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Mother Earth: eat your veggies

You won't find food this fresh at the grocery store

 by Celeste Sepessy
 published on Thursday, September 14, 2006


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Maya Bailey doesn't need to be reminded to eat her vegetables.

She could talk about them for hours, describing each of their textures, colors, flavors and essences.

She would tell you that she grows three different types of eggplant, three types of squash and two types of melon, just to name a few.

A lifelong gardener, Bailey took on market gardening a year ago as the owner of Maya's Farm, a subdivision of the Farm at South Mountain, located at 32nd Street and Southern Avenue.

All the produce Bailey farms is locally grown and organic, a market that is gaining more and more attention each year.

"There's something very special and cool about planting a seed, watching it grow and then reaping the benefits by cooking it and savoring it," she says.

In 2005, U.S. organic food consumer sales grew over 16 percent to $13.8 billion, according to a Nutrition Business Journal study.

But huge grocery store chains sold only 43 percent of total-dollar volume in the organic business, according to the NBJ study.

The remaining market is still dominated by the natural channel, including independent natural groceries, natural food chains and farmer's markets like the ones Bailey participates in.

"As far as freshness and taste goes, you can't get any better," she says. "It's so fresh, you have [higher] nutritional value."

Bailey sells to the general market through two venues.

Year round, she participates in the Downtown Phoenix Public Market on 721 N. Central St. in Phoenix. The market lasts from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday.

On Oct. 14 through May, the Farm at South Mountain will open its seasonal farmers market. The market will be available every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Bailey sells specialty produce, eggs, flowers and herbs at these markets. All of her products are grown in an eco-friendly way.

"We learn to treat [the Earth] well, in a respectful fashion, so that we give back what it has given to us," Bailey says.

Joe Zwiebach, general manager of the Gentle Strength Cooperative at the corner of Mill Avenue and University Drive, says the store sells as much organic food as possible, in addition to vegan and raw products.

After being in business for 21 years, most of which was spent at the Mill Avenue and University Drive location, Gentle Strength is moving. Within the next month, the new store will be open on the southeast corner of Mill and Southern avenues.

Zwiebach notes that the Southern Avenue location is still very close to ASU's Tempe campus and will resolve customer accessibility issues that have arisen because of traffic on Mill Avenue.

And at Gentle Strength, the customers come first. They are the storeowners. Instead of being funded by one single person, the members provide funding for the store in return for discounts and membership benefits.

"It's a win-win proposition," Zwiebach says.

Luckily for students, nonmembers can shop at Gentle Strength too.

But Zwiebach says what's most important is eating healthier. If you eat food that is closer to the natural state-more vegetables and whole grains-you'll have both more energy and less physical ailments.

"Your body will be working with you as opposed to against you," he says.

Reach the reporter at: celeste.sepessy@asu.edu.



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