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I am a Farmer's Daughter

I have been managing the Farmers’ Market in Tucson for the past 5 years.  I came to the market in a totallyRoxanne Garcia unexpected way, mayhap, it is a fortunate force of nature.  I never intended to work again in agriculture; you see I grew up in New Mexico on a chile and tomato farm. My family had been in Farming since the early 1900’s and as expected we all pitched in to work the farm. At 8 years old I was the kid selling the tomato’s and green chile at the local farmers’ market.  We were roused out of our beds at 5 am, piled into the truck, which we had loaded the previous evening and headed towards town to get ‘our spot’ at the market on Saturday morning. For 5 hours we sold our fresh tomatoes & chile, weighing them and calculating the amount, at that time it was 25 cents a pound.  The notions of ‘Locally Grown’, Organic, Hydroponic, Pesticide Free were all nonexistent at that time, it was a simple way of life and the only marketing we understood was simple product knowledge; how did our tomatoes look, smell and taste and were the green chiles hot, medium or mild?

 The spring I graduated from high school was time to determine what I was going to study in college, and mind you agriculture was the farthest thing from my mind. A world so foreign was made available to me, I was going to experience it! I went to the local college, New Mexico State University, an agriculture school I might add, and graduated with a Journalism degree.  My beloved grandfather suggested that course of study when I asked him for his opinion; he said he wanted to see me on TV, agriculture was far too challenging and he wouldn’t be around to guide me. At that time I was not remotely interested in agriculture, however, I am now recognizing that your history is knowable and unsullied.

We all have experiences in life that take us to unexpected places, many experiences touch your soul and many do not.  I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to see that my life has brought me back to my roots and has enlightened my soul.  The farmers’ markets aren’t just a band of people selling their wares, but a host of families struggling to make ends meet, many whom enjoy the experiences of farm life, tilling the soil, and harvesting the bounty. Farming is a challenging lifestyle, I can remember when we would have a field full and lush ready for harvesting and a small thing such as a thunderstorm would bring hail and destroy the whole field.  Or a late frost would wilt the blossoms on the trees and our apricots and peaches would not make it.  These are small instances, may seem insignificant however, when you have invested your time, money and sweat equity into the production of something extraordinary it is quite disheartening.  Yet, time heals and the work continues, a farmer is the eternal optimist and looks over the other fields that made it through the storm and gets ready for harvest.  

Why am I going on and on?  Recently I was sent an email from a Farmers Market customer stating all of her grievances about the market and she asked how we could call ourselves a Farmers’ Market when some of our farmers were selling vegetables imported from Mexico, and I believe the term fraudulent was used.  Taking a deep breath, I calmly explained that some of our farmers supplement their incomes by buying some produce from the vegetable brokers that line our borders, after all we still live in a desert and many of our farmers are from the Wilcox and Sierra Vista areas where unlike Tucson they experience a cold winter, and their crops are just coming in.. We also have many farmers that grow in Tucson and can grow all year round, and they bring only what’s in season. I don’t know about you, but learning how to cook with what’s available in season is just as challenging as being a farmer! For those of you that think that I have made a deal with the devil, I beg to differ. I made a deal to insure that our farmers continue to grow and supplement their farms in the fastest and most ordinary way possible.   I also explained to the customer that we are not in competition with the larger grocery stores; they are doing just fine bringing in quantities of produce to satisfy the immediate needs of the masses, for those looking for strawberries in August.   It seems to me that the term local is still within a 200 mile radius, doesn’t that still include Mexico?    Surprisingly so, I believe that the marketing of all things local is vague and has taken a new direction. When a mass potato chip corporation labels its selection local, does that mean United States as a whole, or is it because “locavore” is a new, hip marketing term?  It doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out.  Local produce is harvested within a 200 mile radius, and for us that still includes Mexico.

The Farmers’ Market with its farmers, ranchers and cottage goods is a unique part of Tucson and I am wholeheartedly committed to its future. Accepting the managers’ position at the farmers’ market has shown me to never say never, and it has also helped me understand that I have a unique background, experience and vision so that I can pursue what I believe is the true joy of purpose. Farmers’ Markets today are hip, popular and getting better every year, they are helping to disseminate the terms organic, range fed, locally grown and locavore into the main stream of thinking.  These are times of change and reflection, simplify your life, learn how to cook with what is freshly picked and available to you, find out where these farm families live, what they grow and as they help you eat healthier, you can help them prosper and hand it to future generations.


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