There's an Underrated Farm Scene in Arizona
When those not living in the Southwest think of Arizona, an arid landscape dotted with saguaro cacti is usually what comes to mind—not high-yielding farmland. But in reality, the southern portion of the state houses some of the United States' most productive farms, which are feeding (quite literally) the booming food scenes of both Phoenix and Tucson. Here are the main players in this underrated farm-to-table region.
Near Phoenix is Hayden Flour Mills, a mill that uses minimally processed, non-GMO heritage grains to produce premium products. Its educational tour of the Sossaman Farms facility in Queen Creek gives visitors the opportunity to learn about native seeds and how best to work with them, as well as the opportunity to participate in cooking classes and other demos.
Queen Creek is home to Queen Creek Olive Mill, which is Arizona's only family-owned-and-operated working olive mill and farm. Long sunny days and cool desert nights provide the perfect climate for a variety of olives, which are grown and processed on-site to make extra-virgin olive oil. After a tour, dine at Del Piero, where guests can try olive tapenade, panini, salads and gelato—all with a healthy smattering of quality olive oil.
One of the best places to sample farm-to-table food in the area is at FnB in Scottsdale, where chef, co-owner and four-time James Beard nominee Charleen Badman is known as the "veggie whisperer." Stop in on the right day, and she might just serve you the special yellow snap peas she has a local farmer grow specifically for her.
Tucson's Native Seeds/SEARCH was founded in 1983 and has been on a dogged mission ever since to uncover, preserve and proliferate seeds native to the American Southwest and northern Mexico. Visitors can stop by the nonprofit's HQ to learn more about its efforts to keep the region's food culture alive and flourishing.
Don Guerra, the "community-supported baker," is the brain and hands behind Barrio Bread, the bread-baking business using many native and heritage grains that he started in his garage in 2009. Today, he has a brick-and-mortar, and his bread is the most famous in town, stocking home pantries and major resorts alike. As it turns out, a loaf of bread makes the perfect carry-on stowaway.
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