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What You Need To Know at Mortimer Farms

The average US resident has not known a farmer or grown their own food for over three generations. We open our gates because we feel it’s essential to give families the opportunity to visit a real working farm, see where food is grown, how it is grown, and have the chance to experience harvesting food!

Our land is a historic farm that was sold to developers over 17 years ago. On the farm’s last day of business over a decade ago, the minimum wage was $4.00 an hour. For seven years, this historical farm sat vacant. The weeds were as tall as our tractors. The buildings were sold, torn down, or stripped of everything, including the copper wire in the walls. The land was in distress. The mayor of Dewey-Humboldt and the development owners came to our family asking us to lease the farm, revitalize the land, and care for this historic property.

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In 2010, we began a long-term lease with the property owners of what is now known as Mortimer Farms. Our priority – revitalize the land and open our real working farm up to the public to connect to the story of their food.

Fast forward ten years, a miracle occurred at the finale of our tenth anniversary! On December 30, 2020, a remarkable turn of events led to the opportunity of bidding on the property – a shock to all those involved, including my family. Today we are thrilled to own the entirety of the property once marked for development – a property that was saved from development after 17+ years of development plans.

In the last 17+ years, the country has seen astronomical price increases. Minimum wage, seed, labor, tractors, flour, transportation, butter, packaging, fertilizer, fuel, irrigation parts, interest rates, and every item we need to farm has increased and continues to increase daily.

Our business plan’s foundation is economical pricing – prices that are competitive with others in our industry. Our prices are comparable to that of Sprouts and Wholefoods. To have similar prices to such large companies, we price shop everything. We have a running joke in our family. “Did you get the Gary deal?” If not, you better research and price compare until you find “the Gary deal”.

We feel it is essential to give back to the community and show appreciation for our neighbors. 

  • Season Passes. We have designed two season passes, especially for locals. These season passes give guests access to visit the farm for the entire year. We don’t break even on the passes but feel it’s worth the loss to give back to the community. 
  • Free Community Day. Once a year, we host a free community day. In 2022 the community day was held on May 31st. This is another event that we lose money on, but we feel it is essential to show appreciation for our neighbors. 
  • The Country Store. We harvest pumpkins, berries, and produce from our fields daily to supply the Country Store. To enjoy the Country Store and the produce that is available in the Country Store, admission is not required. 

Our sweet corn is harvested daily during the sweet corn season and is available in the Country Store. 

Iowa corn is known to be the best! My dad is from Iowa. He grew up on a corn and soybean farm. He learned to grow corn from my great-grandpa Leo, the best of the best! Although there are many differences between farming in Iowa and farming in Arizona, there are also a lot of similarities. Testing soil health, adequate water, pollination, and starting with amazing seeds are just a few things we do as we grow food for the community.

At times, things out of our control bring challenges to growing sweet corn and the other 53 crops we grow at the farm.

  1. Pollination. One of the ways we try to prevent our crops from not being pollinated adequately is by renting bees. During each growing/pollinating season, we rent thousands of bees to aid in the pollinating process.
  2. Weeds. We spend hundreds of hours a week pulling weeds by hand. We also mitigate and prevent weeds by working consistently on our soil health. We test our soil multiple times a year and use the results as we care for the soil and land. Soil testing is the foundation for nutrient management. A soil test provides baseline information about the amount of nutrients available in the soil and what is needed for healthy plant growth.
  3. Labor. The labor shortage around the country is prevalent on our farm. Farming, agritourism, and food service all required a lot of labor. Most of our farming/harvesting team has worked for our family for at least ten years. The longest employed farm crew member has worked with our family for 33 years. Our staff is amazing! They are talented, hardworking, and a part of the family. Labor continues to be a challenge. However, with this said, we finally found six more people to add to our farming/harvesting team for the rest of the season. We are excited about our new team members and all they will do to help grow food and get food from the fields into the Country Store.
  4. Corn worms. When we have a wet monsoon season, corn worms are more prevalent. Thankfully, this year worms have not been a challenge.
  5. Irrigation. Irrigation used to be a huge challenge for us at the farm. Historically this farm was irrigated by flood irrigation. The systems used a lot of unneeded water to irrigate and a lot of labor. We have converted all our fields to pivot and drip irrigation. By using these forms of irrigation, we save 95% of the water that was historically used to irrigate this land.

Mortimer Farms is not conventional, and we are not certified organic. At Mortimer Farms and farms around the country, our goal is to maintain environmental balance and promote conditions favoring beneficial insects and ideal growing conditions. We promote the survival of beneficial insects, crop diversity, and companion planting that helps beneficial insects (natural means). When harmful insects extend beyond the natural balance, and when disease threatens the crop, we use insecticides and synthetic means* from the organic list. These means are only used when necessary. This pest management and disease management program employs constant field monitoring and includes advice from pest and disease experts. Our errand is to practice smart farming that not only will provide healthy food now but will for generations and generations to come.

We grow heirloom and hybrid seed varieties based on growing conditions, farm location, field traits, livestock needs, local weather, taste, and customer demand. We also consider what will be most efficient regarding plant care, harvesting (with current farm equipment), and labor. The spectacular taste of Mortimer Farms berries and produce is because of our ability to ripen our crops on the plant. Vine-ripened tomatoes, corn, blackberries, and squash make all the difference!

Overall our crops this year have been beautiful! By creating a symbiotic relationship with mother nature and caring for the land, we can grow delicious, healthy, and beautiful crops. 

If a customer is unhappy with their produce, our policy is to replace their produce. Customer satisfaction is very important to us. 

It is a pleasure to grow food for the community! It is a pleasure to care for this farmland, its natural resources, and the animals/wildlife that call it home. We are beyond thankful for our community and the overwhelming support given to our farm and family.

I am taking a dozen ears of sweet corn home for dinner tonight. I can never wait to get home before eating at least one ear raw on the car ride home. SO SWEET!

*In the United States, federal and state laws strictly regulate the use of synthetic means. The EPA, FDA, state and county agencies all have regulatory authority governing the safe use of these means.

MortimerFarmsAZ.com beyondthebarbwire.blogspot.com

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