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.



 

7 comments:

  1. SINGH FARM'S PRODUCE COMES FROM CALIFORNIA AND IS NOT GROWN AT THEIR FARM!

    I went to Singh Farms on Saturday June 8, 2013. I noticed the corn was being unpacked from boxes that were labeled "From California". The boxes were being unpacked behind a row of shrubs and well out of the sight of customers. I posted to Singh Farm's Facebook page on Sunday June 9, 2013 asking them about this and suggested that they let consumers know which produce is grown at the farm and which is not locally grown. Instead of responding to my polite question, Singh Farms deleted my post entirely.

    First, based upon all of Singh Farm's Facebook marketing, there is a presumption that all of the produce sold at their market is also grown on their farm. Most of the people buying their produce, myself included, think that it's all grown there. I feel that Singh Farms should disclose - with a tag or sign - when certain produce is not locally grown or comes from off-site. Isn't that only fair? And instead of deleting my Facebook post - which makes it look like they are hiding something - wouldn't it have been better to simply respond and tell us all where their corn comes from?

    I find their behavior to be deceptive. I believe Singh Farms is aware of their customers' assumptions and do not wish to do anything to change them because Singh Farms benefits from customers thinking the produce is locally grown when it clearly isn't. While Singh Farms may be able to delete my Facebook posts, they can't delete my review and rating here on Yelp.

    I hope others take notice of Singh Farm's deceptive practices and take their business to a local farmer's market that happily and voluntarily discloses where their produce comes from.

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  2. Hello AZBlueVeg, I am sorry you didn't have a good experience at Singh Farms. I remember seeing the corn when I was there too and I was told it was from California so I am a little bit mystified regarding the deception.

    I also feel that the owners of Singh Farm's seem to be a bit disconnected from their customers. My main reason for being there was to observe their technique for using filtered sunlight to grow vegetables. I did try to have a conversation with the owner to see if they would offer any classes on Arizona gardening but I was more or less given a brush off.

    I agree with you regarding disclosure and I am puzzled as to why they are being so secretive about the origin of some of their produce. Many of the Farmers' Markets here in Arizona also bring in part of their produce from out of state mostly to satisfy a demand and most of them are very transparent regarding this practice; It's understandable. I also think it was wrong of them to delete your comments but never fear, I get a lot of readers here so your efforts were not in vain. Thanks so much for reading and for the comments. Keep Them Coming! ~Scott~

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    Replies
    1. We attend one farmer's market here in Oro Valley near Tucson every Saturday. As a rule we grow everything on our table, and on rare occasion will host a product or two of other local small scale farmers if we know them and their growing practices. We do question the origin of some items on other tables since we know the level of difficulty in growing in the desert and what's possible given the season.

      There is a demand for year round produce at farmer's markets and a shortage of skill and product. It's good to question vendors. Especially when you notice brocolli in summer. Ultimately it's up to the customer to educate themselves to pick out the locally grown from what you can find in the supermarket.

      Prices are necessarily much higher for locally grown produce. Not only because of difficulty in growing, but growing organically is more labor and time intensive since we're not taking chemical or mechanical shortcuts. So there will be those ready to take advantage of higher prices by being secretive about the true origin of their alternative product.

      ReZoNationFarm.com

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    2. Scott I know this is an old post but it has just been brought to my attention yet again. The corn that was previously mentioned by AzBlueveg was grown less than half a mile from our market. We do not bring produce from California. We do however support other local specialty growers (ie. apples, peaches, pomegranates, nuts, corn and flour) but the majority is grown on the farm. As I explained to the aforementioned the bin that the corn was in originally carried watermelon from CA. Since our business is all about recycling and we do recycle containers. It seems a waste not to. There is no deception here and we work very hard to provide naturally grown produce for the community. We would hope that our customers would appreciate and respect that. Mr Srivistava was incorrect with his defamatory comments and has since apologized. He is still not welcome. All he had to do was ask. Singh Farms.

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    3. Thank You very much for the clarification. :)

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  3. Thanks for this utilitarian post. That's really very informative read for me, Keep up the good work...

    ReplyDelete