Hello and welcome to Tonopah Rob’s Vegetable Farm website. Thirty-eight years ago, I picked up gardening as a hobby, a pastime that eventually led me to the challenge of farming the desert. I have lived in Tonopah, Arizona, the home of my all-natural fruit and vegetable farm for the past fourteen years.
My property is a small five-acre farm. Originally, the intent was to farm using purely organic methods. Unfortunately, though, as large corporations and the federal government became involved with organic certification, small farmers such as me were being priced out of getting the “certified organic” label. A small farm must now pay between $400 and $1,400 per crop for certification, annual fees, plus the cost of the inspection which includes travel expenses for the inspector.
Growing everything myself, the produce sold at my farm stand is chemical-free and better than organic. I use NO pesticides of any kind, NO insecticides, ZERO antibiotics, NO chemical fertilizers, and absolutely NO genetically modified organisms. Certain sprays and soaps are allowed in organic farming, but at Tonopah Rob’s Vegetable Farm I practice an all-natural method using beneficial bug warfare, green compost, natural fertilizers, and companion planting as my strategy and line of defense.
I employ thousands, possibly millions of beneficial insects on my farm. Over two-million lady bugs have been released here, as well as thousands of praying mantis, over twenty-thousand green lace wings, and countless wasps. Bees, spiders of all kinds, and even scorpions make up part of the troops. Other reinforcements such as lizards and whiptails, frogs, toads, snakes and iguanas patrol day and night, gobbling up bad bug intruders. Hawks and roadrunners help keep sparrows, quail and larger insects away from my lush mustard and turnip greens
Some pests slip through my best efforts, this is part of the price of trying to do business while avoiding harmful substances that I believe should not come in to contact with your or my food. I try to rid my farm of gophers, squirrels, and rabbits with humane traps and natural methods while avoiding more convenient poisons. Squash bugs are a fact of life here and have a devastating effect on my winter squash; I hope that crop rotation and smart companion planting will keep infestations of future crops at bay. While some destructive pests are a fact of life on an all-natural farm and beneficial insects are preferred, all I can do is plant the trees, shrubs, bushes, and flowers to attract the good guys in abundance and wreck havoc for the bad guys.
Amazing to most guests of my free farm tour is that my farm is home to such a wide variety of life, both plant and animal. Of course this starts with the very soil that is supporting it all. Over the years I have turned tens of thousands of pounds of green composting fertilizer back in to the earth. I plant using the crop rotation method to ensure that soil builders such as beans and peas will enrich a plot for brassicas such as cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. Tomatoes thrive when planted where a crop of carrots once grew. Onions, beets, garlic, and potatoes do well when grown after the brassicas.
My water is pumped from an underground source that has been tested by an independent facility in California who informed me that my water is free of contaminants but does have a slightly elevated salt level (which is normal for these parts).
By now you might be asking, what precisely do I grow at Tonopah Rob’s Vegetable Farm? I’ll start by letting you know that my growing season begins in late September and ends in mid to late July. The height of summer is actually my winter, since it is too hot here in the desert to sustain vegetable farming. During the rest of the year you will find more than 60 species of fruits and vegetables with more than 200 varieties under cultivation. Naturally, the harvest of those plantings varies on a weekly basis but on any given Saturday visitors will find a large bounty of fresh produce. During the winter months I am well stocked with spinach, turnips, lots of lettuce, radishes, citrus, broccoli, carrots, and cabbage. Over late spring into early summer you will find tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, eggplant, cucumbers, potatoes, beans, squash and a lot more. An example of the abundance you can find here at Tonopah Rob’s Vegetable Farm stand, for the weekend of June 14th, 2008 I had more than 400 pounds of tomatoes for sale. I also had 81 pounds of beans, 249 pounds of squash, 190 pounds of onions, 39 pounds of eggplant, 51 pounds of cucumbers, 3 pounds of basil in addition to carrots, beets, bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, garlic, chard, and potatoes. All told, I brought more than 1,300 pounds (589kg) of produce to market that weekend alone.
Market hours: Open every Saturday and Sunday from 8 to noon. Summer hours: 7 to 11 a.m. Currently, the farm is closed on Sundays until March.
To visit Tonopah Rob’s Vegetable Farm and if you are coming from the Phoenix area:
The Farm Stand will open the first weekend of November 3, 2012.
Address is: 35838 W. Buckeye Rd. Tonopah, Arizona
My farm is only about 30 minutes from the I-10 and 101 Loop intersection. Be careful following online mapping services including Google, Yahoo Maps, and Map quest as they often direct you to turn on Van Buren – this is a mistake that will have you on the wrong street with no easy access to my farm! Telephone: 623-386-3033
To visit the Stock Shop Farmers Market on Sundays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. This market will open Sunday December 9, 2012 and will continue through late June/mid July 2013. Closed for holidays. Summer hours are 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. beginning June 1, 2013.
On the second and fourth Sunday of each month, Tonopah Rob will be selling at the Creative Living Fellowship from 10 to 1 p.m.
Address is: 6530 N. 7th St. Phoenix, AZ 85014