It’s 9 a.m. at the Bet on the Farm! farmers market, and Kerry Clasby is trying to procure a sample of burrata cheese, nipping at a crate of tender salad greens and singing the pleasures of fresh pea tendrils all in the same breath.
“Taste the difference between these two strawberry varieties,” she insists, pointing to a table full of the crimson fruit. “I also want you to try a jar of my heirloom tomatoes. Have you ever had a strawberry guava? What about a caviar lime?”
It’s difficult not to fall under a spell. Friendly and frenetic, Clasby—also known as the Intuitive Forager—is one of the main suppliers of this weekly market. Every Thursday, she drives from her Thousand Oaks, Calif., warehouse to Las Vegas’ Springs Preserve with a truckload of seasonal comestibles sourced from up and down the Pacific Coast. This week’s bounty includes thumb-size baby avocados, artisanal rye bread from the Bay Area and fresh hearts of palm.
The selection leaves some patrons delighted and others scratching their heads. “What are cardoons and what do you do with them?” asks a young man, inspecting a basket of the green stalks. At a nearby table, a female shopper touches a regal-looking head of Romanesco broccoli. “What on earth?” she asks.
Whether or not you know what to do with them, Clasby’s hard-to-find goods are finally available for more than three hours per week. On March 9, she and business partner Cheryl MacPherson, in association with Fifth Street Gaming, will unveil the Downtown 3rd Farmers Market every Friday in the city’s former bus terminal near Stewart Avenue.
The 10,000-square-foot space is expected to rival the noted food halls and farmers markets of other major cities. “The idea is to replicate the best existing markets,” Clasby says. “If you like San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza or the Union Square Greenmarket in New York, we can compete with them.”
The tone is less coast-envy, more Las Vegas pride. Clasby, a former resident, is confident that locals want and deserve access to good, organic food. The proof is in the numbers: In addition to the countless chefs she supplies on the Strip (her restaurant roster includes Sage, CraftSteak and Carnevino), the tiny room that houses Bet on the Farm! sees up to 800 visitors a week.
While Clasby and her team will continue to be a mainstay at the Thursday market, she hopes that Downtown 3rd will draw an even larger crowd. The terminal will not only host the same growers and artisanal food producers as Bet on the Farm!, but will also include prepared food stands and trucks, a coffee bar and chef demos.
She adds that the neighborhood is ideal for the project. “I like the vibe and the fact that there’s a community of like-minded people here,” Clasby says. “There’s a synergy that’s happening with the arrival of entrepreneurs and young artists, and out of this one movement comes a concern for what we’re doing to the earth and how we’re caring for our bodies.”
Of course, the market and its mission are not limited to neighborhood residents. “There’s a misconception that downtown is too far away for some people, but from anywhere in Vegas, you’re talking about 15 minutes for access to the freshest, locally grown food in the city.”
Just as important as the food is access to Clasby’s evangelical exuberance and expertise. So if you’re confounded by cardoons, don’t be afraid to ask questions. A quick conversation with Clasby may inspire you to reconsider your dinner, your overall diet and the future of downtown Las Vegas.