Serving as a culinary gateway to Greater Phoenix, the neighboring farms in and around Mesa provide a bounty of seasonal goods for visitors to enjoy year-round. Citrus in January, peaches in May, olives in October and even, heirloom wheat in the winter. Travellers can time their visits to experience chef-driven local dinners featuring Arizona winemakers and participate in ice cream making classes on a dairy farm. A dozen culinary-focused attractions and visitor experiences line the Fresh Foodie Trail that winds through Mesa and into Queen Creek, Arizona. Here’s some of our favourites.
Pumpkins & Peaches in Queen Creek
In Queen Creek, guests can make reservations for an exquisite dining experience at Schnepf Farms, a fourth-generation family farm and the largest peach grower in Arizona. Schnepf Farms hosts its Dinners Down the Orchard program in the “middle of our peach orchard” on their 300-acre farm. Offered a handful of times a year, each one is hosted by a notable chef and features the culinary bounty of the season. In May prepare for peach picking, and every October residents look forward to the annual Pumpkin & Chili Festival. Adding to the mix is midway-style carnival rides and the popular Pumpkin Launch and Witch Mountain giant slide.
A Taste of Italy in the Desert
Just east of Mesa is the Queen Creek Olive Mill, Arizona’s only family-owned and operated working olive mill and farm, where olives are grown and pressed for the production of high quality extra virgin olive oil. Grown at the base of the San Tan Mountains, an area known for its fertile soil, this flood plain region is famous for its high-quality fruit and vegetables. The combination of long sunny days and cool desert nights provide the ideal growing conditions for the trees. After a tour and complimentary tasting of oils, olives and tapenades, guests are invited to dine at del Piero, the mill’s Tuscan-inspired eatery, which serves fresh gourmet sandwiches, as well as soups, salads, gelato and espresso. The most popular site at the mill is the Tuscany-inspired olive grove, with more than 100 trees showcasing the variety of olives grown and harvested in Arizona.
Dairy Farm Finds Fans Through Udder Delights
Visitors to Mesa can roll up their sleeves and get a taste of life on the farm. At Superstition Farms in east Mesa, guests can enjoy public tours of a fourth-generation dairy farm; run by brother and sister team Casey and Alison Stechnij, tours are aimed at demonstrating to visitors the daily life on a working “agritourist” family farm. In addition to learning about modern dairy operation and how farmers work to be environmentally conscious, guests also discover the dedication taken to the care, comfort, and health of every animal. Also on site is a petting zoo, Milk Bar, featuring a dozen flavors including Butterscotch and Peaches & Cream, and the Mooster’s Moo-tique, a fully stocked boutique featuring toys, novelty items, games, candy, fresh eggs, cheeses, and local jams and honey. The farm’s ice cream, Udder Delights, features local farm ingredients and a fun take on flavors from potato chip and hot dog to avocado and strawberry-basil.
The Orange Patch Recognised as a Top Food Drive
The Orange Patch is one of Mesa’s original citrus growers and has stood the test of time as other orchards across the Metropolitan Phoenix area have closed and been forgotten. Located north of the city, the Orange Patch is 110-acres of citrus and 30-acres of sweet corn. Passersby can enjoy the fragrant orange blossoms each spring when temperatures begin to rise. National Geographic named Mesa a top food drive city in 2010, citing the many thriving citrus growers and miles of city streets lined with citrus groves. Peak season for orange production is January and February. Visitors are welcome to watch the picking and production process with special tours offered for groups. Blossoms are blooming every March and April and you can see folks drive by with windows wide open to take in the fragrant fumes. The store also has fresh squeezed orange juice, fresh honey and other gift items for sale.
Vertical Farming at True Garden in Mesa
At True Garden, Mesa-native and compound pharmacist Troy Albright, R.Ph. has built a 5,000-sqft vertical urban garden teaching people how to produce healthy and nutritious food using no soil. Featuring revolutionary hydroponic gardening technology, visitors can enjoy their weekly farmer’s market featuring living produce, and stay for seminars and food-education programming on organic growing practices, nutrition and overall health and wellness.
For more information on these and other stops on the Fresh Foodie Trail in Mesa City Limitless, go to www.visitmesa.com