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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Downtown Phoenix Public Market

When you hear words such as “farmer’s market” or “market place” they often bring to mind specific associations. There are certain things one expects to see when those catch phrases, namely homemade specialties and fresh vegetables. These are just some of the basic ingredients that can be found each Saturday in downtown Phoenix, but with some interesting twists.
 
The Downtown Phoenix Public Market is in fact, one of those places that gives visitors a glimpse into the community and the treasures available downtown.
 
As a cooperative effort between Community Food Connections (CFC) and many other local organizations The Downtown Phoenix Public Market has come to together to share resources to create an emerging venue for local vendors that has its roots firmly planted in the community.
 
Following the mission statement of CFC, which is centered on promoting and supporting local vendors and rural economies — while making healthier food choices available — this ambitious program is using the format of the market as not only a venue for local merchants, but also as a way to discover unique items produced and sold locally.
Much like the open markets one finds in sunny locations where open markets are the life blood of the economy, this version has all of the makings of being something like that, but with a real sense of place distinctive to the Valley. Perhaps as a result of Phoenix’s proximity to Mexico and its many other indigenous influences, this newly emerging market is local, and has a distinct international flare. While one of the prerequisites for being a vendor at the market is to sell locally produced products, Jo Marie McDonald, vice president of the Phoenix Community Project said it doesn’t exclude those coming to Arizona who bring their traditions to our cultural table.
 
On the day I attended, one could buy fresh pastries prepared like they are in Europe through locally based P and M Pastries. Not too far away one could purchase specially created “Nubian Bean Pie and Baked Goods,” courtesy of The Nubian Queen Universal Services. T.J.’s Good Cookie offered goods billed as “organic handcrafted and diabetic friendly.”  As listed, T.J’s used only organic whole-wheat pastry flour and they refrain from utilizing refined sugar in any of their baked goods. What I discovered was surprisingly sweet cookies that taste much like their refined sugar counterparts.
 
One of the biggest surprises for me was learning that the Arizona city of Bowie has vineyards. Opened in the fall of 1997, Fort Bowie Vineyards and Orchard Products is open year round. Everything they offer is home grown. The Eastman Family estate consists of 450 acres of pecan trees, 10 acres of sweet cherries, 10 acres of peaches and 40 acres of vineyards. Offering 10 table wines and one sparking wine, all are produced in Arizona and on display at the downtown market.  Soon they will also add a line of skin care products in addition to wines, pies, cinnamon rolls and other items.
 
As a supporter of the event, Native American Connections was at the Market offering information and items for sale to support its various programs. The nonprofit was founded in 1972 by Native American Elders to provide mental health services and transitional and affordable housing for low-income individuals and families in a drug free environment.
 
On a whimsical note, Linda Anthony of Missappropriation Creations displayed handbags and mirrors covered in images taken from old films, pop culture and even fine art. Several mirrors and bags featured the likenesses of South America’s most sought after artist, Frida Kahlo.
 
Representing the fine art segment of central phoenix, the Market had a cross sampling of artists frequently seen in local galleries. Lisa Takata displayed assorted functional pottery from a collection that includes handspun yarn, wearable art and handmade journals. Alan Jones, whose work is something of a fixture downtown, had a rich selection of original ceramic creations. Resembling oil paintings in terms of rich color and their application, he had a wide assortment of works augmented by influences taken from Japanese art. Traditional and contemporary paintings could also be found among the many works Joshua Dean Wiley had on hand. From unstretched canvas to smaller drawings and paintings, his set up was like a mini retrospective covering a wide array of styles and themes. Native Arizona Artist Nicole Fasula set up an elegant orchestration of her abstract colorful pieces that emphasized her well-known style.
 
According to Cindy Gentry, founder and executive director of the CFC, attendance has been high, drawing people from all parts of the Valley. With between 22 and 40 vendors on any given Saturday, each Market features new vendors as well as those that periodically return. What makes this market truly open are its low fees and accessibility. Ten-feet by 10-feet spaces are available with an annual one-time rental fee of just $35, plus 10 percent of the day’s total sales each time a vendor participates. Keeping the market affordable and accessible is not confined to buyers, but also vendors, keeping in place the idea of communities being self-supportive and keeping Arizona dollars in Arizona.
 
For those seeking unique items created, produced and sold locally, the Market is a treasure chest of local talents representing a wide spectrum of what the Valley has to offer. If you attend the market, supporters encourage visitors to bring their children and canine companions provided they are leashed. It’s a perfect way to start off a Saturday morning.
 
The Downtown Phoenix Public Market
721 North Central, South East Corner of Central Avenue and McKinley Street, two blocks South of Roosevelt
Free Parking
VISA, MasterCard, AZ FMNP, Cash and food stamps accepted
Every Saturday, year-round rain or shine from 8 a.m. to noon.
www.foodconnect.org
 
 
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