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From the Farm offers treats and eats
You wouldn't necessarily expect to find a Cordon Bleu-trained pastry chef who's worked with culinary stars like Thomas Keller and Jean-Georges Vongerichten turning out cinnamon rolls alongside Yuma's “Bridge to Nowhere.”
But then you wouldn't necessarily expect to find a shabby-chic chicken coop with its own chandelier there either.
In fact, unexpected treasures are the stock in trade at From The Farm, an eclectic business that's growing along the road to Yuma Proving Ground at 5158 S. Highway 95, just past mile marker 38.
A U-pick farm at root, this improbable but charming collection also includes an artisanal bakery, taco stand, outdoor event venue and a store selling both vintage gift items and Yuma-made farm products — to include fresh eggs, once the new hens settle into their free-range diva digs.
And if that all weren't enough, plans for the winter season also include cooking, baking and canning classes, home design arts — and candlelight open-air yoga.
Now in its third season, From the Farm sprouted when Sally Nakasawa decided to grow artichokes for customers to pick alongside the barn and warehouse she built for her family business, Nakasawa Flower Farms. Long one of the nation's largest producers of dried flowers, wheat and other ornamentals, the flower farm supplies such outlets as Michael's and Hobby Lobby.
At first the farm store was leased out, but when date-shake-seeking snowbirds kept showing up in the office when the store was closed, Nakasawa moved in merchandise from the flower store she used to have in the Foothills and took over retail operations herself.
“Things just grew organically from there,” Nakasawa said with a laugh, gesturing to the ornamental iron fence that surrounds a fountain-splashed, light-bedecked patio and lawn area that accommodates both wedding receptions and yoga mats.
Adding a yeasty element to the mix this year is Rachel Ellerich Miller, a food writer and pastry chef recently arrived in Yuma, who initially approached Nakasawa about renting her kitchen.
“Sally said she wouldn't rent to me, but she'd give me a job,” Miller said. “We're both dreamers, so it's a good fit for both of us. You can't do every single thing you dream, but we are trying a lot of different ideas, putting stuff out there and seeing what hits.”
A Penn State journalism grad, Miller interned at the Pentagon and worked in public relations in Washington, D.C., before moving to Phoenix to help her brother with a business and “figure out what I wanted to write about.”
Food was the answer. That led Miller to the pastry program at Cordon Bleu culinary school, and stints with Keller's Bouchon in Las Vegas and Vongerichten's Scottsdale steakhouse before developing the bread and pastry menu at The Parlor, Chef Jared Porter's popular Phoenix restaurant.
Love brought Miller to Yuma, where her fiance is a test engineer at Yuma Proving Ground. Now she's marrying “the very best quality ingredients” with locally sourced products in such offerings as lemon curd hand pies and matrimonial cake, a Canadian favorite she's making with Medjool dates.
The audience for those efforts is as varied as the business: The store opens at 5 a.m. weekdays to lure YPG commuters with tasty pastries, breakfast burritos and quiche, but also expects to break last year's record of more than 11,000-plus date shakes served.
They also hope to draw locals out for yoga classes with Marie-Josee Griswold and creative design instruction from Suzanne Grimes, who created the gift shop mosaic that includes a plate and real silverware.
Miller will take on baking and canning instruction, with the aim of reducing the fear factor many modern-day cooks have about those old-fashioned arts.
“We want to show what you can do with local products, to educate people,” Miller said. “You should care about where your food is coming from ... this is the perfect place to demonstrate that.”
Depending on the weather, the first U-pick crops — lettuce, broccoli and other winter veggies — will be ready soon, and a class schedule will be set once “getting open” chores are wrapped up. In the meantime, store hours are 5 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The store can be reached (928) 726-2899.
To keep up with what's germinating, you can “like” From the Farm on Facebook, sign up for an email newsletter at http://eepurl.com/nUmJ9, or visit www.fromthefarmyuma.net.
Enjoy fresh fall weather with a drive up Highway 95 and look for the historic McPhaul Bridge on the left, with From the Farm nestled at its foot. Along with Arizona-roasted coffee and primo pastry, you'll find the unexpected is on the menu every day.
Ann Walker is a writer for the Yuma Visitors Bureau. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 376-0100.