Passion Found Under a Palm Frond

Recently, we heard of the devastating passing of Downtown Phoenix community member Monika Woosley. She left behind a powerful legacy that can only intrigue and inspire. Monika founded Hip Veggies in 2012 as an outlet for her passion for community, food, art, and outreach. Through Hip Veggies, among many subjects, she taught us about foraging in Phoenix; about how easy and fulfilling it can be and how important it is to our Arizonan culture.


This weekend, we honor her by digging into some foraging knowledge imparted by her foraging friend and colleague, The Green Man himself, Andrew Pisher. Andrew grew up in upstate New York and moved to Phoenix 13 years ago in search of sun. He is an entrepreneur to the core, always thinking up ways to embrace Mother Nature (literally–this is a man who seriously loves to climb trees) with his certification in urban farming and ongoing studies in nutrition.

Treelation, his tree trimming and removal company, works with residents through his Foraging Fanatics service to make use of excess from trees that bear edibles or have medicinal properties. Many residents are overwhelmed by the harvest, leaving it misunderstood, unwanted, and disregarded. With Foraging Fanatics, Andrew is able to accrue pounds and pounds of excess fruits, herbs, legumes, and nuts native to our state. He then sells that harvest in bulk through his website, thus making would-be rotted or dried out trash profitable. Andrew’s business, and foraging in general, is a win-win for our ecosystem and its inhabitants. 

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“Slow the Fork Down”

slow foodThe Phoenix Division of the Slow Food Movement is gaining traction in our community, where the focus is placed on local culinary heritage and social justice. The Slow Food Movement, globally and nationally, aims to deepen the public’s awareness surrounding our food systems and how they affect just about every aspect of our livelihood on this planet. A daunting task, surely, so let’s start with lunch.

Slow Food Phoenix’s most recent project is entitled “Feeding the Future,” during which attendees will sample diverse dishes made by a bold lineup of beloved chefs, including Charleen Badman of Scottsdale’s FnB and Eddie Hantas of East Valley favorite Hummus Xpress. There’s a twist to this sampling event, though: each chef’s budget will reflect the current National School Lunch Program (NSLP) budget, and will be served in the style of an American school lunch.

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Switching to Soap Nuts

Soap nuts, also known as soap berries, are a natural alternative to store-bought laundry detergents full of chemicals and potentially harmful ingredients. Grown on Sapindus trees, these berry-like fruits produce a soap called saponin, a natural surfactant.  The shell absorbs water and releases the saponins which circulate in the wash water, freeing dirt, grime, and oils from clothing.

Soap nuts can also be used to clean dishes, windows, cars, jewelry, you and your pet! Because they’re 100% natural, they are biodegradable and therefore completely safe for septic systems, gentle on sensitive skin, including baby clothes, and are also antimicrobial.  No need to fret, soap nuts are free of pesticides, as insects are naturally repulsed by saponin so there is no need to use them in cultivation.

Read more about Soap Nuts on Sustainable Baby Steps and learn how to use this natural product to wash clothes, dishes, windows and even your hair!  Pick up your own satchel from Recycled City on Saturdays at the Market!

Earth Day 2017

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The Open Air Market at the Phoenix Public Market is a program of Community Food Connections (CFC), a 501c3 non-profit organization. CFC creates a downtown community gathering place by supporting small farmers and businesses that strengthen sustainable food systems and produce healthy products for the local community.

Sustainability is the overarching theme in this community driven food system. Farmers engage in sustainable farming practices to produce healthy food to sustain the local community, who in turn provide the money necessary to sustain the farmers. Each shares in the success of the other in a mutually beneficial relationship that has become a model for sustainability.

Farmers who choose to use sustainable practices face a challenging economic climate dominated by large, corporate farms. Many find they cannot compete with the massive volume, low market prices, and government subsidies enjoyed by large operations. Farmers markets offer small and mid-sized farmers a low-barrier entry point to develop and establish a thriving business free from the overhead necessary to sell in large retail outlets. But just as important, farmers markets create a space where the focus of food is on quality and farming practices rather than price alone.

Each year, more and more customers are drawn to farmers markets due to an increasing demand for natural and organic food.  This upward trend depicts a rising consciousness among customers who are concerned with not just what they eat, but how it is produced.

Farmers selling at markets minimize the amount of waste and pollution they create.  On average, food travels over 1,000 miles from the point of production to the retail store.  In contrast, the Phoenix Public Market houses farmers growing within a 50 mile radius of our Market!  Many use certified organic practices, reducing the amount of synthetic pesticides and chemicals that pollute our soil and water. A growing number are also adopting other low-impact practices, such as on-site composting, that help mitigate climate change and other environmental issues.

How you can help reduce waste:

Reduce Food Waste: Most supermarkets refuse to carry cosmetically challenged fruits and vegetables, which means many of them end up rotting in landfill where they release methane gas, a green-house gas more potent than CO2. That ugly produce accounts in part for the 40 percent of food wasted in the US. At the farmer’s market, the sizes and shapes of food vary. And some vendors offer a discount for not-so-pretty—yet organic—produce.  So don’t be afraid to shop blemished produce.

Reduce Plastic Use:  Another aspect of farmers’ markets that is usually overlooked is that you can control the packaging. To be more eco-friendly you can politely decline the plastic bag, or reuse last week’s produce bags by bringing them back to the market with you. Reducing the use of plastic bags and plastic packing wraps can greatly reduce your carbon footprint.  Packaging is one of the most disposable things in everyone’s daily life and it often seems hard to curtail.  Worldwide almost 2 million bags are used each minute, which figures out to be a trillion bags each year.  If you consider the life cycle of the plastic bag, the energy consumed, the CO2 emitted and consider that most plastic bags are made overseas and distributed globally; a whole new picture of consumption starts to emerge.

The real question is do you need a bag at all? This is where being an eco-friendly consumer can factor in. Do you need to put all of your different kinds of fruits and vegetables in their own plastic bag? Can you reuse your produce bags from last week?

Discover more on Earth Day | Saturday, April 22nd

Earth Day theme for 2017 is Environmental & Climate Literacy.

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Sustainability at the Market: Fiscalini Cheese

fiscalini

Fiscalini Cheese is committed to producing the highest quality, best tasting cheese in the world and is always a popular destination at the market. Whether you are looking for traditional cheddar or a wine-soaked “Purple Moon,” you can find it (and everything in between) here. Although many market-goers are familiar with Fiscalini cheese, many are unaware of the sustainability and food safety measures they take to successfully produce their final product.

Four generations of the Fiscalini family have lived on their farm, and they hope all of the future generations can do the same. This is one reason they ensure all of their agricultural practices are entirely sustainable. Their philosophy “is to harvest and forage our land to feed our cattle” and then “give back to the earth in natural form to keep it productive.” One of the most interesting aspects of their sustainable farming techniques is that that fertilizer they use is almost entirely made up of manure from their cows, doing their part to reduce carbon emissions.

In 2009, Fiscalini Cheese built and began using a methane digester. In short, this is a product that converts waste products into renewable resources. All of their waste that would typically be shipped off to a landfill is instead repurposed. Livestock manure, leftover feed, and whey from the cheese plant are all recycled into the methane digester. In turn it produces electricity and heat, with enough remaining to power over 300 homes.

-Sydney Schutkowski, Sustainability Intern

Market Recipe: Caprese Salad

caprese

A Saturday morning market trip has found itself in the weekly routine of many of our customers. Roaming from booth to booth, market-goers are able to get their weekly shopping done in one place. Before the stress of the work week begins, it is always nice to plan out a few meals and gather the ingredients from local vendors.  A few days ago, Farmer Neal from Abby Lee Farms mentioned “tomatoes are going to be fantastic this week – three new color heirlooms and two new cherry colors.”  Why not pick up some of these delicious tomatoes at the market this weekend and make a few meals out of them? Here is a recipe to get you started. 

Picking up an item at Abby Lee Farms, Fiscalini Cheese, and Maya’s Farm, Caprese Salad is a quick and easy recipe to prepare using only market ingredients (and sustainable ones)! 

SHOPPING LIST:

3 Medium Tomatoes- Find them at Abby Lee Farms

8 oz Scamorza Cheese- Find it at Fiscallini Cheese

1/2 Cup Torn Basil Leaves- Find it at Maya’s Farm

DIRECTIONS:

Slice the tomatoes and scamorza cheese

Layer tomatoes and cheese on a plate with the torn basil

Optional: Drizzle with balsamic and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste

Enjoy

Sustainability at the Market: Abby Lee Farms

Producing over 35,000 pounds a week, it is no wonder Abby Lee Farms is famous for their delicious tomatoes. Their products can be found at ten farmers markets around the valley and in almost every premium grocery store. However, most people are unaware of the growing techniques and sustainability initiatives the farmers at Abby Lee take part in.

Abby Lee Farms is a hydroponic grower. This means that rather than growing their produce outside in the soil, they instead monitor them in a controlled greenhouse environment. By doing this, they are able to reuse almost all of the water instead of it absorbing in the soil. Nutrients are sent to the plants several times a day using a specialized drip system.  Another sustainable technique they use is controlling the climate in their greenhouse. This ensures that they keep the ideal humidity and temperature needed for the tomatoes to grow.

The tomatoes produced at Abby Lee farms are shipped out to consumers the same day they are picked, which is why they call themselves “hyperlocal.” The tomatoes are picked at peak harvest times at the height of their ripeness. This is nearly three weeks later than other commercial growers. Unlike most of modern day produce, Abby Lee’s products are not shipped across the country. They stay local from the time they are picked to the time they are purchased. Is your mouth watering yet? Come by the market this Saturday to get your hands on these delicious tomatoes.

-Sydney Schutkowski, Sustainability Intern

Sustainability at the Market: Maya’s Farm

mayas-farmDid you know that by 2050, the world will need to feed two billion more people than it does today? With the increasing concern over climate change, natural resource scarcity, world hunger, and shrinking biodiversity, it is crucial that farmers adapt sustainable agriculture practices. Sustainable agriculture may seem like a difficult concept to grasp at first glance but  the idea behind it is relatively simple. Sustainability is meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future. Therefore, sustainable farming aims to use mindful farming techniques that do not disrupt the environment.

Last Saturday at the market, I had the opportunity to talk with Maya Dailey about what environmentally friendly strategies she uses at her farm, Maya’s Farm. Her farm is located on an ancient riverbed near South Mountain Park right here in Phoenix. Because the crops sit on naturally sandy soil and are located near Artesian wells, Maya’s Farm is in the prefect environment to foster a sustainable farm system. She uses just the amount of water needed to produce naturally crisp and delicious crops and uses a drip tape irrigation system to ensure no water goes unused. This system delivers water straight the the base of the plant and forfeits the traditional sprinkler system.

 Maya’s Farm produces only certified organic crops. This means her crops contain no toxic pesticides, dyes, or chemical fertilizers. As a result, the farm fosters biodiversity and the preservation of natural resources. To minimize her carbon footprint, Maya implements recycling and composting techniques to create a zero-waste environment. In addition, her small independent farm uses no large scale machinery. This not only significantly minimizes pollution, but also prevents the concept of an assembly line approach to farming. With no mass production, each crop is carefully looked after from the time the seed is planted to the moment it is purchased.

Knowing the measures Maya takes to ensure the environmental preservation of her farm makes me proud to purchase her produce. Remember to support all of the local, sustainable farmers every Saturday at the market.

-Sydney Schutkowski, Sustainability Intern