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Master Gardeners Lead the Way in Gardening Practices for Globe-Miami

Pat and Manny Romero of the Sunrise Chili Garden. Photo by Jenn Walker

This year the Globe-Miami Farmers market enters third year, thanks to the people behind it. Before Globe-Miami had a farmer’s market, it had a small core of dedicated growers, people in the community who have learned how to work with the unique climate and soil of this area to grow fresh food.

Forget the books when it comes to gardening here. The School of Hard Knocks taught local grower Pat Romero everything she knows.

“Any books about desert or high desert gardening don’t apply to Globe-Miami, so don’t bother reading them,” Pat says abruptly.

“There is different soil, different climate, different everything here.”

Jerry Ulum gives a class on bBuilding a greenhouse at a class in January.Photo by Jenn Walker 2013


Pat and her husband Manuel began gardening together in the ’50s and ’60s when they lived in Gilbert. After they relocated here, they began selling what they grew, before the farmers market existed. It started with some leftover tomatoes at their yard sale 15 years ago.

Someone asked, “Why don’t you sell these every year?”

So they did. Now they own and operate a small business out of their home, the Sunrise and Sunset Chile & Herb Garden, where they grow and sell peppers, eggplants, tomatoes and herbs.

The Romeros, like most of the market’s growers, share one thing in common – this is something they have been doing most of their lives.
Lucky for us, three years ago these growers banded together to share the fruits of their labor with the community, and with the help of the University of Arizona extension office, we now have the Globe-Miami Farmers Market.

In mid-February, long before the farmer’s market begins, 13 of them are already holding an evening meeting over coffee to discuss the market season. Amongst those present are the Romeros, as well as former market president Cayci Vuksanovich and current president Jerry Ullum. They take a vote. The market is set to start June 8 and finish by October 5.

Pat Romero demonstrates how to start plants from seed. She and her husband Manuel Romero run their small growing business Sunrise and Sunset Chile & Herb Garden out of their home in Globe. Photo by Jenn Walker 2013

Vuksanovich always remembers having a summer garden. Her father is from Yuma, which has a huge farming community.

Her gardening career began unexpectedly, however, when she came home to Globe from college. While she had been away, her father opened up a feed store and garden center on her family’s property at Matlock Gas. The first thing she noticed walking into her father’s business is that the hired hand was incompetent, for lack of a better word, and she fired him on the spot. Realizing she had just fired her father’s only employee, Vuksanovich had no choice but to take his place running the business.

She eventually opened and ran her own nursery in the same space, which she operated until 1997. It was an exhausting business, she remembers.

“Every day my seven-year-old daughter had a hose in hand,” she says.

Around 1983, Vuksanovich completed the Master Gardener’s program, when few people in the area were involved. In the late ’80s she began hosting her own gardening program, “Bee in the Garden”, on Kiko News. To this day she is still a host. When I met with her she had just finished discussing how to handle a bag worm.

Fortunately, gardening has gone mainstream in the last 15 years, she points out, as people are becoming more aware of how easy gardening is.

“I don’t believe people have black thumbs,” Vuksanovich insists. “It’s a matter of paying attention to your plants.”

Like her counterparts, a farmers market in Globe-Miami had been on her mind for years. Garden-fresh food is more important now more than ever, she says. Produce in stores just don’t cut it.

“Stores grow tomatoes so they can be shipped, they don’t grow them so they will taste good,” she explains.

“So those tomatoes you see at the grocery store have been scientifically altered by the seeds and the chemicals they use to grow them with to be good shipping tomatoes.”

Thus, once the market began, she was in it for the long run. The first year the market was held, she sold pears, apples, pomegranates, tomatoes and peppers. For the last two years she has been the market president.

Since the farmers market rotates positions every two years, this year Vuksanovich passed the baton on to Jerry Ullum, the new farmers market president.

Ullum pictured with Sarah Renkert, a former AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer who was heavily involved with the Globe-Miami farmers market through the Arizona University Extension Office
Ullum pictured with Sarah Renkert, a former AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer who was heavily involved with the Globe-Miami farmers market through the Arizona University Extension Office. Photo byJenn Walker 2013

“I was roped into it,” he says cheerfully. On a very sincere note, he adds, “I’ll do whatever it takes to keep the farmers market going.”

Like Vuksanovich, there has rarely been a time where Ullum wasn’t gardening. He grew up on a farm in Wichita, Kansas, where his family raised all of their own food, and his mother canned everything from beans to pickles. He eventually migrated west in search of work, and wound up in Tempe and eventually Young.

He still lives in Young, where he tends the McGowen Circle Ranch.

Two acres are dedicated to growing produce for the farmers market. Much of what he grows, including cauliflower, broccoli, summer squash, cabbage, carrots, beets and lettuces, grows beneath his handmade hoop houses, extending the length of his growing season.

Once a week, he commutes from Young to Globe, selling his homegrown produce to several local restaurants, in addition to the farmers market during the growing season.

He has been selling at the market every year.

“You better be passionate if you’re going to sell,” he says, “because you’ll never get rich from it.”

Usually a vendor makes just enough to keep their operation running. Which is fine, because the reward is in what this market brings to the community, he says – naturally-grown, quality produce.

Ullum avoids pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers at all costs. He makes his own compost, and wood chips to use for mulch. He uses all-natural soap for a pesticide, and takes the time to pick off potato bugs and squash beetles from his plants. Perhaps the most labor-intensive task is keeping weeds under control.

Right now he is growing fruit, including raspberries and blueberries. This year he should have strawberries to sell, as well as asparagus.

Growing is a year-long affair. Even as I spoke with the Romeros over coffee, they warned that their time was limited.

They still had to get home and plant.

“Everyday we’re planting,” they said.

Like Ullum, the Romeros makes their own compost. By the first week of January, they are planting their tomatoes, peppers, and herbs, mostly from seed.

For them, variety is key. In any given year they might grow 50 to 60 varieties of tomato. They will carry six to eight chili varieties, like the Biker Billy and Mucho Nacho, ranging from mild to spicy.

For several months, their seeds remain in seed containers beneath 40-watt fluorescent shop lights. Once the plants sprout, they are transplanted into gallon containers. Usually the Romeros end up with 2,000 to 3,000 plants, sometimes more.

“I get carried away,” Pat confesses sheepishly.

What’s important is that they grow plants that do well here and can tolerate the heat and drought conditions, she says. After that, it’s smooth sailing.

“Once you learn the rules, you can break them,” she says with a grin.

About Jenn Walker

Jenn Walker began writing for Globe Miami Times in 2012 and has been a contributor ever since. Her work has also appeared in Submerge Magazine, Sacramento Press, Sacramento News & Review and California Health Report. She currently teaches Honors English at High Desert Middle School and mentors Globe School District’s robotics team.

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