If you’ve been to a summer farmers market in California, Oregon, Washington or some other lush, temperate local, you probably witnessed an abundance of fruit. When you peruse one of our local markets in Prescott, Prescott Valley or Chino Valley, you may have noticed that there aren’t a lot of peaches, apples, berries and other fruits at the market. So why isn’t there more fruit here in Northern Arizona? There are myriad reasons for this. Here are some of the biggest ones:
- Prescott Farmers Market has strict rules for growers selling at the market. PFM is a producer-only market, which means that everything you see at the market is grown/raised/made by the people selling it. With this rule in place the organization ensures that your food has integrity and is truly local.
Now the part about growing fruit: it’s not easy here.
- The climate. Northern Arizona is prone to late frosts (like the crazy one that hit on June 12 this summer). Fruit trees blossom in the spring, anywhere from early March through May and if we receive a frost when the flowers are open, they get zapped. Ask someone who has a fruit tree in Yavapai County and they’ll probably tell you that they only get a crop every 5-7 years. This is the main reason.
- Codling moths, borers, birds, ground squirrels–all ruin a good crop of tree fruit. Unlike vegetables, which you can replant and harvest a few months later, when fruit is damaged, there’s no bounty until next year.
- The work. Fruit trees need people. They need care throughout the year in order to bear fruit and require special knowledge of how to care for them. Harvesting berries, specifically, is urgent and labor-intensive. For growers who depend on income from the crops they grow, fruit trees and berries are a gamble (as is farming in general), and the odds of a beautiful, profitable harvest are not in their favor.
So what fruit can be grown in Yavapai County?
If the weather cooperates and gophers and worms don’t ruin the crop, you can expect to find the following local fruits at the market between June and October:
- asian pears
Citrus trees grow in the Phoenix area and fruits ripen during the winter. Look for lemons, grapefruit, oranges and tangerines between December and April.