FLORA VISTA — Away from the sounds of N.M. Highway 560, David Elder is growing a plethora of vegetables.

On Friday, Elder irrigated three acres covered by rows of bell peppers, squash, tomatoes, cabbage, okra, cucumbers, cantaloupe, green chiles and hot peppers.

"I have a connection to the dirt that is hard to explain," Elder said.

As water flowed through the rows, Elder explained why he sells at farmers markets in Aztec and Farmington.

The top reason, he said, is providing people fresh and locally grown produce. Another benefit for customers is they can ask growers about how they grow their crops and what methods they use.

"You cannot find out those answers at the grocery store," Elder said.

David Elders’ red bell peppers grow on Friday at his garden in Flora Vista.
David Elders' red bell peppers grow on Friday at his garden in Flora Vista. (Jon Austria — The Daily Times)

The Farmington Growers' Market will start at 8 a.m. on Saturday, June 14, at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park at 3401 E. Main St.

The farmers market in Durango, Colo., is already in operation after starting May 10. It continues on Saturday mornings.

Pauline Pao is the market manager of the Aztec Farmers' Market, which will start on Wednesday, July 9. It takes place from 4:30 to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays in the parking lot of the Hiway Grill at 401 NE Aztec Blvd.

"It's a fun way to see friends and neighbors," Pao said about the market.

Pao echoed Elder's statement about how farmers markets are beneficial because people can ask questions about where and how their food is grown. She added that with a lot of local farmers in the area, the markets provide those men and women ways to supplement their incomes.

In the Eastern Agency chapters of Ojo Encino, Counselor and Torreon on the Navajo Nation, a new service will attempt to deliver the farmers market idea to those areas.

The Tri-Community Mobile Farmers Market will hold its opening celebration from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at the Navajo Mission New Life Center parking lot, near the Ojo Encino Chapter house.

The mobile farmers market is starting this year through a partnership between the Rio Puerco Alliance, a nonprofit group from Santa Fe, and Hasbídító, a community group from Cuba that is working to increase sustainable opportunities in the area.

David Elder rides through his garden on Friday at his home in Flora Vista. Elder will sell his produce at the Farmington Growers’ Market, which
David Elder rides through his garden on Friday at his home in Flora Vista. Elder will sell his produce at the Farmington Growers' Market, which starts later this month. (Jon Austria — The Daily Times)

The project also encourages the Navajo people to reestablish traditional farming and provides support to those who already farm.

Barbara Johnson, Rio Puerco Alliance executive director, said today's event is to educate the communities about the mobile unit, which will start serving the chapters on June 14 by conducting weekly deliveries of local and naturally grown produce.

Traditionally, farmers markets are established in one location, but with miles separating the three chapters, the only way to provide this opportunity is through a mobile unit, Johnson said.

Like other farmers markets, the produce selection will vary and increase as the growing season continues, Johnson said.

The Rio Puerco Alliance and Hasbídító have been working in the tri-community area for the last seven years through projects and other initiatives to address the area's high rate of diabetes and combat its designation as a food desert by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A food desert is an urban neighborhood or rural town that lacks access to fresh, healthy and affordable food. These communities may lack access to supermarkets and grocery stores or are served only by fast-food restaurants and convenience stores.

The event on Saturday will include free food, music, activities, door prizes and gardening workshops.

"It's to let people know we are doing this," Johnson said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and nsmith@daily-times.com. Follow her on Twitter @nsmithdt on Twitter.