Good Eats: Nearby farmers, growers weigh in on local food movement as summer growing season begins - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

Good Eats: Nearby farmers, growers weigh in on local food movement as summer growing season begins

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Posted: Sunday, June 9, 2013 6:08 am | Updated: 6:57 am, Mon Sep 8, 2014.

Every Sunday in Ahwatukee Foothills, residents can browse through a variety of cheeses, meats, fruits, vegetables, jellies, breads and other products all grown or produced within a 15-mile radius of the area at the Ahwatukee Farmer’s Market.

While the market isn’t anything new to Ahwatukee, since it first sprouted in 2003, coordinators, growers and other supporters say the concept of eating local has made a lasting hold with the community — and the concept is accessible enough to turn into a reality.

“It’s been really remarkable in the past five years how the focus has been about locally grown foods,” said market coordinator Dee Logan. “People are wanting to know how their food is being sourced and being produced.”

According to a case study by SCF Arizona on the economic impacts of buying local, locally owned companies with vested interest in the community create greater economic impact. They also indirectly support more local jobs, payroll and output.

Since the market came along with a slow start of featuring about five vendors in the summertime, community gardens in Ahwatukee have now begun to take shape.

The Ahwatukee Community Garden started more than a year ago and provides some fresh produce, herbs and the opportunity for those interested to volunteer.

Located at the Ahwatukee Swim and Tennis Center, 4700 E. Warner Road, 48th Street and Warner Road, the small garden’s coordinators hope it will flourish into a greater resource for the community.

“The hope is that we would expand into having lease beds, so people can come and lease the beds to garden themselves,” said Rebecca Montgomery. “That’s our vision.”

Also using beds for planting, the Garden of Eatin’ at Esperanza Lutheran Church started its community garden this year with the first planting in February. Pastor Steve Hammer said the garden consists of two, 4-foot by 13-foot raised beds that are growing Ecuadorian cucumber, cantaloupes, sunflowers and Marigolds.

While the on-site preschool is the garden’s key supporter, Hammer said the long-term goal for the garden is to increase to about 25 beds that would be open to the community as well as donate 10 percent of its food to nearby food banks.

But for those wanting even more accessibility, Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA’s, have made their way into Ahwatukee through local gems like Pomegranate Cafe and nearby Maya’s Farm.

Through a CSA, residents can pay local farms in advance for a box of fresh, seasonal produce to be picked up at a nearby site. Partnering with Sunizona Farms in Willcox, Pomegranate Cafe is used as a pick-up site that will hold the “farm boxes.”

“We have delivery options on Tuesdays and Fridays, and we’ve got two rows of boxes that are piled high to the ceiling,” said co-owner Marlene Tolman. “It’s growing by leaps and bounds, it gives me hope.”

Mentioning the importance of supporting small farmers, Maya Dailey of Maya’s Farm near South Mountain said though she’s seen personal growth in her 4-acre land at The Farm at South Mountain, the Valley as a whole still has room for more growers. As the only certified-organic grower in the area, Dailey encouraged education and awareness as key to supporting small farmers and growers.

“There’s room to create more growers,” Dailey said. “Figure out who they are, what they do, and why. It takes that kind of self-education.”

As summer seasons for growing and harvesting are beginning, growers and farmers hope that Ahwatukee will continue on the path to more local support.

“I feel like it’s actually transitioning from a fad into an actual movement,” Tolman said.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or dmartinez@ahwatukee.com. Follow her on Twitter @dmartinezAFN.

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