some pork chops that Mom cooked up in creole casserole and onion and bell pepper from Grammy’s.
Sierra Vista Farmer’s Market patrons socialize as they eat their lunch. Steamed tamales or burgers are available for purchase. Fort Huachuca is less than a mile away, and the market attracts quite a few soldiers. I had a pork tamale with chile verde sauce on the side. I brought two more tamales home to eat with Mom.
There were over twenty booths at the Sierra Vista Farmer’s Market; I’ve only profiled a fraction. There was also a soap booth, a salsa booth, two citrus booths, and even a knife sharpener. Some vendors preferred to stay out of the limelight and ducked my camera. The word “organic” was not omnipresent as it is at Cali farmer’s markets, and the vendors were often too busy for me to ask them. To tell you the truth, I didn’t care much, because the food was beautiful and just looking at it made me glad I was going to eat it. The only “organic” things I’ve bought this week in Sierra Vista are some butter and half and half, highly processed and available at Fry’s Supermarket. Ironically, I did not find the these in the small, refrigerated health food section, which was instead full of Silk and other soy products. Although raw milk is legal in Arizona, Nathan and others have told me that I won’t find it for sale in Southern Arizona–not even at the co-op in Bisbee. When I return in April the Sierra Vista Food Co-op will just be having its grand opening. Maybe I’ll do better with real dairy products after that.