It was one of the last Sundays in the season, and the Flagstaff Community Market was in full swing. A small sea of people slowly circled the rows of tents and stations, taking in the array of local produce and artists’ wares. Veteran vendors and long-time patrons have been returning each week this season despite a recent change that placed the Sedona Community Farmers Market on the same day and time.

In May, the Sedona farmers market began its summer season. Traditionally held weekly on Fridays, the market began operating on Sundays — the same day as Flagstaff’s market. The markets are located about an hour from each other with Flagstaff’s lasting from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Sedona’s lasting from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Consequently, vendors and customers who could not attend both were forced to choose between markets.

With the Flagstaff market’s yearly season ending Oct. 30, the reasons regulars of the market have continued to attend are as varied as the people it is composed of.

The Flagstaff Community Market began in 2000 with the primary purpose of supporting small- and medium-sized producers who could offer an alternative to corporate food production. The market is intended to encourage people to grow more of their own food and connect growers to consumers.

Part of the Flagstaff market’s experience comes from the lines of tents operated by farmers and producers from all over Arizona. Locally grown vegetables, restaurants’ food stations and the occasional artist’s booth can all be found within a few steps of each other.

Peggy Pollak, a former biology professor at NAU, has been growing produce at Tree A’Lolly Farm and selling it at the Flagstaff market for over 10 years. She said her farm is not a business, but a hobby. Pollak said she does not sell her produce anywhere but the Flagstaff Market and does so simply for the satisfaction of providing people with food.

“I have extra food, so I bring it,” Pollak said. “I’m retired, so [farming] is not important as far as income, but connecting with the community and the good feeling I get with providing people with healthy food and something to do in my retirement is what’s important.”

Pollak said she has not noticed a change in business this season, even with the scheduling conflict.

Orchard Canyon on Oak Creek is a resort located 15 minutes north of Sedona that doubles as an apple orchard that sells assorted apple products. Rob Lautze has been with the orchard for over 30 years and said he thinks his booth was one of the original vendors at the Flagstaff market. 

Despite his proximity to Sedona, Lautze usually attends Flagstaff’s market.

“In my opinion, this is a much stronger market,” Lautze said. “I just have a history of being here on Sunday mornings for, what, almost 30 years now.”

Although, Lautze said he did have one problem with the local markets. Both markets have a practice of charging a 10% fee for products sold, which Lautze said he feels is too high for the farmers. He explained his orchard often struggles to break even financially and the market fee makes it harder to make a profit.

Meg Kabotie Adakai, is a board member of the staff who manages the market. This means she is present on Sundays to make sure everything runs smoothly. She is the one to come to with questions. She explained the 10% fee is used to pay for staff, permits, costs of road closures, portable toilets and any other costs associated with running a business.

Juan Aguiar of Blooming Reed Farm has been selling his farm’s produce at the Flagstaff market for three seasons. Aguiar has experience with the Flagstaff, Sedona and Prescott farmers markets through helping his father who sold produce from his farm, Aguiar Farm. When Aguiar decided to start his own farm, he knew the Flagstaff market would be an important market for his business, he said.

“We love it,” Aguiar said. “It was hard for the first couple of years, because I think we really didn’t have the recognition or return clientele. But we’ve started noticing that people remember who we are now, so we’re doing pretty good.”

Aguiar did not have a problem with the 10% charge but said the registration fees can sometimes be expensive. However, the registration fees are paid once a season, and Aguiar said overall, they were not that large of a price tag for being able to sell at the market.

Of course, the vendors are not the only people at the Flagstaff market. There is also the large crowd of locals everyone must weave through to get to their favorite stands. Market veterans make beelines for the tents they came for. Families travel in packs, bringing with them a fleet of strollers. Young college students wander with friends while snacking on market foods.

Joe Canepa visited the market last Sunday for what he thought was his third or fourth year. Canepa said he primarily comes to the market for the crêpes from Old Town Creperie.

“The crêpes are just out of this world,” Canepa said. “But I like the fresh produce, too.”

Another Flagstaff local, Tasha Griffith, has been coming to the Flagstaff market for over a decade. Griffith said she comes for the vegetables and purchases whatever looks good, planning meals around the food she finds.

“It’s just a fun experience,” Griffith said. “It’s also important to me to support local [businesses], and I also get fresher produce here.”

Adakai said the Flagstaff market’s staff believes in supporting local food and coming together to celebrate at the market. While another season comes to an end, Adakai said her plans for the future of the market are to keep having Sunday markets continue to grow.

The Flagstaff community market started as a 10-vendor farmers market in a dirt lot downtown. There are now over 85 participating vendors in the downtown market. The market staff attributes the difference between then and now to the support of the local community.

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