Pssst! WeekendZona is heading to Ajo in March and will be stopping at the Farmers Market Store & Kitchen!
Click HERE to check out the full itinerary and secure your spot on the trip!
Does Ajo come to mind when thinking
about blossoming food hubs around the state?
If not, it should! And here’s whY:
In 2015, Ajo identified that one of the most prevalent threats to their community’s health was the lack of nutritious, local foods - an obstacle that impairs many of our rural communities. The issue was contributing to high rates of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and food insecurity among children and the elderly, according to their USDA feasibility study. Given this information, residents assembled to address the complex issue through a lens of equity, opportunity, and economic development. Now, just 3 years later, the community of Ajo has an established food hub that is celebratory of diverse cultures - addressing food insecurity while also incubating local merchants and food-based businesses. Growth (and yummy food) all around!
Yet the story of Ajo’s Farmers Market Store & Kitchen transcends solutions for addressing food insecurity. This example of grassroots collaboration acts as a model for creating opportunity out of almost any service gap prevalent in a community; exemplifying the necessity for meaningful cooperation and adaptation to create meaningful change.
Where to Begin?
A farmers market, of course! The Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) began by launching the Authentically Ajo Farmers Market - focused on providing a wide array of fresh, seasonal produce grown and sold by local producers (accepting WIC and offering Double Up Buck incentives for SNAP users). Held in the picturesque Ajo Plaza every Saturday, the market has grown to represent over twenty local food purveyors and artisans. It even expanded to host free kids activities, food demos and tastings, gardening workshops and music. A success, right?
Well... partially. The Authentically Ajo Farmers Market was certainly successful in providing lucrative support for local vendors and access to healthy foods (and entertainment) for those that partook in the market. Yet, organizers realized many of their neighbors and friends were still not utilizing the market as a source for available local foods for a few reasons:
While Saturday was the most lucrative day for vendors, it was also the day of rest and/or travel for many natives in town.
To truly address food insecurity and the needs of the community, they would need to figure out a way to make healthy, local food accessible all week long - so folks could access produce and grab-n-go food at a time that fit their schedules.
Thus, the community sought out to establish the Farmers Market Store & Kitchen.
Providing A Week Full Of Healthy, Local Food!
CO-Ops make the world go ‘Round
The Farmers Market Store & Kitchen is structured as a cooperative, meaning the project is collectively-owned and manned by its partners. Many of the local growers and producers take turns running the store itself. Resident restaurants also rotate schedules, which allows them to work within their capacity while also providing a consistent source of locally-prepared food for the community. It is because of this collaboration that the space is able to remain open throughout the week.
One Hundred Estrella
Mara owns the building that houses the Farmers Market Store & Kitchen, where she runs her restaurant 100 Estrella. In addition to making the whole endeavor possible by opening her doors to the 30+ vendors and artisans represented within the space, she also assists the micro-businesses with technical assistance, POS systems, and business planning to help get them on their feet. A true local hero (with the best burgers in town).
Annelise and the growth of her Curley Coffee business, perfectly exemplifies the capacity-building opportunity provided by co-op spaces. Starting out as a vendor at the Farmers Market, Annelise has since been able to expand her business to operate the Store’s full coffee bar. She even hopes to open her own shop in town to further provide the community with fair-trade, integrity-driven coffee.
Desert Rain Café
As one of the rotating resident restaurants at the Market Store & Kitchen, Desert Rain Café is dedicated to featuring beautifully-crafted, healthy, Tohono O’odham foods. Folks come from all over the state to enjoy Desert Rain’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner options at the Market. Each one of their dishes can be characterized a traditional; featuring native products such as cholla buds, saguaro fruit syrup, and tepary beans.
PLAN YOUR VISIT!
A true product of community collaboration, the Farmers Market Store & Kitchen now proudly sits a few blocks down from the Plaza, greeting folks as they enter town. Community members donated tables, displays, and art, contributing to the space’s community vibe.
Enjoy a sit-down meal from one of the restaurants on rotation, or pop in for some culturally-relevant grab-n-go options, native produce, and locally-made food products. The Shop also provides an impressive selection of artisan goods courtesy of the vibrant artist community in town.
Monday - Thursday (7am - 2pm)
Friday (7am - 8pm)
Saturday - Sunday (7am - 6pm)