The richly watered Verde Valley of Central Arizona has served as a breadbasket for humans for over 2,000 years. The earliest farmers were the Hohokam people, the same culture that once thrived in Phoenix’s Salt River Valley. The Hohokam developed extensive networks of irrigation canals that transformed the bottomlands of both valleys into rich agricultural areas. These canals serve as a powerful reminder of the Hohokam and their relationship to the land.
The Sinagua people entered the region around 800 AD. The Sinagua continued to use irrigation canals, but they also mastered the art of dry-farming beans, maize, squash, and other crops. The Sinagua people flourished along the Verde and its tributaries, and are responsible for the construction of Tuzigoot and Montezuma Castle, landmarks that still grace the Verde Valley today. The collapse of the Sinagua culture around 1400 AD opened the region up for new settlers. The Yavapai and then the Apache peoples arrived. Hunter-gatherers for the most part, the two cultures nevertheless continued a tradition of using the river’s vast floodplain to plant corn and other crops.
In February 1865, a group of non-native farmers from the mining camps near Prescott arrived at the confluence of West Clear Creek and the Verde River. These farmers followed in the tradition of the Verde Valley’s earliest agriculturalists — they dug irrigation canals and began applying water to bottomland. By the turn of the 20th century, settlers maintained 68 irrigation canals tapping into the Verde River and its tributaries—Beaver Creek, West Clear Creek, Oak Creek and Sycamore Creek— that watered nearly 8,000 acres of pasture, fields, and orchards.
Today, that agricultural legacy remains, although much of the water that formerly irrigated farms now waters turf and trees in the lush neighborhoods that wind through Camp Verde’s green belt. The 40 remaining irrigation ditches still water around 6,000 acres of greenspace, including production orchards, farms and gardens. The Valley’s famous sweet corn and luscious tomatoes are known statewide and its farmers market and numerous roadside stands bring visitors to town all summer long.
Heritage In Camp Verde
Here are a some places to pick up a few local grown favorites:
Ignacio Mesa, owner of Clear Creek Vineyard and Winery, was one of the first wine makers to recognize the potential the Verde Valley has to offer as a grape region. Starting over 10 years ago, Mesa has been using organic farming methods to grow his grapes that he then makes into his Rio Claro Wine. His winery and vineyard are open Wednesday through Saturday for guests to stop by and enjoy a wine tasting.
Salt Mine Wine planted grapes and developed their own vineyard and winery on a historic farm off Salt Mine Road. They have released a limited production of vintage Arizona wines. Their tasting room is open every Saturday and holidays.
Many of our restaurants source their produce and meats from local farms. With an abundance of sun all year round, and access to the Verde River, local farms can grow a variety of vegetables and fruits making this region seem more than just a desert.