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It is easy being green: Prescott Farmers Market opens Saturday

Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier, file
From left, Lanie Collins, Cooper Collins and Rowan Reilly prepare to race their veggie cars Aug. 8, 2009, during the Prescott Farmers Market at Yavapai College.

Cucumber skins don't taste good - at least none of the ones Erin Lingo had tried before.

"They have bitter, waxy rinds, right?" said Lingo, a Prescott-by-way-of-Boise-Idaho transplant. "But the cucumbers at the farmers market, they have sweet, delicious skin. I literally grab them and munch away."

Such is the passion of local food converts like Lingo, who will be happy to note the return of the Prescott Farmers Market 7:30 to noon Saturday in the Yavapai College parking lot at 1100 E. Sheldon St., Prescott.

The annual market, which began in latter half of the 1990s - 1996 or 1997, in one incarnation or another - runs every Saturday through the end of October.

"It's definitely the place to get the highest-quality and freshest produce," said Lingo, who admittedly has a hefty bias toward the market she's managed for five years during off-seasons from Prescott College's Community Supported Agriculture program. "There's all kinds of things at the market, but the big pull is definitely produce, especially vegetables."

Similar, smaller markets begin next month in Prescott Valley and Chino Valley. The Prescott Valley Farmers Market runs 4-7 p.m. on Fridays from June 1 through the end of September at the Tim's Toyota Center parking lot at the corner of East Florentine and North Glassford Hill roads. The Chino Valley Farmers Market runs 3-6 p.m. on Thursdays from June 7 through mid-October at the Bonn Fire Grill parking lot at 1667 S. Arizona 89.

The Prescott Farmers Market kickoff coincides with Mother's Day weekend. The special event that Saturday is pot painting, with soil and sunflower seeds, for children to create gifts for free. Other events are planned throughout the 26-week season.

The Prescott Farmers Market was founded a decade and a half ago by a group of area farmers, Lingo said. About half of the 50 vendors signed up so far this year are farmers proper.

"This is probably the most vendors we've started with, and there are more throughout the season," she said, adding those who sell prepare goods are required to use local ingredients.

About half the vendors are from Yavapai County. Others, from the Phoenix area, for example, offer foods not as readily available in the Prescott area, Lingo said.

During the early weeks of the market, patrons can expect root vegetables and early tomato and cucumber crops. As summer kicks into the high gear, "it'll be overflowing with tomatoes, okra, chili peppers and all kinds of other peppers, melons and summer squash," Lingo said.

"It's not just eating locally, but eating seasonally," she said. "It's also a great opportunity to meet the people who grow your food. ... And if you've ever tried to grow a garden in Arizona, you'll have a healthy amount of respect for these farmers."

Call 713-1227 or visit www.prescottfarmersmarket.org for more information about the Prescott Farmers Market and associated markets in Prescott Valley and Chino Valley. The website also includes recipes and food information.


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