28 November, 2021, 03:33

Guide to Pima County farms & where to buy locally grown produce

17 farms providing diverse products to the community.

Picture, if you will, a farm. Maybe your imagination evokes a sea of bright green plants aligned in rows. There’s probably a tractor, a red barn, and a silo. Some workers hunch over the crops, yanking weeds or harvesting something close to the ground. The sky is blue and the hills are dotted with copacetic cows. You’re probably in the Midwest, in your mind.

That’s not exactly what a Southern Arizona farm looks like. It’s more rugged, less verdant, and dustier. There’s more likely a coral than a barn and the cattle are ranch-hardened.

Quintessential jigsaw puzzle farm or not, our local producers grow bountiful food items all year round, in the face of ecological challenges like caliche, extreme temps, depleted soils, and water constraints.

Here’s a guide to a smorgasbord of Pima County farms and where you can get the diverse products grown in your metaphorical backyard.

Aravaipa Creekside Growers

Rillito Park Heirloom Farmers Market
Aravaipa Creekside Growers

Photo courtesy of Aravaipa Creekside Growers on Facebook

An hour north of Tucson in the Aravaipa Valley, Aravaipa Creekside Growers is a small farm producing mushrooms, flowers, and a variety of veggies. You can purchase their harvests at Tucson’s flagship Rillito Park Heirloom Farmers Market, which is open every Sunday from 8 a.m. to noon April through September and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. October through March.

For more information, visit aravaipacreeksidegrowers.wordpress.com or keep up with Aravaipa Creekside Growers on Facebook.

BKW Farms

11600 N. Sanders Rd.

Sustainable agriculture is the name of this Marana farm’s game, and oh, how they’re winning! The Wong family’s farm is a source of organic wheat (including heritage and modern varieties) for Barrio Bread, Pueblo Vida, Sentinel Peak, and 1912 breweries, as well as mushrooms for Marana’s Ritz Carlton.

The family also runs an online store where customers can acquire their milled-to-order wheat flours, among other grain products.

For more information, visit bkwazgrown.com.

Careless Coyote

Rincon Valley Farmers Market, Vail
Careless Coyote

Photo courtesy of Careless Coyote on Facebook

Down in Arivaca is Careless Coyote, a farm producing seasonal jams and fruit butters, with a specialty prickly pear syrup and jelly. Careless Coyote also brings neighboring producers’ harvests to the eastside Rincon Valley Farmers Market, which runs Saturdays from 8 to noon April through September and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. October through March, along with other markets.

Elizabeth’s Garden

Steam Pump Ranch Heirloom Farmers Market, Oro Valley

This backyard garden grows fruits, nopales, vegetables, eggs, and baked goods, which are all available at the Steam Pump Ranch Heirloom Farmers Market in Oro Valley on Saturday mornings.

Farmer ALP

Steam Pump Ranch Heirloom Farmers Market, Oro Valley

“ALP” stands for “Always Local Produce,” and farmer David Struder’s food is about as local as it gets. His quarter-acre farm and greenhouse are located right across the river from Rillito Park, where he sells his tasty tomatoes, leafy and microgreens, and root veggies.

He values transparency in food systems and low water-usage crops. He also sells at the Steam Pump Ranch market in Oro Valley, but not in summer.

Keep up with Farmer ALP on Instagram or visit farmeralp.com.

Garden Goddess

Local farmers markets
Garden Goddess

Photo courtesy of Garden Goddess on Facebook

Jo Schmidt, self-proclaimed Garden Goddess, not only grows and sells her fresh herbs and sprouts around town: she teaches you to garden, too. Her classes run the food-producing gamut, with topics like vermiculture and bean sprout sprouting. She even has a gardening DVD!

Find her products at the St. Philip’s Plaza Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays; and the Rincon Valley and Steam Pump Ranch Heirloom Markets on Saturdays.

For more information, visit gardengoddessoftuc.wixsite.com/gardengoddess or keep up with Garden Goddess on Facebook.

High Energy Agriculture

Rillito Park Farmers Market

Former landscape contractor-turned-farmer Greg McGoffin operates High Energy Agriculture in Marana. His mother, Anne, sells his healthy harvests at the Rillito Park farmers market.

McGoffin’s harvests include Happy Hen eggs (from free-range, soy-free chickens); bok choy; heads of lettuce; and whatever veggies he can coax from the desert soil at his Certified Naturally Grown farm. In fall, he does what he calls “Growers Paks” — selections of veggies combined with a dozen eggs.

Keep up with High Emergy Agriculture on Facebook.

Larry’s Veggies

Local farmers markets

You can also order from the field or greenhouse online. Seasonal selections include habañeros, Blue Hubbard squash, okra, mushrooms, basil, and pomegranate (and much more).

For more information, visit larrysveggies.net.

Las Milpitas de Cottonwood

Las Milpitas de Cottonwood Community Farm

Photo courtesy of Las Milpitas de Cottonwood Community Farm on Facebook

The six-acre Las Milpitas Community Farm is a service of the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. Located on the banks of the Santa Cruz River in Southwest Tucson, the farm teaches people to grow their own healthy produce, providing free garden plots and education.

For more information, visit communityfoodbank.org.

Mission Garden Project

946 W. Mission Ln.

Tucson’s Birthplace, a living botanical history museum, has seasonal heirloom plant sales. Located near the base of Sentinel Peak, the gardens provide a timeline of the area’s 4100-year agricultural history, growing crops from all cultural phases.

This link has an updated list of what’s for sale. September is squash month: bottle gourds and dipper gourds are currently available at $3 each.

For more information, visit tucsonsbirthplace.org.

Nido Farms

Rillito Park Farmers Market
Heirloom Farmers Markets

Photo courtesy of Heirloom Farmers Markets on Facebook

Tucson backyard farmer Guiermo Nido grows and sells a true assortment of crops at Rillito Park on Sunday mornings. He offers everything from microgreens to tomatoes to potatoes to strawberries, depending on what’s in season.

San Xavier Co-op Farm

8100 Oidak Wog

Located next to Mission San Xavier del Bac, the Tohono O’odham-run San Xavier Co-op Farm strives to grow traditional crops that support the tribe’s cultural and environmental values. It also fosters economic development for tribal members, providing jobs and nutritious foods.

The Certified Naturally Grown farm uses no pesticides or herbicides. Seasonal produce includes dried goods like lima and tepary beans, Tohono O’odham peas, mesquite flour, and cholla buds; diverse fresh produce; hay and feed; and nursery plants.

You can buy farm goods at the farm store Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. You can also find them at Heirloom Farmers Markets around town and Food Conspiracy Co-op at 412 N. Fourth Ave. The farm caters and sells some items wholesale as well.

For more information, visit sanxaviercoop.org.

Sunset Cove Growers

Steam Pump Ranch Heirloom Farmers Market, Oro Valley

Farmer Bruce grows salad greens featuring sundry leaves like arugula, spinach, mustard, and collards. He also makes a nice salad mix, selling at the Steam Pump Ranch Heirloom Farmers Market in Oro Valley on Saturday mornings. (He sometimes brings his neighbors’ orchard fruits and root veggies.)

For more information, visit heirloomfm.org/markets/oro-valley.

Tucson Village Farm

4210 N. Campbell Ave.
Harvest Festival at Tucson Village Farm (Credit: Tucson Village Farm)

(Photo courtesy of Tucson Village Farm)

Part of the University of Arizona and Pima County’s Cooperative Extension, Tucson Village Farm provides the community with much more than produce. It was built by and for youth and offers hands-on seed-to-table education about gardening, nutrition, cooking, and much more.

Every Tuesday, the farm hosts a U-Pick produce harvest opportunity for the community. May through August U-Pick hours are 5 to 7 p.m. From September through April, it’s 4 to 6 p.m.

TVF’s pesticide- and herbicide-free produce is also available at local farmers markets like the Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market at the Mercado San Augustin (100 S. Avenida del Convento) Thursdays from 4 to 7 p.m. That market is an enterprise of the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona.

For more information, visit tucsonvillagefarm.arizona.edu.

Wild Child Gardens

Produce sold at Heirloom Farmers Markets
Wild Child Gardens

Photo courtesy of Wild Child Gardens on Facebook

Wild Child Gardens in Marana produces all kinds of deliciousness from eggs to flowers to assorted produce. The farm has chickens, orchards, greenhouses, and wildflower fields.

Farmers Miguel and Maria vend their crops and seeds at the Santa Cruz Farmers’ Market (Thursdays), Rillito Park Heirloom Farmers Market (Sundays), and Steam Pump Ranch Heirloom Farmers Market in Oro Valley. That market is open Saturdays from 8 to noon April through September and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. October through March.

Keep up with Wild Child Gardens on Facebook.

Honorable mentions

Apple Annie’s

2081 West Hardy Rd, Willcox, AZ 85643

Especially during their Fall Pumpkin Celebration, families love to head down to Willcox to pick their own pumpkin from Apple Annie’s gigantic, multi-variety patch. In fall, the farm also features a 20-acre corn maze, hayrides, and general good clean harvest fun. Visiting Apple Annie’s is a blast during the rest of the year too.

When they’re in season, you can pick your own apples, pears, and peaches from the orchard, and an assortment of veggies from the acres of cropland. Or you can purchase seasonal items pre-picked year ’round at the farm’s country store (and purchase a variety of products online).

Per its name, the farm is big on apples, proving it with their applewood-smoked burger lunches and festival weekend apple pancake breakfasts. It’s not just a farm: it’s a wholesome foodie adventure.

Operating hours

The Fruit Orchard is open daily from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. July through September and from 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. in October. The Produce & Pumpkin Patch is open daily from 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. July through September and from 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. in October. The Country Store is open daily year-round from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

For more information, visit appleannies.com.

Sleeping Frog Farms

4510 N Cascabel Rd, Benson, AZ 85602

Although Sleeping Frogs Farm is about 1.5 hours east of Downtown Tucson in the tiny town of Cascabel, outside Pima County in Cochise County, its 20-plus acres of crops supply about 25 local restaurants and markets. The farm focuses on desert-adapted vegetables and uses neither pesticides nor herbicides.

You can buy their produce directly at the Rillito Park and Santa Cruz River farmers markets. Additionally, you can pre-purchase produce and invest in the farm by buying a share of their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. Your harvest can include everything from garlic to carrots to squash, depending on the season’s yield. Plus, you can visit the farm with an appointment and take a workshop on anything from tree pruning to bee boxing (different from beatboxing but equally cool).

For more information, visit sleepingfrogfarms.com.

Angela Orlando is an anthropologist who owns Wandering Writers Workshops — retreats that take writers around the world. She’s into all things plant- and animal- and food-related, especially when cheese is somehow involved. She throws pottery and eats from her own handmade plates.