Friday, May 29, 2009

Local Growers Offer Fresh Choices in Fun Atmosphere

I'd like to say I was hip enough to find the Albuquerque Nob Hill Growers' Market on my own. But if I am to be truthful I must admit that, like most of the wonderful places and things I have discovered, this discovery came to me from someone already "in the know".

Recently I met a wonderful fellow by the name of Lloyd Kreitzer because of a photography assignment given to me by Local Flavor Magazine. Lloyd grows fig trees at his Albuquerque home, (among other things, such as grapes and pomegranate trees, he is a wunderkind) that come from heirloom 100 year-old stock.

Lloyd and I had discussed his fig trees during that shoot, as well as some pomegranate trees that he swears will thrive where I live in the East Mountains. He still had a few of these trees left, so he said he'd meet me at the Grower Market where he'd be on Thursday (last week) and I could pick it up there.

Things didn't work out with meeting Lloyd, his back was giving him problems that day. But I can't tell you how lucky I was to show up anyway. I don't know what I expected, maybe some small grungy version of a community yard sale, but what met my eyes and ears was something different altogether.

The market is at a smallish park which can be found at the corner of Morningside Drive and Lead Avenue. I used to live just down the street from this park and would take the kids there to play in the very nice play ground while I sat in the very nice grass to read. (you can see the playground in the background here.)

The market opens (or starts) at 3:00 and ends at 6:30. A wide sidewalk winds it's way down the center of the park, and this is where the marketers set up their tables and goods.

The vendors set up tables, sometimes tablecloths, and sometimes portable canopies. The fruits of their labors, (and vegetables, and produce, and bread, and some wonderful honey.... I bought mine as a slab of honeycomb.) I hadn't been there ten minutes and I realized what a treasure this place was. Not simply a farmers market, but a refreshing combination of that and a neighborhood social.

Time to meander and enjoy, taking in the day, the park, the kids playing overlaid with the cool tunes of the fellow with the guitar playing at one end of the market.

Here you don't just pick up some beets to make for dinner, you talk to the fellow who grew them. You know where they came from, what kind of fertilizers or pesticides they may have applied to their crop.

When you buy plants from one of these people to put into your own garden, you can get some real and good advice on how to make them flourish.

It's not just a shopping experience, it's relaxing, and feels good to be here.

And here's the real benefit: by buying locally you are supporting your local growers and infusing your economy in a very healthy fashion.

Because smaller plots attract fewer pests and require less pesticides local farmers local farmers can often keep the soils healthier. And since the product is grown locally less fuel and refrigerant is used shipping it all the way across the country. It's fresher, not infused with chemicals to keep it from going bad, not picked to early.
The real benefits are to us as the buyers, and to the local farmers and agricultural people we support and keep in business. Stimulating the economy up close and personal with your own neighbors.

As you can tell, I was, and am, impressed. So, another call to Lloyd helped me find Georgia Daves, the energetic woman who puts all this together. (Pictured in the Yellow apron with her son where they offer some pretty great stuff at their table. )

I asked Georgia some questions about the market, because by now I was picturing myself with herbs from my own garden, and perhaps some of my fresh chicken and duck eggs.

She was knowledgeable, efficient, and sent me on my way at the end of my visit with some paperwork and good advice.

By this time my arms were also full of produce, and I had in my hand a yummy cup of auga fresca (a fresh watermelon drink I am craving even as I write this.)

There's more photos below. (Click on any photo to see it larger.) I am sure to take more, because I'll be going back. Maybe I'll take my niece with me and let her play in the playground while I munch on fresh produce and enjoy the great tunes.

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