Elderberry Edibles grows, sells food right from the farm

2013-11-27T17:30:00Z Elderberry Edibles grows, sells food right from the farmBy Reham Alawadhi For the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Have you ever reached for a vegetable in the grocery store and stopped to ask yourself, where did this come from? How was it processed? How long has it been on the shelf? At Elderberry Edibles, those questions don’t come up.

Elderberry Edibles, owned by husband and wife Aaron Cameron and Jennifer Vallier, is an organic homestead garden market that grows and sells a variety of vegetables, plants and edible flowers.

Thursdays and Fridays are their typical harvest days, and the crops are sold Saturday mornings at 1700 N. Wentworth Road, off East Tanque Verde Road.

The garden market is also a CSA — or Community Supported Agriculture program. That means people can invest in the operation for 13 weeks at a time, while collecting the share of produce they paid for, week by week.

“They get to know us — the people who are growing their food,” said 42-year-old Vallier. “They can come and check on the operation to make sure the food is being grown with the integrity that we say it’s being grown with, and they can get to know the land from which their food is coming.”

Four years ago, Cameron and Vallier inherited the garden after their friends who were living on the land moved on. The landowner was interested in having an alternative structure on his property so he asked them to take over.

“It was kind of thrown at us. The intention was to grow food, but we weren’t necessarily going to try to go commercial with it at all,” Vallier said. “It just sort of evolved into a Saturday market.”

Elderberry Edibles is signed up with a World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms program that connects it with volunteers who can live on the farm and help out. That program brought Cameron to Tucson, where he met Vallier, who grew up in Green Bay, Wis.

It was through mutual friends, though, not the World Wide Opportunities program, that they found the one volunteer who lives on the farm, Dalziel Dominguez. Up to four other volunteers help out on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The total property is 32 acres, but just one acre is designated for actual gardening. They also have chickens, which are for eggs only, and two beehives.

Cameron, 31, became interested in the organic movement after leaving college. He grew up in Little Falls, Minn.

“We’re doing this for the benefit of ourselves, and of the Earth, while also making sure that the tasks we perform are ideally centered around healing and a more healthy interaction with the plants,” he said.

Mimicking nature is the example that they follow, and they can’t imagine doing it any other way, Vallier said.

“I would love to see us really becoming a hub for teaching people about this way of growing food,” she said. “It would be great to create a model for other gardens to pop up throughout the city and help people learn to connect with the land.”

Dominguez, 30, said he has been moving toward a sustainable lifestyle for a while.

“I knew what was going on here and it involved learning how to feed yourself and interacting more directly with the land while living a sustainable lifestyle, and that’s what attracted me here,” he said.

You can sign up for a weekly newsletter on the market’s website, www.elderberryedibles.com, to get information on things such as what crops are available right now.

The website also includes a wish list of items they hope people might donate, such as watering cans, gardening tools and sprinklers.

In coming weeks at the market you’ll be able to buy arugula, kale, cilantro, spinach, squash and broccoli leaves, among other things.

“It’s all hand-done. We take care of it and we don’t use pesticides,” Dalziel said. “They put out the best stuff that they have. It’s quality food.”

Reham Alawadhi is a University of Arizona student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at starapprentice@azstarnet.com or 573-4117.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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