Late on a recent Thursday morning, Sharon Kanter carried a broad wicker basket as she walked across a sun-dappled patch of ground. She was transporting a rainbow of fruits, vegetables and other foods, a block of butter nestled in with an old-fashioned basket of blackberries.
Kanter could have been walking away from market day in a city in Europe, but she was at Bet on the Farm, the weekly farmers market at the Springs Preserve. And as often as the market is held, Kanter is there.
Initially, she said, the nature of the organic produce was the draw for her, but then the more intense flavors won her over.
"It's so much fresher than what you get in the store," she said. "You can't beat it."
She reached into a bag and pulled out a carton of eggs, pointing out their varied colors and sizes, unlike the factory-farm-produced Stepford eggs in the supermarkets. Her children, she said, were amazed when they saw the orangish yolks and realized that this is how eggs really taste.
Kanter is one of a growing number of consumers flocking to a growing number of farmers markets in the valley. The increase is attributable partly to the Slow Food movement, which is convincing more people each day that eating locally - as locally as possible, anyway - is the best way.
And there's a somewhat novel aspect of Bet on the Farm and the Downtown3rd Farmers Market, which is in the old bus-transfer center at Casino Center Drive and Stewart Avenue: They're indoors.
"I think the produce stays fresher," Kanter said.
Kerry Clasby, self-proclaimed "intuitive forager" and the founder of both markets, said the indoor locations are beneficial not only for getting produce and people out of the summer heat, but also in the winter.
"The ice-cold winds from the valley just kill the produce," Clasby said, "even more than the heat. With the heat you can use ice and water."
Plus, she said, "it's much better for customers, so much better for the people who work there. It's just humane conditions. If you're hot, you don't feel like walking down to a farmers market."
At Bet on the Farm, the room was packed with end-to-end tables and people who were situated pretty much the same way. The tables were piled with fruits and vegetables that seemed uncommonly large, uncommonly colorful. There was fresh fennel, huge spring onions, something called cocktail cukes. There was fresh pasta and breads and honey, and "organic gourmet juices made right before your eyes."
Juan Lopez, executive chef at the Hilton Garden Inn, left the market with bags containing arugula, mustard greens and cucumbers - lighter fare for summer, the cucumbers destined for housemade pickles. Lopez said he likes to stop by the market instead of simply relying on his usual purveyors.
"It's fresher," he said. "I like to support local. It's a nice interactive environment. I like to know where my produce is coming from."
And in Las Vegas, "local produce" is more local than it used to be in the days when prickly pears and alfalfa were about the only edibles that grew in the valley. Clasby said her markets carry produce from growers in Overton, Pahrump, Sandy Valley, Jean and Boulder City.
"Our summer in Las Vegas is California's winter," she said. "You have some great produce varieties from the local growers. They're able to grow things well in the winter - beets, broccoli, kale, cabbages, spinaches, herbs, just beautiful, prolific greens. You may get purslane here in Nevada in the winter. It's not even anywhere in California."
Currently, she noted, the markets have "beautiful Brooks cherries, Bing cherries, cherimoyas, and we have incredible avocados coming in full season. Heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, basil, white peaches, white nectarines, beautiful baby apricots, burrata cheese, pesto from Pahrump." And the butter - "organic, Jersey-cow, French-cultured three days, probiotic butter, 85 to 86 percent butterfat."
Clasby said customer loyalty is growing, "which is the most important thing." The markets also have an educational component, she said, with growers willing to talk about how their goods are produced, and Master Gardeners answering gardening questions.
"The produce is only as nutritious as the soil is amended," she said. "Big growers don't amend their soil."
All of the growers, she said, bring organic produce; she brings some items from California that are pesticide-free but not certified organic.
"But I know the farmers, and I know their growing processes," she said. "They're on top of telling me everything about the other farmers, too. It's all about the traceability of our food."
The markets also carry plenty of offbeat items, such as limequats, Bordeaux spinach, green almonds and caviar limes, which are fruits of Australian origin that contain little egglike sacs of lime juice.
Plus locally roasted coffee and organic tamales and gluten-free waffles. And more.
Farmers market prices tend to be higher than those in the supermarket, but Kanter said she doesn't mind.
"You pay a little bit more," she said. "I try not to think about that, because I feel like you get quality food."
While some of the outdoor markets have occasionally gone on hiatus during the more inclement parts of the year, Clasby said the indoor markets will be open year-round.
Which is surely good news for Denise and Dan McGrew, who were paying their first visit to Bet on the Farm. Recent transplants from Kansas City, Mo., they were surprised by the comparatively small size of the valley's markets. But they were enthusiastic about what they found. The reason?
"Fresh vegetables," she said.
"The freshness and the taste," he echoed.
And then, as she looked down at one of the bags in her hand:
"I'm very anxious to try these tomatoes."
Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at email@example.com or 702-383-0474.