Fri, April 03

Spring Planting Festival: A celebration of the local food renaissance

Over the last few years a renaissance has root across the Verde Valley.

It began when a group of backyard gardeners went looking for a place to sell what they couldn't eat.

As their farmers markets began to grow, some of those same gardeners, along with a few honest to goodness farmers, opened a second outlet, forming a community supported agriculture group that markets directly to consumers who pay a yearly subscription for weekly food baskets.

This last year, a consortium of wine producers and wine enthusiasts formed another group to further promoting the valley's budding wine industry.

With the revolution now in full swing, one thing has becoming apparent. For all the additional gardeners, for all the vineyards and small farms, it is clear that supply is nowhere near keeping up with demand.

The CSA has a waiting list of 150 subscribers. Farmer's markets are sold out within hours. And the valley imports more grapes each year to meet an ever-increasing demand for local wines.

This year some of the leaders of that renaissance have come up with a plan they hope will reach out to anyone and everyone with the slightest interest in starting or expanding a garden.

They call it the Spring Planting Festival.

Starting on Saturday March 14 and continuing through Sunday March 22, a cornucopia of events are planned across the valley.

Each of the events, from gardening workshops to herb walks, from special concerts to the planting of community gardens, is designed to bring awareness to the local food movement, what it means to the community, what it means to the individual and what it means to the soul.

The festival is the creation of a group of master gardeners, herbalist, promoters of sustainable economies and building methods and groups such as Gardens for Humanity.

The festival will kick off this Saturday from 9:30 to 11 a.m. with a Backyard Gardening Expo at the Old Town Center for the Arts, 5th and Main in cottonwood.

The expo will be an opportunity meet gardeners from the Yavapai County-University of Arizona Master Gardeners program to learn tips on planting. Seeds will also be for sale as well as soil amendments and other items. The event is free.

From noon to 4 p.m. Bill McDorman, founder and president of Seeds Trust, a 25 year old heirloom garden seed company, will offer a comprehensive overview of soils, seeds, site selection and other strategies for developing and maintaining a healthy garden. There is a $35 fee for the class.

The day will end with a concert from the World Garden Orchestra ($15 advance, $20 art the door). The orchestra is an eclectic collection of world music sounds performed by a group of musicians that shares 10 Grammy nominations two Billboard Critics awards, five NAMMY Awards and a Top 10 World album.

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