Steve Norton wears a dark grey sweater and a brown and black scarf to combat the chilly air. Norton is sporting a full gray beard, dark glasses, and holds up a jar to inspect the contents.

Farm Fresh and Within Reach

LivAbility Magazine
Edition 15 | Winter 2019

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Steve Norton wears a dark grey sweater and a brown and black scarf to combat the chilly air. Norton is sporting a full gray beard, dark glasses, and holds up a jar to inspect the contents.

Farm Fresh & Within Reach

Steve Norton Explores Downtown Phoenix’s Open Air Market

Story by Kade Garner

Photo by Kade Garner

The morning is as crisp as the fruits and vegetables piled on crates and boxes at the vendors’ stands. Yellow, purple, red and green produce fill a normally grey and unpaved parking lot. The air is thick with the sounds of vendors explaining their new products, the sizzling of cooking food, and the scent of fresh bread, coffee and organic soaps.

This is the Open Air Market in Downtown Phoenix.

The morning is as crisp as the fruits and vegetables piled on crates and boxes at the vendors’ stands. Yellow, purple, red and green produce fill a normally grey and unpaved parking lot. The air is thick with the sounds of vendors explaining their new products, the sizzling of cooking food, and the scent of fresh bread, coffee and organic soaps.

This is the Open Air Market in Downtown Phoenix.

A basket of homemade Babka. Babka is a twisted sweet and savory loaf of bread, often with a selected filling twisted throughout the entire loaf.

Photo by Kade Garner

Arizona isn’t just a desert, it’s a food desert. The State Department of Economic Security found one-in-six Arizonans are affected by food insecurity, and Arizona has prioritized food access workshops through agriculture and economics.


Ready for some adventure? Click for more information.

Outsiders of the Southwest desert conjure up images of dusty plains with sparse greenery, but locally-owned and ethically-sourced produce isn’t hard to find at the Open Air Market every Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. This is one of many ways the state is combatting lack of access to food.

The nonprofit market allows vendors, some of whom are starting businesses and don’t yet have a storefront, to come together and sell their products to the public while growing their consumer base. The market also allows consumers to meet the people who are growing the produce they eat and even take classes to learn more about nutrition and how to cook. It has also become a place for self-proclaimed foodies to hang out, eat, shop and share ideas.

Steve Norton is one local foodie who decided to see what the market has to offer. Norton was a chef before he had a hemorrhagic stroke in late 2012. Norton has since used a manual wheelchair. This morning, he brought a winter jacket and brown scarf to combat the chilly December air.

Norton no longer works as a chef, but still lives to cook. Fresh, in-season ingredients make for the best dishes, according to his ethos. The Open Air Market is a place where Norton can find homegrown produce for any of the seasonal comfort foods he is thinking about whipping up. However, farmers’ markets are often crowded and seldom accessible. Norton wanted to put this one to the test.

Just off Central Avenue, the Open Air Market is easy to get to. The light rail has two stops within three blocks of the market. However, ADA parking is often hard to find. The free parking that is open just for the market does have a few spots for accessible vehicles, but the dirt lot is unpaved and may be difficult for those using manual chairs to navigate the rocky ground.

The market takes place in the Phoenix Public Market Café’s paved parking lot. This means it is very wheelchair-friendly. The café has accessible bathrooms, which are opened for the public to use while shopping at the farmers’ market. Due to the loud sounds and colors, the ambiance is a sensory experience–or an overload. Thankfully, there are spaces on the perimeter of the market one can sit if the experience becomes overwhelming. The market is also very crowded. Nonetheless, the paths are wide and most shoppers will happily make room for a wheelchair to pass.

Norton made his way from vendor to vendor easily.

“The tables were all low and made it easy for me to reach everything,” Norton said. “That’s not something you always find at a place like this.”

Not only was everything within arm’s reach, but the vendors were all happy to help and answer any questions he had. “I liked how knowledgeable they were about their products.”

The vendors answered all Norton’s questions, gave samples and had a huge variety of produce.

A row of jars of homemade salsa sit side-by-side at the Downtown Phoenix Open Air Market. One jar on the right reads "Pineapple Mango Salsa."

Photo by Kade Garner

“I like to cook with baby vegetables because they are more tender and flavorful, and there were a ton here. There are also many different types of produce that are very hard to find at stores,” said Norton.

For those with disabilities who want to diversify their food experiences, don’t hesitate to visit the Open Air Farmers’ Market.

“As a foodie, this market is great,” Norton said. “There is so much variety in produce and it is all grown locally. They also had things like fresh salsa that was delicious that I would use to spice up any of my dishes.”

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Kade Garner

Writer / Photographer

Kade Garner is a Northern Arizona native. When he is not hooked up to an IV filled with diet soda, he is probably filming an event, taking pictures of his dog, or binge-watching a new series. He’s an okay writer.


Read more by Kade Garner.

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