Monday, September 3, 2012

Singh Farms, Blends Organic Farming and a Farmers Market in a Desert Oasis

I must have driven by Singh Farms a thousand times without a clue that beneath this large, seemingly out-of-place stand of trees lies an incredible organic vegetable farm and farmers’ market.  The mountains of mulch that run the entire length of the farm’s eastern boundary should have been a clue, but then I figured it was just another garden center; I was dead wrong!
 
Would you believe that a beautiful organic farm is hidden in the stand of trees?
All Pictures Taken With A Nikon Coolpix Camera



 

I first learned about Singh Farms from friends of mine.  As it turns out, word-of-mouth is their preferred method of advertising.  Now learning about a new farmers’ market always gets my attention and since I had a little time on my hands I decided to go investigate. 

 

Singh Farms is located on the Northeast corner of Loop 101 and E. Thomas Rd on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Reservation. The farm is open every Friday and Saturday from 8am-1pm, the Market is open from about late September-June. See their facebook page for more info.

To enter the farm, I had to drive past the main entrance (which is gated) until I reached the mulch pile.  The parking lot is located about 200 yards off the highway and is surrounded by the giant mountains of mulch which I learned comes mainly from produce discarded by restaurants and supermarkets.  It’s also the ingredient that Singh Farms uses to fertilize their organic fruits and vegetables. After parking and locking my car, I saw as sign that said, “Market this way”, with an arrow pointing directly to a path into the trees.   

Huge mulch piles flank the entrance and driveway to Singh Farms. The mulch
is for sale to the public.

 

The trees serve a very useful purpose at Singh Farms. They filter the intense Arizona sunlight from damaging the tender fruits and vegetables.  Just before passing into the grove, I passed by a garden consisting of squash and melons. While it was a hot June day, the vines were only slightly wilted from the heat, clearly a benefit of the shade from the trees.
Herbs and Sunflowers in one of many small gardens on the farm.
 
A very health  garden sits just outside the trees.  Here Barrel Cactus and
squash live in harmony in the highly mulched soil.
 

 

Walking into the trees, I saw dozens more gardens just like this one.  This type of gardening is truly unique and if you have ever tried to grow vegetables in the desert, its definitely worth paying a visit.  Between the filtered sunlight provided by the native desert trees and the nutrient rich organic mulch, these appeared to be some of the healthiest organic vegetables I’ve seen grown in Arizona.  I will soon be employing this concept into my patio garden using shade screen and a kitchen composter.  Now all I will need is ladybugs.
 
The beautiful shaded path to the market.
A Herb garden thrives in the filtered sunlight and deeply mulched soil.  Planting
under the trees keeps the vegetables from being sunburned and conserves water.
 
 
 
After walking about 100 yards up the beautifully shaded path, I came to the market itself.  The market very much resembles an old country store with a hint of suburbia.  It just really has a nice feel to it. The market building features a center table piled high with tomatoes, garlic, onion, cabbage, and even eggplant.  The shelves around the perimeter of the room are filled with squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, herbs and preserves. Right outside the backdoor of the building were piles of sweet corn and watermelons.  All of the produce grown at the farm rivals anything found in California. On Saturdays, right next to the main building is a cafĂ© complete with chef featuring middle-eastern cuisine. The food looked excellent and the atmosphere was so serene……one could eat and meditate all at the same time.
 
A bounty of produce grown on the farm graces the center table in the main
market building.
 
Beautiful Potted Peppers Adorn the front step to the main building.


 
Singh Farms has plenty of fantastic produce!
It was sweetcorn season at the farm!  Yumm!!!!
Great Looking Watermelons!
Hungry Yet?  The market has a great cafe open on Saturdays!

Singh Farms has a great Selection of Jams, Jellies, and Preserves.


 

I did get a chance to talk to the proprietor before leaving.  Wanting to learn more about their methods, I asked about volunteer opportunities and classes.  I didn’t catch his name but he did tell me that there wasn’t much of either in the summer unless I wanted to pull weeds, but there would be opportunities for both. I will be back!

No Farm would be complete without chickens which is also a great method
of organic pest control and fertilization.



Best of all, Singhs has goats!!!
 

On the way out the path continues on a loop through the trees past dozens more gardens and a chicken coop.  While many of the gardens were dormant for the summer, there were still plenty of vine crops growing.  As I passed back out of the trees and into the hot desert sun, I felt like a changed man.  A man that couldn’t wait to plant his fall garden using the methods I observed here.  If you like gardening and want to check out some superior methods for growing in Arizona, I highly recommend a visit to Singh Farms.