Tucsonans know that our desert lands can provide edibles all year around, but eating locally isn’t always convenient. Enter FoodInRoot, a start-up that hatched in the University of Arizona’s Eller MBA program. Concerned that eating locally appealed only to the small slice of society that actively sought out farmers’ markets, FoodInRoot co-founders Clayton Kammerer and Jon Hall had the idea to “bring the market to the people.” The two pilot “micro-markets” are strategically located in places where people already mill about on the weekends—El Con Shopping Center and Santa Fe Square on the east side of town.
“Many people don’t yet seek out shopping at farmers’ markets,” Kammerer says. “We hope to convert those people into farmers’ market shoppers by taking the market to locations where there’s a captive audience.” In other words, when your weekend plans include errands at Home Depot or Target, you can stop in for a bunch of bok choy grown locally and some hot tamales rather than hitting the drive-through.
At a recent visit to the El Con market, there were a handful of quality vendors, selling locally made jams, salsas, gluten free goods, and produce. There are twice as many vendors at the Santa Fe market, Kammerer says, but he also cites attracting quality vendors as one of the greatest challenges thus far. “For small farmers, their time is so valuable, they can only afford to go to market one day a week, so as a community we have got to support them by buying their produce,” he says.
As a community-minded businessman, Kammerer believes that Tucson can easily support all its local farmers, so long as people have visible access to them in a convenient setting. In the long run, he hopes the business training behind FoodInRoot will help it to “build a better blueprint for building a farmers’ market.” ✜
Santa Fe Square Farmers’ Market, 7000 E. Tanque Verde Road, Sun. 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. El Con Shopping Center Farmers’ Market, 3601 E. Broadway Blvd., Sat. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. 520.261.6982. FoodInRoot.com.