Urban farming in Tucson: selling greens and fish to the community

 An urban farm in the heart of Tucson is looking to keep its perspective and produce as fresh as possible. Merchants Garden owner Bill Shriver is connecting with the community. Since opening the business with his son Chaz in 2016, the urban farm only supplied local restaurants and grocery stores, but the pandemic slowed things down.

"Without the support of the neighbors, I don’t think we would've made it. There are people who come through here and tell us their stories and some of them say one of the only things they did during the pandemic come through our market,” Shriver said.

The COVID-19 slowdown also opened new doors: now Bill spends a few days a week selling fresh Tilapia fish and greens to the public from his drive-thru and shed on the farm. “The Arizona Community Food Bank Network approached us with this network called "Friends of the Farmer" to help. I can’t think of anything healthier than freshly harvested greens,” Shriver said.

The farm located at 555 South Tucson Boulevard is starting to make a splash with neighbors. Operations manager Danielle Fowler loves her work and says the 10,000 square foot greenhouse is a unique part of a sustainable local food chain.

Workers keep the water flowing and the greens growing to produce variations of lettuce and herbs. The process starts in the seed room, anywhere from 3,500 to 5,000 seeds are planted on a regular basis. Trays in the farm seed room hold about 276 seeds apiece. Then after about a week or so, 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 red leaf, green leaf, and romaine. We have basil, Thai basil, chives. The majority of our business is hydroponics which is a nutrient-dense water. A portion of our business is aquaponics which is using the science of fish water and fish waste to feed the plants. That side of our business is 100 percent organic,” Fowler said.

Read the complete article at www.kgun9.com.

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