Local growers markets return for the summer

Hannah Grover
Bridgewater Gardens' Arliss Lee shows off the oregano he grows Saturday at the growers market at the Cedar Hill Schoolhouse.

FARMINGTON — While not everyone has the time or space to grow a garden, the annual growers markets in San Juan County offer a way for shoppers to purchase garden-fresh produce.

"Everybody likes that vine-ripened, home-grown tomato," said David Elder, who owns Elder's Greenhouse and sells his products at the Growers Market in Farmington.

While Elder may not have ripe tomatoes on his vines yet, he plans to be at the first Farmington Growers Market of the season on Saturday at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park, 3041 E. Main St.

"We will be there with a truck and trailer full of flowers and plants," he said when reached by phone on Friday.

The Farmington Growers Market starts at 8 a.m. each Saturday at the museum and will go to a twice-weekly schedule on July 5, when a market will be held beginning at 4 p.m. every Tuesday. It is one of several local markets, including one in Aztec on Wednesdays and one from noon to 4 p.m. in the old school house in Cedar Hill on Saturdays that raises money to get a new roof on the schoolhouse. The Aztec market will begin at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 6 in Westside Plaza, 1409 W. Aztec Blvd. A new market will also be starting this year at the Tse Daa K'aan Chapter House in Hogback.

Various jellies are displayed Saturday at the growers market at the Cedar Hill Schoolhouse.

Kim Jones, the market manager for the Tse Daa K'aan market, said it is expected to start in late June or early July.

She said the market will be part of a grant-funded, two-year program that is helping about 15 farmers learn about different methods of growing crops. The program includes monthly workshops on topics such as soil health and prolonging the growing season.

On Saturday, the farmers went to visit several farms in Albuquerque to learn about such techniques as growing squash and melons on trellises.

Jones said the goal is for the participating farmers take over the market and run it successfully on their own.

Bridgewater Gardens' Francie Lee helps a customer with her produce Saturday during the growers market at the Cedar Hill Schoolhouse.

Some local growers have brought in moderate income from selling at the markets. Francie Lee and her children, Abigail, 15; Holly, 4; and Arlis, 7, attended the Cedar Hill market on Saturday.

"I think it's important that they learn to grow their own food and talk to people and learn an honest living," Lee said.

Holly sold chocolate cupcakes decorated with blue roses made out of icing during the market.

"They're extra yummy because I made them," she said.

"She loves to sit on the stool and stir," her mother said. "She started with pancakes and moved up to cupcakes."

Lee said the family, which is part of Bridgewater Farms, will be at the Farmington and Aztec markets, as well.

Both the Aztec and Farmington markets participate in a program called Double Up Food Bucks. The program allows people who who purchase food from the market with food stamps to get a corresponding amount of food free. For instance, if someone purchases $20 worth of food, they would be able to get another $20 worth of food of free.

While the first market in Farmington will likely be small due to the time of year and the limited amount of produce that is in season, Elder said the markets can become bustling and crowded during mid-August and September when more produce is ripe.

How long the market stays open is determined mainly by the weather. Elder said the market remains open for two weeks past the first hard killing freeze.

Elder's Greenhouse has been selling produce, flowers and other plants at the summer market since it began in 1991 in Farmington.

"We went twice that first year," Elder said.

Elder said he enjoys the interaction with customers at the Growers Market.

"It's a connection to the people," he said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.