Nowadays, food travels in the neighborhood of 1,200 to 1,500 miles to get to your supermarket. Stir in frightening farming methods and rocketing gas prices, and the kiwis in your cart start to look a lot hairier, don't they?
But there is a better way to shop. Since they don't have far to go, local farmers can afford to harvest their produce at its most delicate point—the peak of ripeness. Shopping at your local outdoor market means unsurpassed freshness and flavor at competitive prices, since a substantial amount of what you pay at the grocery store goes toward labor, transportation and packaging costs. Wondering if something was grown with pesticides? Ask the farmer yourself. When you find yourself at a growers' market, you'll always know it's fresh, pure and simple.
Albuquerque Downtown Market
The Dirt: There's plenty of shade and grass at the Downtown market, which has as much peripheral arts, crafts and entertainment as it does food. Even so, local produce is still a large part of the market's focus, according to market director Eric Garretson. "This is going to be a great year for apricots, grapes, peaches, pears and apples!" He's arranged a fun jump, face painting and juggling throughout the summer to celebrate the market's 10th season.
Special Products: Dog biscuits, fresh South American-style corn tortillas, sweet and hot peppers, heirloom tomatoes, okra, mountain chard and kale, beets, carrots, several varieties of potato, onions and squash, bedding plants, three local honey vendors and onsite chile roasting in the late summer. Plenty of entertainment, jewelry, pottery and art pieces, too!
Vendors/Farmers:La Quiche bakery items, Sweetwoods Dairy goat cheeses, Schwebach's sweet corn, Java Joe's freshly roasted coffee, art from OffCenter, tarot readings ($16 from 8-11 a.m.).
Albuquerque Growers' Market
The Dirt: Albuquerque's largest market regularly pulls in 45 to 50 vendors from all over the state—“as far north and south as you wanna go," according to market manager Mike Sofia. There are big changes this season. You won't find the market in the Caravan East parking lot anymore: The market now occupies the southeast corner of Louisiana and Central, where the streets will be closed to traffic for a "block party" feel. Mike says the market is also eliminating its vendor fees.
The Dirt: Hop on the Rail Runner for a country-style market that specializes in local produce and community spirit. "It's pretty informal here," says one vendor. "It's always been a time for moseying around and talking to your neighbors."
Special Products: The emphasis here is almost entirely on locally grown fruits and vegetables, not crafts. Reservation vendors keep the market flush with delicious prepared foods (like tamales) and farmed produce (like melons).
The Dirt: Cedar Crest Farmers’ Market shed the "Arts" part of its name this year, zeroing in on a self-sufficient community of mountain growers. "We are just for farmers now," says Anne of Mountain Flower Farm. "Most of our vendors are organic and mountain growers."
Location: Cedar Crest Center (12127 N. Hwy. 14, 2.3 miles North of I-40, next to the Bank of the West).
Schedule: Wednesdays, 3-6 p.m.
Market Season: June 27-October. Opens this week!
Special Products: Cut flowers, organic greens, cucumbers, honey, squash, basil, tomatoes "and lots of other fresh, beautiful produce," says Anne.
The Dirt: This is not your average "artsy-fartsy" market, according to grower Al Gonzales. Hard work is the law of the land, and Corrales gets down to business more than any other market in the Albuquerque area—two days a week in the summer, plus a monthly winter market.
Location: 500 Jones (at Corrales Road, next to the new U.S. Post Office).
Winter Market third Sunday of each month November-March, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Special Products: Goat cheese products, strawberries in July, culinary and medicinal herbs, raw honey, "Sandia Hot" green chile, breakfast burritos, weekly events and live music on Sundays.
Vendors/Farmers: Corrales Brewery,Gonzales Flower Farm, Anita's Herbs, East Mountain Dairy. Heidi's Raspberry Farm is "just down the ditch" from the market.
Los Ranchos Growers' Market
The Dirt: Besides plenty of prepared foods, unique ingredients, and arts and crafts, the bucolic Los Ranchos market has a packed schedule of events and theme days timed with the market. Click here to see the schedule.
Schedule: Saturdays, 7-11 a.m. (8-11 a.m. in October.)
Market Season: May 6-Oct. 28. Open now!
Winter Market second Saturday of each month starting November-April 10 a.m.-noon
Special Products: Blackberries, peas, asparagus, rhubarb, olive oil, butter and cheese made from organic, grass-fed cow's milk, fresh pasta, pies and quiches, eggs, bread, seedlings. Art items include ornaments, pottery, bird houses, sculpture and paintings, clothes, handmade soaps, wood crafts, jewelry, cards, dolls, and toys. Live music!
The Dirt: It's only the second season of this fledgling market, but thanks in part to its great location (a grassy park with children’s play equipment), the market is already inspiring a palpable sense of community. "Our farmers harvest especially for the day of the market and bring their freshest produce directly to the park," says Georgia Daves, market manager. "Please ask our growers about their farms ... your gardening questions, too. They are really master gardeners!"
Special Products: Local honey from Nob Hill-area hives, mushrooms, frozen wild Alaskan salmon and New Mexico grass-fed beef from the Fishhuggers, culinary and medicinal herbs, mind-boggling varieties of garlic.
Vendors/Farmers: LaChispas, Amyo Farms, Erda Gardens, Zoe Economou, The Fig Man, Exotic Edibles, Apple Honey Farms, Ye Olde Kitchen Witch, Leif Rustebakke.
South Valley Growers' Association
The Dirt: Growing strong for more than 30 years, the South Valley Market is the oldest outdoor market in town. "We don't want to be the hugest market; we just want to be local," says South Valley grower Rhonda Reinert. Don't miss the association's new book, Supporting Local Agriculture: A Guide to the South Valley Growers, overflowing with recipes, photos and growing tips, available at the market.
Location: Cristo Del Valle Presbyterian Church parking lot (3907 Isleta SW, about four blocks south of Rio Bravo, across from the South Valley Library).
Schedule: Saturdays, 8 a.m.-noon.
Market Season: June 16-October. Open now!
Special Products: Seventyvarieties of lettuce, many varieties of gourmet potatoes, locally grown blue corn meal, flowers, trees and house plants, alfalfa, plums, apples, apricots and peaches. Ample arts and handicrafts. Live music "as often as possible!"
Vendors/Farmers: More than 20 growers and merchants from Albuquerque's South Valley, including Tony Montoya's honey and Fred Romero's squashes and chiles.