The name of the Gilbert Farmers Market finally fits.
For the last two weekends, the market near the southwest corner of Ash Street and Page Avenue in the Heritage District has featured something that had been conspicuously absent since its October debut: A farmer.
Queen Creek-based One Windmill Farms signed on to sell produce in Gilbert after the market’s two-week holiday break. Jessa Koppenhofer hopes that it’s a turning point for the market that she founded.
“With us having such a large farm now, thousands of people have walked through the last two weeks, and we have heard a lot of great things from them,” Koppenhofer said. “We’re thinking the market can grow fairly quickly. …
“Our grand opening had about 20 vendors. We’ve gone up and down over the weeks, but we sit at about 25 vendors, and they seem to be happy (with their business) every week. We hope to grow. The parking lot can hold about 80 vendors, so we have the potential to become the largest farmers market in the East Valley.”
About 1,000 people visit the market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday, Koppenhofer said.
The Gilbert Farmers Market’s struggle to find a local, large, direct-market food supplier was of little surprise to Julie Murphree of the Arizona Farm Bureau. She said that for many farms, committing to sell produce at a new market is a process that can take months.
“It’s a hard time to get somebody to scramble and provide a product so soon,” Murphree said. “There are more farmers markets in Arizona than farmers to supply them. Providers have dedicated their market to those they serve, and they know how much they need to produce to fulfill that commitment. To broaden that, especially if one does not have the acreage to increase production, isn’t always possible, or it takes time.”
There are about 70 farmers markets in Arizona, with 40 to 50 in the Phoenix area, Murphree said.
The most popular One Windmill Farms produce among Gilbert patrons, Koppenhofer said, includes tomatoes, garlic, onions, lettuce and peppers. She said the farm’s inventory has sold out on both Saturdays.
Murphree said a farmers market can provide vendors with a loyal customer base.
“A lot of farmers at farmers markets, if they become a regular, expected tenant, will sell out their table by the end of the day,” Murphree said. “There is a qualified, dedicated clientele out there, and I think Gilbert is showing all of the signs of a market that will get there.”
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