TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) – An urban farm in the heart of Tucson seeks to keep its perspective and produce produce as fresh as possible.
Merchant’s Garden owner Bill Shriver connects with the community. Since opening the business with his son Chaz in 2016, the urban farm has only provided local restaurants and grocery stores, but the pandemic has slowed things down.
“Without the support from the neighbors I don’t think we would have made it. There are people who come here and tell us their stories and some of them say that one of the only things they did during the pandemic has been crossing our market, ”said Shriver.
The COVID-19 slowdown has also opened new doors, now Bill spends a few days a week selling fresh talapia fish and green vegetables to the public from his drive-thru and shed on the farm.
“The Arizona Community Food Bank Network approached us with this network called ‘Farmer Friends To Help You’. I can’t think of anything healthier than freshly harvested greens, ”said Shriver.
The farm at 555 South Tucson Boulevard is starting to cause a stir among neighbors. COO Danielle Fowler loves her job and says the 10,000 square foot greenhouse is a unique part of a sustainable local food chain.
“Not only do we accept cash and cards, we also accept SNAP, EBT and Farmers Market nutritional coupons. It contributes to the food system and to the security of our food system. When things stopped and logistics networks shut down during the pandemic, you know exactly where your food was coming from and you still had access to it, ”Fowler said.
The workers turn on the water and sprout the green vegetables to produce variations of lettuce and herbs. The process begins in the seed room, 35,000 to 5,000 seeds are planted on a regular basis. The trays in the farm seed room contain approximately 276 seeds per piece. Then, after about a week, the seedlings are brought to the greenhouse where they continue to grow.
“Our varieties are salvanova also known as frisee behind me, you see butter. We also have the red leaf, the green leaf and the romaine. We have basil, Thai basil, chives. The majority of our business is hydroponics which is nutrient dense water. Part of our business is aquaponics which uses the science of water and fish waste to feed plants. This side of our business is 100 percent organic, ”said Fowler.
The process of going from seed to food takes between 5 and 7 weeks depending on the weather.
“It supports your neighborhood, contributes to food insecurity, it contributes to the local economy,” Shriver said.
Merchants Garden is open Thursdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon. The fish is sold on the last Saturday of each month.
“We want to support the neighborhood even after the pandemic, we want to continue to support them like they have supported us,” said Shriver.
For more information on Merchant’s Garden, Click here.