Set just to the left of the front doors at Time Market, colorful, well-lit arrangements of lettuce, carrots, beets, peppers, and mushrooms are stacked carefully on matte black shelves, making the refrigerated cabinets look more like the walls of a gallery than the shelves of a produce section.
Lexi Coburn is the person behind the appealing produce display. As Time Market’s produce manager, she brings an art-minded perspective to her work. “I enjoy the artistic aspect of creating our displays and preparing our greens,” she says. “I have an MFA in studio art from the UA, so I appreciate being able to use some of my design skills when I’m not at home making art.”
Coburn also brings a passion for filling her shelves with organic, hard-to-find, and local produce. A backyard gardener herself, Coburn worked for an organic farm in northern California as a teenager. She started working in the retail produce business after finishing her undergraduate degree, and learned about what it takes to manage a produce department working at the Food Conspiracy Co-op during graduate school.
She credits those early days working on the farm for inspiring her work with organic produce. “Working there definitely shaped my view and understanding of how important organics are for the planet and for living a healthy lifestyle. As I’ve gotten older, it’s become more important to me and I always want part of my life to be associated with it,” she says.
Working for Time Market holds a special appeal for Coburn, who says she likes that it is a small, family-owned business. “I appreciate that they are all about quality,” she says. The market’s emphasis on specialty and fine foods allows Coburn to pursue more variety than the average supermarket. “I look for hard-to-find items such as kaffir lime, black trumpet, and local morel mushrooms, and heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables, like Ashmead’s Kernel apples,” she says.
Another consideration for Coburn is where the produce she carries is grown and who is growing it. “Locally sourced produce is definitely a priority for Time Market, not only for the retail produce display but for the restaurant as well,” she says. Coburn is responsible for most of the ordering for both departments, and says she tries to source locally as often as possible. “The produce is just more vibrant, tastier, and lasts longer!” She points to this past spring, when most of Time Market’s bunched greens, including kale, dandelion greens, and lettuce, was sourced locally and looked “gorgeous.” Harvests like that, she says, “allow us to decrease our orders from California and keep the money here in our community.”
That said, even sourcing produce locally doesn’t mean it’s immune to the challenges of a Tucson summer. “There is a lot more stress on the coolers with summer heat and we have to be more vigilant with maintenance and cleaning,” says Coburn. “We give local items special attention because of the heat they might experience in transportation.”
If there is one thing Coburn wants people to know about Time Market’s produce section, it’s that they “strive to have the freshest, highest quality produce in town.” Thanks to Coburn, they certainly have one of the best arranged. ✜
Time Market. 444 E. University Blvd. 520.622.0761.