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Aztec Farmers Market opens


J.R. Sykes

Pauline Pao with some of her berry bushes at the Off Beat Farm in Aztec

The week I've been waiting for, for months. Aztec Farmers Market is opening Wednesday, July 5th, at 1409 West Aztec Blvd., from 4:30 p.m. through 7:00 p.m., and will continue through the first week of October, and weather permitting, even longer. The Aztec market is my favorite, because this is our community, our food. This is how we sustain each other and our lifestyles. We're neighbors.

At its helm is Pauline Pao, the powerhouse behind Aztec Farmers Market and the SNAP Double Bucks program. Pauline, is not only the administrator of farmers market, which entails an amazing number of details and coordination among people, but also a farmer. Pauline and her husband, Kevin Lombard, have Off Beat Farm in Aztec.

Pauline holds a degree in horticulture from UC Davis. When discussing her background, she jokes about being indignant that she had to take so many "ag" classes. "I mean, I'm never gonna use this," she remembers saying, shaking her head, because here she is. During and after her time at Davis, Pauline was very involved in bio-control, and public gardens and spaces, in fact, that's where she met her husband, who also holds a degree in horticulture. Go figure.

"Public gardens and farmers markets are a function of education, knowing where your food comes from." Explains Pauline. "I grew up in San Francisco, in a city where everything grew. I mean it's California, year-long growing season. What I didn't see there, my parents took me to see at National and State Parks. That's where we vacationed."

Of course, a woman cannot live on flowers alone, and she definitely did not. In fact, she was on the recently popular Plant-Based Diet way before it reached celebrity status. "My parents are from China and my mother was a big fan of fiber. She used to make us eat fava beans, with the husk! Fiber, fiber, fiber. We chewed a lot," she laughs.

Pauline is also a vendor at Aztec Farmers Market. She sells here and in Durango. "I'd like to sell in Farmington also, maybe when the boys (Marcus and Diego) are older. I took two years off until my youngest was old enough, had a little independence." Finding it difficult to manage and be a vendor, they've now merged; co-oped her farm and the volunteer's gardens into one booth.

"Volunteers are key to selling." In 2008, Pauline became the third person to take over management of the market. Market manager is a paying position ... or not. Pauline has decided it's better to roll the revenue back into the market, and has had great success because of her selflessness. In addition to her own self-appointed volunteering, she expresses her sincere gratitude and feels truly blessed to have four other volunteers, some of them master gardeners. It truly takes a tribe.

The market has grown substantially over the years. "We know this because of reporting," she explains. Although people may have been hesitant at first, upon learning that the success is commensurate with funding of markets, WIC and SNAP, and senior nutrition programs, they were more forthcoming, and it's anonymous reporting. If you've dealt with Pauline, or met her or even been in the same room with her, you'll know instantly that she is trustworthy and true to her word and has only the most life supportive intentions for you, your farm and family, the market and the community.

She is the recipient of the Double-up Food Bucks program Outlet of the Year Award. What I love about these programs is that it means people are cooking. All people - including people who otherwise may be at higher risk of being undernourished. It's just as easy to make fresh food as it is to make premixed food, and less expensive, especially in the long run, than fast food. The healthier our citizens, the healthier our community. The ICAN program will be onsite to teach you how to care for your veggies, their nutritional value and even a few recipes. There may be chefs onsite occasionally, to show you some delicious and nutritious ideas for incorporating more vegetables into your diet and how to prepare easy meals.

You can expect to see every color and every kind of vegetable that will grow here. Some are common and easy to grow, our staples of tomatoes, corn, chilies, squash and others that have taken patience and painstaking effort to grow because we love them. Pauline brings freshly cut flowers and this year edible flowers, (I'm very excited) and among other veggies, my favorite eggplant. I don't know what she does, but it's the best eggplant I've ever had.

You can still apply to be a vendor by contacting Pauline via email, [email protected] You do not need a business license but there are some forms and information that you must familiarize yourself with in order to sell. Pauline has some great ideas for selling retail, wholesale to restaurants and stores as well as community supported agriculture; selling crop shares. There are many opportunities to profit from the glory of your garden.

So go, get there early, if you can. Here are some of the farms, gardens and crafters at the market this year:

• Bridgewater Garden, Aztec (Cedar Hill) & Aztec - Vegetables, Fruit, Berries, Herbs

• Karl & Tipi's Farm, La Plata - Vegetables, Berries

• RazzMaTazz, Aztec - Raspberries, Blackberries, Jam

• Johnson's Garden, Bloomfield - New growers this season ... Vegetables grown in a 250 sq ft garden 

• Jones Honey Farm, Bloomfield - Honey

• Townsend Farms, Aztec - Green chile, Vegetables

• Chuckles Veggies, Aztec (Cedar Hill) - Vegetables, heirloom tomatoes, berries, grapes 

• Coon Hollow, Aztec - Vegetables, blackberries, grapes

• Kaufman Family Farm, Bloomfield - Vegetables

• Gross Farm, Blanco - Aztec FM, Farmington GM

• Johnson Farm, Aztec - Vegetables, raspberries, grapes, eggs

• Udder Indulgence - Aztec FM, Durango FM


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