I've lived in Albuquerque for almost eight years. We came here with a one-year-old and had another baby two years later. We stayed home a lot in those first few years. I always envied people who could take their babies out for the entire day, which never seemed to work very well for us. Now that our kids are older, we're getting out more.
One local attraction I'd been wanting to check out for a while is the Downtown Grower's Market. We went this weekend. It was wonderful! We had a really nice time. The market is busy, with lots of stalls to check out. There is fresh produce from all over the state, along with breads, cheeses, dried corn and flowers and handcrafts, such as jewelry, knitted and crocheted items and quilts. Every week, there is musical guest performing in the center of the park, where people congregate on the grass to picnic and relax. This weekend, the music was provided by Los Primos, a mariachi trio. Their music was great; kids were dancing in the grass.
Our kids were having fun too; they spotted a stall filled with colorful Indian corn and made a beeline for it. They love looking at it. The vendor helped them choose four colorful ears; his prices were reasonable and he was very helpful and friendly. He told us he gets his corn, a heritage breed, from an 80-year-old farmer in Estancia who was feeding it to his pigs. Now the farmer makes a little money selling some of his corn, and the pigs still get some too. We've added the corn to our dining room table display, currently in fall mode.
We continued in our circuit of the market stalls. There were fruits and vegetables of every kind, much of it seasonal - lots of chiles and ristras, as well as pumpkins and gourds. There was a stall where you could have your tarot read by a goose. We didn't try it, but it seemed popular and the goose was pretty, if noisy. I enjoyed one stall full of baby quilts and bibs, all made with modern cotton prints and soft minky-type material. The Bear liked a stall with handmade jewelry and chatted up the vendor about her techniques. There was something for everyone.
Toward lunchtime we decided to put together a meal. We ended up with rosemary-beer bread and an apple tart from Albuquerque's La Quiche Parisienne Bistro, goat cheese with fig jam from The Old Windmill Dairy in Estancia, and a basket of tomatoes from a local grower whose name I didn't catch. We had brought our own bottled water. We sat in the grass and ate our delicious lunch. It was sunny but pleasantly cool and the big, old cottonwoods and ashes in the park provided plenty of shade. Our kids ran free after they ate, the Bear and I relaxed and took it all in: people of all ages, dogs, lots of bicycles and interesting snippets of conversation around us. When we were ready, we walked back to our car (parked two blocks away on a quiet side-street) by way of the stall where we'd bought our tomatoes. They had been so good, so juicy and richly flavored, we just couldn't leave without getting some more.
I'm so glad we visited the market. It was bigger than I'd expected and the goods for sale were of excellent quality. It was a delightful way to spend the morning. I tell you what, it also made me proud to live in Albuquerque. This city feels both big and small at the same time. We've got our ups and downs, for sure. But there are many people here who care a lot about building up the community and offering residents ways to connect and share, as well as to grow their own businesses, enhancing our appreciation of the environment and our efforts toward sustainability. I'm glad to be able to participate in this growth and I'm proud to show my children more of this one-of-a-kind place now that they're older. I'll go back to the market for the tomatoes as much as for the community spirit.
The Downtown Grower's Market is held on Saturday mornings (7 AM to noon) in Robinson Park (at 8th and Central). The market ends for the season on November 8.