SAFFORD — Over the past year, Max Crain and Sherri Clixby have helped prepare and orchestrate a real working farm, the fruits (and vegetables) of which are used to supply its sister operation — Our Neighbor's Pantry food bank — with fresh produce.
The farm, known as Our Neighbor's Farm, and the food bank are part of the Graham County Interfaith Alliance's mission to feed Graham County.
Crain and Clixby have plans to grow anything and everything that they can successfully produce within the given climate and environment and have thus far harvested quite a variety. The farm has produced nutrient-rich greens including kale, chard, collard, greenleaf lettuce as well as other meal-making vegetables, such as onions, broccoli and peas.
A large section of the property has been set aside for the construction of a hydroponic greenhouse, though that addition is currently in the planning phase. A few rows, however, have been protected by a similar apparatus, known as a “hoop house.” More like a stationary tent, the hoop house does not produce its own heating or cooling, though it does provide shelter for some of the more fragile plants from heat during the day and freezing temperatures at night. It was built as part of the First-time Farmers class that was facilitated by Eastern Arizona College and the University of Arizona last fall.
The class' first session on Oct. 4, 2012, was held at the farm and involved constructing the initial frame. Violent gusts of wind in December and January tore it apart, so more permanent fixtures were later added to ensure its durability.
The farm is not a first-time effort for Clixby or Crain, both having spent significant portions of their lives learning the ins and outs of maintaining a personal garden. Both consider it a great opportunity and blessing for the community, though their efforts are not without strain. Water restrictions in the Gila Valley have caused the farm's director and manager to become more creative with watering techniques. Additionally, Clixby said, there are never enough hands.
The food bank has been able to sustain a sufficient number of volunteers to maintain its operations, but in order to keep the farm running efficiently, more volunteers are needed.
For more information visit ourneighborsfarm.org.