It was July 6, 2019, and the temperature was forecasted to be 105 degrees. It was about 10 am and felt like it already was…in the shade. When I left home an hour earlier and told my family where I was going, they said I was crazy. An outdoor farmers market at this time of year in Phoenix, in this heat? As I walked around the place, sweating insanely, I wondered if they were right. And then I stopped to chat with the various booth owners as I walked around and decided there was no way I regretted my outing. The local business folks I met were fantastic and shared a lot of information with me about their various ventures.
The Farmer’s Market
Farmer’s markets are valuable because they support the local growers and encourage local commerce while also focusing on the health of the consumer. Why go to the grocery store for still green, unripe produce when you can stop by a local farmer’s market and pick up fresh, ripe, typically much better-quality produce from a local farmer? The question is the same for the other items found at farmer’s market, including baked goods, soaps, and so much more.
The Open Air Market is smaller in the hot Phoenix Summer than during Fall through Spring. It first started in 2005 and appears to have a well-established base of both vendors and consumers. This was my first time going, and I was surprised at the variety of vendors and products that were there in the dog days of summer. Besides fruits and vegetables, there were different meats, spices, baked goods, herbal teas, herbal cooking oils, honey, jewelry, baskets, t-shirts, fresh flowers, shaving supplies, natural soaps, body care products and more. My favorite thing about this market was the friendliness of the vendors and their willingness to share information.
The American Dream in Action
While walking around the market, I was again reminded of the amazing, extraordinary country of ours and its people. Ours is the land of opportunity, and examples of this exist all around us every day. Today I also saw such a wide variety of people that were such an inspiring representation of hard work and determination. They ranged from the beef supplier from the Double Check Ranch to a vendor, Redemption Market, that employs survivors of human trafficking.
I met Nada, a wonderful lady who came to the U.S. as a refugee from Baghdad, Iraq. Since coming to America, she has launched her own business as an artist; her products include oil paintings and jewelry. I could not resist purchasing one of her necklaces. Sharing a booth with Nada was a lady from Syria who was selling Baklava and has dreams of owning her own bakery someday. It was such a great experience to meet these women, learn their stories, and enjoy them for the short time I was there.
My Favorite Vendor: African Everything
One place that caught my eye and, admittedly, my absolute favorite of the day was the African Everything booth. The baskets and fans I saw there were so colorful and beautiful. I could not help but be drawn in. I had the opportunity to spend some time talking with Shawnda, who was running the booth. She shared details about the origin of the baskets and fans, the various colors used in them, about her family, and their business.
Shawnda’s mother-in-law migrated from Kenya with four children in 1988 to Washington state to join her husband, who was there on a student visa. In 1992 she started the Everything African coop and has become a successful businesswoman. Her family now works with her in running the business, and they travel all over the country attending markets, guilds and quilt shows. They were recently in Kentucky, Texas, and Utah.
I appreciate Shawnda taking the time to talk with me and share her story. There is so much about the cultural aspects of the baskets and fans than can be shared here. I highly recommend stopping by for a visit the next time you are at the Open Air Market or if you find African Everything at a local guild or quilt show.
Conveniently Located in Downtown Phoenix
I am not sure if the vendors remain constant week after week, month after month, like those on the day I attended the market. It is worth stopping by and taking a look, maybe even to have lunch.
The Open Air Market is centrally located in downtown Phoenix, about a mile from I-10, and very convenient to several other amenities. It is open year-round on Saturdays. From May through September the hours are 8 am to 12 pm and from October through April the hours are 8 am to 1 pm.
It is just down the street from the Margaret T. Hance Park, the Japanese Friendship Garden, and the Phoenix Public Library (a.k.a. Burton Barr Central Library). It is just minutes from Heritage Square, the Arizona Science Center, the Phoenix History Museum, the Heard Museum, the Art Museum, and more.
721 N. Central Avenue (Central and McKinley) Phoenix, Arizona
Saturdays (May-Sep): 8 am to Noon
Saturdays (Oct-Apr): 8 am to 1 pm