By Ari LeVaux

Fresh produce, coffee-fueled gossip, baked goods, gardening advice and goat cheese are just a few reasons why the Santa Fe Farmers Market is the most happening spot in town on Saturday and Tuesday mornings. Another reason: Through Oct. 13, as part of the Cook with the Chef series, local chefs demonstrate ways to cook local bounty available at the market and hand out samples.

The goal of this program, put on by the Santa Fe Alliance and sponsored by Edible Santa Fe, is to inspire people to explore the culinary possibilities of the region and to visit area restaurants that are making an effort to cook with local ingredients.

"We want to get the message out that, by patronizing these places, people strengthen local food security," Kathleen Chambers, a program coordinator at the Santa Fe Alliance, says. Chambers also manages the sister program Farm to Restaurant, which builds ties between local farms and area eateries.

This Saturday, July 18, George Gundrey of the newly opened Atrisco Café and Bar (DeVargas Center, 193 Paseo de Peralta, 505-983-7401) serves mini-burritos made with Salem green chile and roasted leg of lamb from Talus Wind Ranch in Galisteo. The weeks that follow will feature many of the finest chefs Santa Fe has to offer, most of whom have little idea what they'll prepare until their turn approaches.

"We'll see what's popping out of the ground," Peter Zimmer of Chocolate Maven says.

In past years, Zimmer has done arepas with chicos corn topped with harissa-roasted kale, and a "local honey profile," in which several flavors of local honey, such as rosemary, lavender and juniper, were used in a multi-course tapas parade.

Kim Müller of Real Food Nation also doesn't know what will be on the plate when she cooks on Sept. 19, but in years past—when she cooked at La Mancha—she prepared lamb sausage and corn soup. Müller embraces the idea behind Farm to Restaurant: In addition to several acres of gardens that supply her restaurant, she also likes to purchase goods at the Farmers Market. But it can be challenging, she says, for chefs "to fight the crowds and get what we need and get out. I end up seeing half the people I know at the market, and it turns into a social event."

In fact, Müller says, there's been talk among members of the Farm to Restaurant program about creating a chefs-only time at the Farmers Market. The Santa Fe Alliance also is working toward brokering deals and delivery arrangement between local farms and restaurateurs.

Despite cost savings from shorter shipping distances, local foods can be more expensive than imports—especially if grown sustainably, which is more labor-intensive. Paying fair wages to workers also drives up the price. But it's a price many Santa Feans are willing to pay.

"This community as a whole seems to be pretty supportive," Müller says. "Some people think it's too expensive—those are the few people who don't understand the cost associated with eating cleaner local food."

Zimmer thinks Santa Fe's food scene is exploding, but it's just the beginning. He envisions more activities on farms that will further connect people with their food. He's working with the Santa Fe Alliance to manifest things like prix-fixe farm dinners cooked by local chefs and an interactive online map with information on who sells what at which farm, who allows berry picking, who's got beehives to look at, as well as other tips on how to "have a cool farm experience."

"We're talking way more than just hayrides in the pumpkin patch," Zimmer says.

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Cook with the Chef
10-11 am Saturdays and Tuesdays
Santa Fe Farmers Market
1607 Paseo de Peralta,

July 18: George Gundrey, Atrisco Café and Bar
July 21: Michelle Blodget, La Montañita Co-op
July 25: Melanie Milasinovich, The Sacred Way
July 28: Peter Zimmer, Chocolate Maven
Full schedule