Rich Soil

by Roxanne Garcia

This last week in December marks the end of the year reflections. I attribute it to life on the farm, the farmers deep plow the soil, turning over the fresh untouched dirt underneath to bring new life.  It gives one a chance to reflect on the past year as the farmer on the tractor has deep rich soil he is uncovering on one side and plowing through dried plants that were once vibrant on the other side.    Holding steady as he goes, looking to the new year with excited anticipation and opportunity, and looking back at all the success and learning he received in the year gone by.

Seven years ago if you had said that we would be managing four farmers’ markets through-out Tucson, have over 150 vendors combined and win Americas’ Favorite Farmers’ market for  the state of Arizona…I would have thought you were out of your ‘cotton-pickin’ mind’. This year marks the first year that I can honestly boast (cue the music) about all the great things we are doing.

Ever heard of “against all odds”?  We made it through our first year at our East side location at Jesse Owens Park.   For one, nobody really knew about this park nor that we were going to start a Farmers’ Market on Fridays.  Diligently we, meaning 25 vendors, showed up every Friday morning for the last 52 weeks, through extreme cold and heat to sell their goods.  Raise your hand if you don’t know where Jesse Owens Park is!   Well, not many of us did, but we sure do now!   Little by little, slow and steady, we have built a beautiful, vibrant community marketplace where the surrounding neighborhoods, including an elementary school and some of it’s children, stop by on Fridays to learn where their food is grown. Neighbors bring their friends and business people stop by on their way to work to get that fresh cup of coffee, pick up fresh tortillas or maybe even a little breakfast.  All happening in a little community park located off the main thoroughfares of Broadway and 22nd streets.  A big shout out goes to Jim Conroy of Tucson Parks & Rec and Ward II district offices for their help in establishing this great space and place.

Then what do you do when the vendor waiting list becomes large enough to create another Farmers’ Market?  Drumroll please…you launch another Saturday market!  Maynards Farmers’ Market downtown has been an exciting and well received endeavor, but not one without much trepidation I might add.  Trepidation for us as coordinators is mostly about questions like: another Farmers’ Market on Saturdays?  Does anyone go downtown on the weekends?  What about the many events going on Saturdays?  What about PARKING?…etc.  However, much like the farmer, one hopes that the seeds that are planted will grow and bloom with enough nurturing and support from the soil and surrounding elements.  I can personally tell you that I believe in this market.  Others, like the curators of Maynards Market and Restaurant Richard & Shana Oseran believe in this market and 25 of our newest and brightest believe in this market.  The seeds are planted.  Let just see what happens next!

Our Flagship markets of Oro Valley Farmers’ Market and Sundays at St. Philip’s Plaza have grown and expanded to capacity.  We are extremely grateful and, quite honestly, amazed at the growth and sustainability that we have accomplished for the past seven years.  Winning America’s Favorite Farmers’ Market for Arizona is quite an achievement and one that we could not have accomplished without the help of the farmers, ranchers, vendors, and of course our loyal customers. Thank you for helping us keep our local farms and ranches in business.

So, what does the rich soil look like for 2012?
~ Healthy*Local* Food
~ Keep local farms in business
~ Extend opportunities for more local growers, farmers and ranchers
~ Continue to expand the awareness and importance of Sustainable Food Systems
~ Encourage small food business development
~ Keepin’ it Rural and have Fun!

Hope to see you in the New Year!