“The primary purpose of the [Flagstaff Community] Market is to support small- and medium-sized independent growers and producers by providing citizens with a local alternative to corporate and globalized food production,” reads a mission statement.
One small grower present at the sale was Dennis Coon, owner of a six-acre farm in Cottonwood, Arizona. As he hawked eggs, onions, pecans and worms to passing customers, Coon said he had sold at the market a few times before making himself a fixture.
“I started last year selling up here,” Coon said. “Then, I just [came up] two or three times a month before I started selling full-time.”
Across from him was a much larger stand representing Whipstone Farm, an established veteran of the Flagstaff Community Market. Owner Cory Rade says his stand brings many vegetables to sell to the city’s citizens.
“I’ve done it since the beginning [of the farmer’s market being in Flagstaff],” Rade said. “We have a bunch of greens: kale, lettuce, zucchini, spinach, char, radishes, beets…”
A larger farming operation to be found at the market was that run by Linda Downey and her husband, who own Downey Farms. Downey said their two-farm business strategy revolves around growing food organically and teaching others to do so as well.
“We’ve got about 12 acres where we’re growing just about everything – about 35 different crops,” Downey said. “And we do use organic farming methods. We don’t use pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizer or other harmful farming practices. We also have interns that we have coming on board, learning all of our techniques and staying at the farm with us and helping us grow all our crops.”
Downey said her organization has been serving Flagstaff citizens for years.
“This is our fourth year farming in this area, and this is the third year we’ve attended Flagstaff’s farmers market,” Downey said. “Today, we’ve got some kale and lettuce. Also, some little herb plant starts and some seeds.”
Anna Brown and Katie Gates attended the market together to buy produce, peruse the various stands and look at products. Brown said she was encouraged by the turnout.
“It’s amazing. I really like to see a lot of people come out and show support for the farmer’s market,” said Brown. “I’m looking forward – as it progresses – to see more people and more products,” she added. “I was definitely looking for more fruits.”
Brown said she would like to bring more of her friends and acquaintances to the market – held in the parking lot next to Flagstaff City Hall – every Sunday.
“We just get the word out,” Brown said. “We try to make it a once a week thing, get our friends to come out and do it all. I think that’s a lot of people’s attitudes – they look forward to it.”
Echoing the sentiment of the mission statement for the market, Rade says his stand offers the community a chance to circulate money through a local economy, instead of contributing to what he describes as a corporate economy.
“For the people [of Flagstaff], I think it’s the only place they can get really great vegetables,” Rade said. “For us, it’s the community. We get to have community interaction and things like that – it’s really important to us. I think the really important part is that the money that comes in from the farmer’s market circulates locally, instead of circulating out through Wal-Mart and other corporations.”
Gates said she found the farmer’s market to be economically sound, as well as personally gratifying.
“I definitely think the prices are very comparable to what you’d find in a grocery store,” Gates said. “You get to try things here, you get to know that you’re buying local. It’s just nice to know. You see a lot of restaurants from around town. It just makes you feel like part of the community.”
Downey said the Community Market is of prime importance to the Flagstaff economy.
“Farmer’s markets are very important because they are able to provide the produce to locals, especially in Flagstaff,” Downey said. “And for exposure – it helps for people to know about us, and it’s a good way to get support.”
Agreeing with Downey, Rade said the people of the city participate heavily in the sale of fresh produce from a variety of Northern Arizonan farms.
“I think it’s a really good market,” Rade said. “I think Flagstaff supports it really well.” FBN
Photos by Kevin Bertram, Flagstaff Business News