By Kate Robertson, Epicure & Culture Contributor
Sustainable agriculture and eco-friendly food product development are creating a vibrant agritourism scene in the Phoenix area. Because it was initially settled as an agricultural community due to its proximity to river tributaries like the Salt, Gila and Verde, this might not come as a surprise. Plus, the city’s subtropical climate and Sonoran Desert location make it one of the sunniest regions in the world year-round.
What’s great about all this is it means delicious sustainable experiences can be woven into your trip. We recommend the following stops for a true taste of food in Phoenix.
The growing towers at True Garden – Photo – Kate Robertson
1. True Garden
Why Stop? At True Garden, a vertical aeroponic urban food farm in Mesa, you will learn about innovative food production taking place in the middle of the city. Here they produce food efficiently — without soil — and with the highest nutritional value possible. This is important, because according to compounding pharmacist and owner Troy Albright, 50-100% of nutritional value is lost when fresh produce is shipped.
The Experience: Tour the 5,000 square foot greenhouse during one of True Garden’s special educational events, where you see row upon row of shiny, white growing towers overflowing with vibrant green herbs and veggies. This method allows for year-round organic crop growing, using only 1/10 of the land and a fraction of the water of regularly-grown crops. The smell of fresh green, earthy goodness here is intoxicating. After you savor a few samples, you’ll leave feeling inspired to order a tower and start your own indoor garden. It’s easy to understand why local restaurants line-up to buy the roots-on fresh produce.
Recommendation: Buy some fresh veggies to snack on at their farmer’s market on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.Discover #Phoenix's thriving eco friendly scene! Click To Tweet
2. The Farm At South Mountain
Why Stop? A stop at the Farm at South Mountain is like a visit to the country, even though it’s located inside the city on 10 acres of land that were originally a pecan grove. The Farm’s vision of sustainability was created in the 1920’s by Dwight Heard, the benefactor of the Heard Museum, a Phoenix museum dedicated to Native arts and culture. Heard bought a large parcel of land, subdivided it, and sold the lots with the intention of promoting food self-sufficiency. Fun fact: he offered a cow and 50 chickens with each purchase!
The Experience: The Farm houses beautiful restaurants, from farm-casual to upscale-rustic, and retail shops. Stroll through the garden plots where herbs and veggies are grown to supply the restaurants and cooking classes (you can also take an art or yoga class in this beautiful setting). Picnic tables are dotted throughout the property, so be sure to grab something outstanding off the menu and sit and enjoy the rustic country setting.
Recommendation: Try the roasted carrot and feta sandwich. Crammed full of veggies like peppers, arugula, onions and cilantro, the ingredients are so fresh you can almost taste the field they were just harvested from!
Why Stop? In nearby Gilbert, a visit to Agritopia shows you an agrihood, a neighborhood that grows its own food, provides employment and green space. Agritopia is dedicated to educating people about the food they are eating and how it is produced.
The Experience: Not just a community of practicality, Agritopia has an uber cool vibe. A stroll through the old farm Quonset which has been stylishly converted into shops and restaurants — guaranteed to serve fresh produce — will make you wish you lived here. You can take a tour or wander through the residential neighborhood. Here you’ll find housing for all incomes, schools and even an assisted living home for seniors, which affirms Agritopia’s belief that “all ages, all stages, in harmony, makes a good community.”
Keep walking through the thriving community gardens and citrus orchards that supply local restaurants and are sold at the The Farm at Agritopia. Staying true to old-time ethics of trust, sharing, and living a simpler life, this market works via an honor system where community residents pay electronically for their purchases. Here you can marvel at the fact that Agritopia has achieved an enviable 0% distribution of products–all staying within the local community, and making the 100-Mile Diet (sourcing food from within 100 miles) seem passé.
Recommendation: Stop at the most recent addition to the community property, a family-friendly wine bar, and order a glass of wine on tap. You can also tap into your good karma by using their Pay it Forward Board to pay for a future customer’s drink and make their day.The most #sustainable and delicious food in Phoenix! #ecotravel Click To Tweet
4. Queen Creek Olive Mill
Why Stop? A trip to Queen Creek Olive Mill is almost like a visit to Italy. A short drive from Phoenix, this pesticide-free farm grows over 7,000 olive trees and is dedicated to the production of superior extra virgin olive oil. Started in 1997 as an olive oil producer, they’ve grown over the years to include flavored oils, vinegars, tapenades and stuffed olives. There’s also an OliveSpa beauty line of natural soaps, balms and body oils to nurture your body both inside and out.
The Experience: Today the 5,000 square foot farm shed is a bustling agritourism epicenter. A whiff of delicious Italian aromas greets you as you enter. Before you have lunch, take a Mill tour to learn the history and health benefits of olive oil, and get schooled with an olive oil tasting. If your timing is just right, you can see the olives being pressed!
Recommendation: Buy a Superstition — named after the local mountains — in-house roasted coffee, and sit outside in the peaceful olive grove where you can watch the world go by.
5. Juby True
Why Stop? Just one of the 16-oz bottles of fresh juice at Juby True in Phoenix contains a whopping seven pounds of produce, so your body will thank you for it. Established in 2013, Juby True is one of Fox Restaurant Concepts. Sam Fox is the mastermind behind several health-driven restaurant concepts like True Food Kitchen and Flower Child.
The Experience: Even before you walk through the glass doors you can see the vividly colored bottles of juices lined up in the coolers, like a shimmering mosaic. The menu describes the ingredients in each bottle, and the specific health benefits of each creation. Store manager Yaya says that Basillion is their most popular, with ingredients of apple, spinach, basil, lime, chlorophyll and cayenne helping to revitalize metabolic boost, reduce nausea and support the immune system. You can also order a freshly made smoothie, and choose add-ons like hemp protein or chlorophyll to give your energy a boost.
Recommendation: Try the Sweet Karma, said to support brain function, increase vitality, and improve complexion.
One of the key elements of responsible travel in Phoenix is the eco/sustainable food scene happening there. No longer just BBQ burgers, steaks and Tex-Mex dishes, Phoenix is a place full of the most innovative food initiatives. According to Yaya from Juby True, “Phoenix was not really a happening foodie destination until about 2010, and the beautiful part is the collaboration, rather than competition, that is happening between the producers.” As a result, harmony is apparent in this food mecca, with everyone working together to remind us that: we are what we eat.
What’s your favorite way to explore sustainable food in Phoenix? We’d love to hear in the comments below!
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