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San Juan County farmers sell straight to consumers

Hannah Grover
The Daily Times

While the market primarily serves as a place for the family-owned Aztec farm to sell its produce, it's also a spot for local farmers and ranchers to sell their wares.

Buying local food, like that at the market, provides members of the community fresher options, said D'rese Sutherland, one of the owners of Sutherland Farms.

"We pick every day and bring into the market every day," she said, adding that the market also allows customers to know where their food comes from.

Having a market on the farm is not unique to Sutherland Farms.

In southeastern Farmington off of U.S. Highway 64, a large sign welcomes the public to Kerby Orchard, the last remaining orchard in San Juan County.

While the county was once well-known for its fruit orchards, Kerby Orchard has been the only commercial orchard for the last two decades.

Unlike the orchards of the county's heyday, which shipped fruit across the country, Kerby Orchard's fruit remains in the area; some even ends in local school lunches. But the majority is sold at the orchard itself.

Leslie Kerby, the orchard's owner, said local fruit has a better flavor than the store-bought kind, which is often shipped from out-of-state.

Kerby said the flavor is better locally partially because it is tree-ripened. Supermarkets fruit is picked before it ripens so it doesn't spoil. But picking fruit early means it has less sugar and lacks some of the flavor.

Farmington's high altitude also means local apples have more sugar and flavor.

"The altitude makes a lot of difference in the flavor," Kerby said.

Buying from local farmers also keeps money in San Juan County, stimulating the area's economy, Kerby said.

For people interested in learning more about locally grown foods, Sutherland Farms is planning a farm-to-table dinner. Originally scheduled for Saturday, the dinner has been rescheduled because cool weather delayed certain crops. A new date has not yet been announced.

Colder temperatures also affected Kerby's fruit crop, which was damaged by spring hail. Despite that, he plans to start selling nectarines on Tuesday and peaches on Monday.

This fall, Sutherland Farms plans to open a bakery to sell salsa and bread. Right now, the family bakes zucchini breads and green chile cheese bread. In the fall, customers will be able to purchase pumpkin breads and pies.

"We just think it's a good addition to what we have here," Sutherland said.

The bakery will also utilize recipes from Sutherland and her husband's families.

"We both come from farming ranching families, so we've got a lot of grandma's recipes and mother's recipes," she said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.