These Local Agricultural Businesses are Cultivating Community and Food
From ground-breaking greenhouses to grass-roots education, these companies have their green thumbs on the pulse of produce.
Taste of Paradise
Keeping fit was always important to Tony Walker. But when he decided to help others do the same while also supporting local growers, that personal passion quickly became professional.
His research into community supported agriculture (CSA) sparked Taste of Paradise, his Gilbert-based curator of farm-fresh local produce boxes that are available to consumers at several pickup spots across the Valley, including Chandler, Queen Creek and Gilbert, each week.
Walker partners with Arizona farms to increase the variety of produce and include harder-to-find items like persimmons, green cauliflower and purple carrots.
“What they can’t find in grocery stores are specialty items that only local farmers will grow,” says Walker, who started the company in 2014.
Each box is packed with selected organic in-season produce. Customers place their orders and have the option to substitute items—a detail that Walker says is key to his success. The demand for more organic produce has also fueled business, as is the desire to support local.
“It’s important to reach out to the community and educate them on why it’s important to support their local famers that organically grow for them,” he says.
When Oren Molovinsky moved to Chandler from the Washington, D.C., area seven years ago with his wife Diana and their children, they yearned to do what they did back east: Connect people with local farmers and their produce. Diana, who hails from an agricultural family, also dreamed of having her own farm.
On the east coast, Diana and her siblings set up produce stands in shopping center parking lots and sold heirloom produce from local farmers. Oren served as the point person between local farmers and fine dining restaurants.
So when the housing development plans for the land across the street from their home became a casualty of the recession, the Molovinskys saw destiny before their eyes.
“In our minds, we were saving farm land,” Oren says of their decision to purchase the property in 2012, which would become Molovin Farm.
The three-and-a-half-acre farm specializes in fruit trees but also grows vegetables, all without pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers. Weed control is done by hard-working and ravenous goats on the property.
The family’s new fast-casual restaurant, Farmboy, will serve locally grown meats, grains, dairy and produce. Farmboy is slated to open in April 2018 in the southwest corner of Alma School and Queen Creek roads.
What began as a YouTube channel to document their personal agricultural journey became a much welcomed career change for Brandon and Alyssa Owens.
“Just having it in my backyard showed them that it is possible,” Brandon says of his sprawling and productive home garden in San Tan Valley. “More people started reaching out to us.”
The success of Greenie’s Garden, their business that offers planting, feeding and other services, enabled the Owenses to quit their wearisome corporate finance gigs a year ago in favor of what they felt was more stimulating work.
Today, the couple assists clients Valleywide in achieving what they have done. Raised garden beds primed for fresh herbs and vegetables is the most popular request.
“It’s a big reason why clients want to grow their own food, to lower their carbon footprint,” Alyssa says. “They also want to be responsible for the food they eat.”
A compound pharmacist by trade, Troy Albright’s first career sprouted his second as an urban farmer that grows produce with an innovative twist.
The idea to start True Garden, a Mesa solar-powered greenhouse that houses commercial tower gardens, with his wife Lisa in 2015, arose when he realized pharmacy patients were not getting adequate nutrition through their food, even if it was organic.
Growing produce in a specialized mineral- and nutrient-rich soil is Albright’s way of reversing that pattern. The multiple towers allow Albright to grow exponentially more plants than traditional gardens in 90 percent less space. It also results in his more nutritious produce growing 30 percent faster than organic versions.
True Garden is the first of its kind facility in the nation operated by solar power. One hundred panels fuel the greenhouse that is powerful enough to defy Arizona summers by boasting the capability to produce most cool season crops year round.
“This is all about health and wellness and that starts with what we put in our bodies,” he says. “My ultimate goal is to educate the community and show them that you can do this in your own backyard.”