Tue, Aug. 11

Verde Valley Farmers’ Market puts safety, fresh food first
Season starts May 16 at Redinger Ramada in Camp Verde

Goat’s milk soap is one of the many things Lyndsay Ludden of Hoppy Goat Farm will bring each week to the Verde Valley Farmers’ Market. Courtesy photo

Goat’s milk soap is one of the many things Lyndsay Ludden of Hoppy Goat Farm will bring each week to the Verde Valley Farmers’ Market. Courtesy photo

In past years, the Verde Valley Farmers’ Market has been as much about socializing and community building as it has been about buying and consuming the best natural foods the area has to offer.

Although the most stringent of COVID-19 restrictions could soon be a thing of the past, the Verde Valley Farmers’ Market will be open from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturdays from May 16 through Oct. 3 at the Redinger Ramada on Hollamon Street between Fort Verde State Park and the community center gymnasium.

This year’s market will have its own set of coronavirus precautions, which, according to Market Manager Jane Davie, are meant to protect not only the market, but also its vendors and its customers.

“We were instructed by our Yavapai County health inspector about the guidelines that farmers markets need to follow to conduct business,” Davie said. “Those will all be in place. (The market) will look different, but by now people are used to seeing all these precautions at stores.”

In addition to social distancing requirements, the market’s safety measures will include hand wash stations and a six-foot space between each of the vendor tables.

Because of a 20-person customer limit inside the ramada at any given time, several of the market’s vendors will be set up under tents surrounding the ramada, Davie said.

Also, food cannot be eaten inside the market – which means no sampling of foods.

“I think as the summer goes we will ease on some of the restrictions,” Davie said. “Wearing masks will get very hot as the summer goes by. I know we will lose our Mayberry feel with no music nor lingering to talk to customers and large groups of people, (but) I envision that feel will come back.”

At this year’s Verde Valley Farmers’ Market, more than a dozen vendors will offer their fresh produce, locally-sourced hand-made items, breads, meats and poultry, sweets, plants, even soaps and skin care products.

You are what you eat

Cornville resident Lyndsay Ludden not only is one of the market’s vendors, but she’s also one of the market’s board members. Ludden, owner of the Hoppy Goat Farm, stated the obvious this week: health starts with what you eat.

“To deprive a community of fresh, local, organic food and simply make folks go to the grocery store is, in my opinion, irresponsible,” she said. “Many people rely on the market for their weekly produce. A farmers market is the most essential business one could have open during a pandemic.”

Each week, Ludden brings to the market her pasture-raised organic eggs, seasonings, goat’s milk soap, as well as produce “as available.”

“Since this pandemic started, I noticed more people looking for local, fresh products and produce instead of relying on a commercial system,” Ludden said. “So we want to support our community that way.”

‘No brainer’

For Doug and Christie Fasteen of Fasteen Farms, the Verde Valley Farmers’ Market is special.

A handful of years ago, the Fasteens relocated from Minnesota and its cold winters. For them, pandemic or no pandemic, it was a “no brainer that we were going to do the 2020 market.”

Known for their golden tomato salsa, the Fasteens also bring bok choy, radishes, green onions, kale and spinach to the market, as well as tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe … “and of course, okra,” Christie Fasteen said.

“We could go on about the garden and other things we will be bringing to the market, as we have always been super excited and loved to plant and grow and harvest veggies,” she said.

Fasteens also bring out their candied pecans and their home-baked cookies – and beginning this year, they’re making jelly from the wine from Salt Mine Wine.

“It turned out fabulous, and we can’t wait to share it,” she said.

Here’s the beef …

In the pandemic’s earlier stages, Zach Wolfe of Plowing Ahead Ranch worked a farmers’ market in north Phoenix. He remembers people using social media to accuse the market of not being responsible.

“Our response was we are irresponsible if we do not,” he said. “The challenges we find ourselves facing as a world society show the great importance of local small agricultural. The Verde Valley is a unique cornucopia of amazing local producers offering superior quality products with a far safer way to buy them thanks to the Verde Valley Farmers’ Market.”

Also one to speak the obvious, Wolfe said that food doesn’t actually come from the grocery store.

“It comes from farmers and ranchers, many of them are your neighbors, looking to keep their products and their money in our local economy,” he said.

One of a few different meat vendors at the Verde Valley Farmers’ Market, Plowing Ahead Ranch will “be sacrificing some of our more expensive products to be able to provide more things such as ground beef and stew meat that are more affordable than steaks or roast, and can be better used to complement a meal along with local produce, than to be the meal itself,” Wolfe said.

For more information, visit the Verde Valley Farmers’ Market on Facebook. Any local grower interested in becoming a 2020 season vendor can contact Market Manager Jane Davie at 928-634-7077.

-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @AZShutterbug42

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