For most, the love of food comes quite naturally. But few of us have knowledge as to where food comes from other than the grocery store or restaurants. Even fewer, have experience growing our own food, or are aware of the disparity in food availability and the amount of food wasted in our country.
Kathleen Yetman has made it her life’s work to share her knowledge of growing food by creating a platform where others can learn and appreciate the process that brings food to our tables.
A Prescott native, Kathleen grew up spending her childhood in her grandmother’s garden. “Her garden was an Eden.” She says. “From her, I learned not only to appreciate gardening, but the importance of conservation and cultivation.”
“My grandmother was ahead of her time when it comes to backyard gardeners. She was into composting in the 70’s way before it became trendy.” “She was a master gardener and would borrow neighbor’s ducks to come and eat the grasshoppers. It was just a really special place, where not only did we enjoy the fruits, but we were also put to work and learn what goes into growing something. Literally enjoying the fruits of labor” Kathleen says.
After graduating high school and attending Lewis & Clark as a history major, Kathleen became an AmeriCorps Vista with their newly minted FoodCorps on the Fort Apache Reservation. Over the next several years, Kathleen would serve as FoodCorps Fellow, supervising multiple programs in the education gardening and food education.
It was later, with a desire to move back to Prescott, the she met Heather Haulk, then executive director of The Prescott Farmers Market. In a short time, Kathleen took over as director and merged her passions. This past month, the Prescott Farmers Market celebrated their 25th anniversary.
The market itself has grown tremendously over the last decade, moving to its’ current year-round location at the corner of Miller Valley in the Dignity Health parking lot. With an average of 50 vendors, Saturday mornings can find various produce selections, baked goods, honey, and even locally raised beef. Vendors go through a rigid process of making sure that the product that is being sold, is in fact raised in Arizona.
“Vendors have to have insurance as well as submit a crop plan, which we actually go out to the farm to confirm that what they are selling is actually raised in their fields. For baked goods, the requirement is 10% of the ingredients have to be raised in Arizona.”
“We also have a community booth, where backyard gardeners can sell their produce for up to four weeks with a minimal fee.” Kathleen adds.
During 2020, the market closed for a period of time, eventually going to an online ordering platform with a drive back and pick up process.
Out of the challenges of 2020 came “Feed your Neighbors” Kathleen says. “The program has been really well supported by vendors and customers alike”
“Through our website, Prescottfarmersmarket.org, you can make a donation to purchase a box to feed an individual or family that is experiencing food insecurity.” She adds.
“We provide an average of 50 boxes each week, which are distributed through various nonprofits, or individuals who request them. Additionally, the market offers double up tokens for individuals who qualify for SNAP benefits.”
“Small donors are where we get the majority of our funding. We also receive monies through grants and local businesses.”
One of the more unique programs, or services the market offers is “Community Composting”. “Through the assistance of local restaurants, and market attendees, we collect kitchen waste which is then turned into compost to be used in backyard gardens.” “Over the last year, 40- tons of waste was composted, and over 130 school children visited the program and learned about the science and benefits of composting.” Kathleen adds.
Beyond fresh vegetables, the market is a community center with live music, educational booths, and cooking demos. It’s also a great way to meet the farmers that grow your food. You can ask them questions and advice, gaining knowledge and tips for your own garden, or perhaps pick up a new fruit or vegetable to experiment with.
Kathleen and her tight and energetic staff’s contributions go beyond the weekly market. “The Seed Library” through Prescott Public Library provides seeds for planting free of charge, as well as the “NoCo Community Kitchen” which will be available to small operators, and entrepreneurs looking to enter the food industry.” To support, or for more information: Prescottfarmersmarket.org
Kathleen Yetman, from her grandma’s backyard to the Prescott Farmers Market, cultivating education, conservation, and community.