A rotating roster of local gardeners and area artisans sell the fruits of their labors at the Community Exchange Table at the Uptown Farmers Market (photo courtesy of Community Exchange Table).

Charly Calbom had never gardened before, but in 2008 when he and his wife, Ruth, heard an NPR story about how a farmers market in downtown Phoenix was looking for local growers to sell at the market, something clicked.

“I started because I had the irrigated property, and suddenly I didn’t have the work I’d been doing,” Charly recalled.

He and Ruth had recently purchased a half-acre property, what would become known as Hadley Farmship, and he had an interest in trying his hand at organic gardening, “Mostly from environmental motivation,” he said. “I’m big believer in ‘eat food from living soil.’ And the best way to assure that is to grow from your own living soil.”

So, the couple answered that 2008 call for growers, which Charly said was made by the Phoenix Public Market director at the time, Cindy Gentry. Although their garden was not yet producing, the couple was looking to the future and volunteered to manage the newly established Community Exchange Table.

While the market has seen many changes in the past decade-plus, including a new name (now the Downtown Phoenix Farmers Market) and location (moving in 2022 from Central Avenue and McKinley Street to 5th Street and McKinley), the co-operative community booth continued to represent multiple smaller growers, agriculturists and artisans, allowing businesses to sell their surplus produce and goods to the community while relieving the stress of staffing, equipment and processes for selling. But things have changed there, too.

The nonprofit Community Exchange Table did not make the move to the new downtown location and currently sets up shop at the Uptown Farmers Market. It has also seen a few changes in managers and is now managed by Robyn Lynch. What hasn’t changed is the connections that are being made with local growers, including Stephanie Parker of Sí Cómo No Orchard & Farm (on Instagram @si_como_no_phx or www.sicomonojam.com).

“I always loved gardening, but I never really had properties that had the availability,” Parker said. “They were mostly your basic Arizona-type landscaping. When we bought this property, we bought it for the idea of it and the aesthetic. And then I just fell in love with all of it.”

Stephanie Parker grows an abundance of food on her two-acre property in North Central Phoenix, some of which she sells at the Community Exchange Table at Uptown Farmers Market each Saturday (photo by Julianne McKay @pearlblossomphotography on Instagram).

Parker and her husband purchased a two-acre property at 21st Street and Camelback Road three years ago. Since that time, she has become certified as a Master Gardener through the University of Arizona and a certified home horticulturalist. She puts that learning to work in her 1,400 square feet of raised garden beds and greenhouse.

It’s been a learning process and Parker offered encouragement to other Phoenix gardeners, “Don’t give up. It’s a lot of it is trial and error. You’re going kill a lot of things along the way. But we all do, even the master ones.”

She added, “I feel like I’ve been tasked with being a steward of this property for future generations, whether it’s my own family or whoever is here next.”

The property produces everything from star fruit, macadamia nuts, almonds, bananas, mangos, guava, berries, grapes, in addition to a seasonal rotation of vegetables.

“We’re always producing lots of fresh vegetables and then I have over 60 fruit trees of various varieties. A lot of them are tropical, subtropical, and then things that are normally grown here in Arizona like mulberries and blackberries,” Parker said.

Although she makes and sells specialty jams with the fruits of her labor, she also ends up with a lot of extra produce.


(photo by Julianne McKay @pearlblossomphotography on Instagram).

“About a year and a half ago a friend of mine suggested bringing whatever we didn’t use or share to the Community Exchange Table,” Parker said. And while she says that there are a lot of bigger farms that are popular at the market, “We also have kind of our core group of customers that love the idea that it’s coming from their neighbors.”

At any given market, Lynch says that the Community Exchange will have items from eight or 10 different rotating vendors offering everything from farm fresh eggs, locally sourced honey, fresh cut flowers and artisan goods made from local ingredients to a variety of fruits and vegetables, which will vary depending on the season. Items that will be coming to the market this summer may include things like figs, squash, cucumbers, okra, tomatoes and melons.

The Calboms sold their Hadley property in October 2022, but they continue to garden. Charly’s focus at their new property is front yard gardening, and he continues to look toward the future, “I’m hoping that by growing right out here on the corner like I am, I’ll find some youngsters who are intrigued by the idea,” he said, adding that they may even be able to return to the Community Exchange as vendors.

In the meantime, Lynch says that the booth is always looking for new gardeners to join their efforts — whether that is a backyard gardener, school, church or community garden. Gardeners can either sell at the booth, with a percentage going to Community Exchange, or donate their bounty to help keep the booth going. For information, email Lynch at robynlynch38@gmail.com or visit www.facebook.com/communityexchangetable.

The Uptown Farmers Market takes place at North Phoenix Baptist Church, 5757 N. Central Ave., and is currently open every Saturday from 7-11 a.m. For more information, call 602-859-5648 or visit www.uptownmarketaz.com.



Hello, North Central neighbor — thank you for visiting!

Sign up to receive our digital issue in your inbox each month.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.