Vegetable garden grows on historic Riggs farm SanTan Sun News

By COLLEEN SPARKS. Staff

Crowds eager to eat fresh fruits and vegetables from the ground flock to a farmers market where they also get a taste of history.

Cameron and Jeannine McChesney grow seasonal vegetables, fruits and herbs and raise egg-laying hens which they sell in their greenhouse gardens on East Chandler Heights Road every Saturday.

The couple run their outdoor farmers market on four acres of land they bought last year between Gilbert and Cooper Roads and which was once owned by the famous Riggs family. Visitors can still walk around the original barn, built in 1950, as well as see the tools used by Lyle Riggs and the family’s antique tractor.

“Everything grew on the property,” said Jeannine. “Everything is free of chemicals and pesticides. We’re just growing old-fashioned things. It’s clean food. We show people how you can do it, too, in your backyard. Everyone can do it.

Jeannine and Cameron, who also own a marketing / advertising / PR company called Greenhouse Creative, grow the food themselves.

They say the product is ideal for anyone with food allergies who is sensitive to fruits and vegetables treated with pesticides, as well as for people with weakened immune systems. They say their products will make people feel better and have more energy.

“We can take you out and show you where the beet was taken out yesterday,” Cameron said.

The McChesney Market is open every Saturday except August.

The organic free-range eggs come from 13 hens the couple owns on their property, as well as many chickens owned by two neighbors.

Kelly Penuela, who lives in the area, enjoys shopping for produce at Greenhouse Gardens.

“I love that it’s an organically grown garden half a mile from my house that has some amazing products,” Penuela said. “Not to mention that they are friends of ours! It’s just a bonus, however. They have such knowledge and passion for what they do. It shows in what they grow up to and how they interact with their customers.

Customer Deanna Reynolds also enjoys food from the local Farmer’s Market.

“I like that Greenhouse Gardens is local and doesn’t use harmful chemicals and pesticides to grow its produce,” she said. “My family can’t stand eating grocery store lettuce anymore. Greenhouse Gardens completely spoiled us with their varieties of lettuce.

“We hardly ever use salt or dressing in our salads anymore. Our 8 year old son loves their carrots and loves being able to help Jeannine and Cameron pick them.

Many other people praised the quality of the vegetables and other foods, as well as the friendly owners on the Greenhouse Gardens Facebook page.

“I just discovered this little gem around the corner from the house,” Susanna Orozco Rios posted on Facebook. “The owners Jeanine and Cameron gave me a very warm welcome. Beautiful vegetables and atmosphere. I’ll be back!”

William Leroy Jenkins also expressed his enthusiasm for Greenhouse Gardens.

“This place is awesome!” he posted on Facebook. “You can look around and see the vegetables growing there. I can’t be cooler than this. I love it and we try to go every Saturday and refuel for the week.

Cathy Ward wrote that she has “severe food allergies and chemical sensitivities” and gets most of her produce at Greenhouse Gardens because their fruits and vegetables are not chemically processed.

“I don’t tolerate any grocery store product, not even certified ‘organic’ by the USDA,” Ward said. “Jeannine and Cameron go out of their way to choose my orders for me each week due to my severe allergies and sensitivities and are very caring and lovely people as well as very talented farmers. Their mandarins and grapefruits are the only ones I have been able to tolerate for years because they are truly grown the way nature intended.

Ward’s experience isn’t new, said John Zortman, owner of John’s Amish Country, which sells produce in downtown Phoenix and at Goodyear. He sells “non-genetically modified” apples, grapefruits, oranges and lemons. Genetically modified foods have had their DNA altered in a way that does not occur naturally through mating and / or natural recombination.

“I think it’s very important to know where you get your food from,” Zortman said. “The biggest problem we have right now is genetic modification, which affects your gut. You see a lot more irritable bowel syndrome, bowel problems. This follows the introduction of Roundup into the food system. Roundup is a weedkiller.

He said the opening of Greenhouse Gardens was “awesome”.

“It’s wonderful,” Zortman said. “This is a good, positive trend that we need and not just in our local communities but across the food supply in general.”

Beth McRae of Paradise Valley said she goes to “a lot of farmers markets” and loves “the sound of Greenhouse Gardens”.

“I love Farmers Markets for their fresh produce, delicious food, and artisan products,” McRae said.

Everything that customers buy on Saturdays, when the market is open from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., was harvested either the day before or two days before the sales. About 50 people usually come to the Saturday market, often grabbing much of the produce from a table in the first hour.

Usually about 15 different kinds of vegetables are sold in each market and about five or six different herbs and four to five different kinds of fruits.

Some of the herbs they grow are thyme, oregano, garlic, and basil. On a recent Saturday, visitors could purchase lettuce, rainbow chard, kale, Chinese cabbage, tangerines, green onions, bell peppers, hot peppers, bell peppers, carrots and eggplants. .

Buyers can find unusual varieties of vegetables that they might not find in grocery stores, including ping tung, an Asian eggplant that looks like a purple cucumber.

Cameron said he and Jeannine try to keep their prices reasonable and comparable to what shoppers would find in Whole Foods stores.

A bag of eggplant costs $ 2, a bag of peppers costs $ 3, a head of lettuce costs $ 3, and a dozen farm-fresh eggs cost $ 6.

Lettuce and carrots are among the most popular vegetables that customers buy at Greenhouse Gardens. Detroit red beets are also a big hit.

“Everyone really loves a freshly grown carrot,” Cameron said.

“Our lettuce is so tender, delicious and healthy,” said Jeannine. “It’s more efficient in your body.”

Mandarins and red grapefruits are big sellers among fruits.

Cameron and Jeannine also sold some of their produce to local restaurants.

Jeannine said that she enjoys the world of marketing, but also very much enjoys growing and selling food on the farm.

“I like the design; I love advertising, ”said Jeannine. “It was a new challenge. I like to work outdoors. It’s really good for the mind, body and soul. I sleep better. I have the impression of changing, of making things happen. We have a lot of families arriving with young children, retirees, people who are trying to eat healthier foods.

She and Cameron have said they are longtime gardeners. Cameron and Jeannine had started growing vegetables in their garden and giving them to friends.

“The seed was being planted,” Jeannine said. “We traded our full-time job for our passion and our hobby. “

The couple decided to get into farming more seriously in 2014 and set up a garden in their friend’s backyard, where they grew vegetables. They sold produce at a farmers market in Gilbert for about a year.

“We loved it and had a great response,” Cameron said.

Jeannine and Cameron purchased approximately two and a half acres on the former Riggs property in February of last year from the late nephew of Willetta Riggs. Willetta and her husband, Lyle, bought the property in 1948 and raised their five children there. Their youngest daughter, Sherrill Sumrall, later lived in another part of the property with her husband, Dan Sumrall, until they sold the rest of the family land to Jeannine and Cameron.

Sherrill, now 67, said her family raised chickens, cows, horses and equipment on the land where Greenhouse Gardens is located, but it is grown in other areas of Chandler. She said she loved growing up in the rural area with her grandparents, uncle and cousins ​​nearby.

“We all grew up together there,” Sherrill said. “We all met and rode horses. Life was much simpler then.

Sherrill is happy that Cameron and Jeannine now run Greenhouse Gardens on the site.

“They are very nice and they have been very nice,” she said. “They let some of the family come back and take pictures near the store. We had tried to make a garden; we were just too far ahead of ourselves at the time. I raised some really good tomatoes. People from Scottsdale, Carefree and Phoenix were driving to pick tomatoes. We have tried a little of everything.

“I’m glad they and Cameron are able to do what they’re doing. It’s necessary. People have to be able to go and get fresh vegetables and everything.

Sherrill and Dan now live in Fort Thomas in Graham County, about 30 miles northwest of Safford.

Cameron said he and Jeannine were honored to be the first people outside the Riggs family to live on earth.

He and his wife rent the facade of the old farmhouse to a family and use the rest for their business. Jeannine said the farm was built in the 1930s. Cameron and Jeannine live in a house in the neighborhood.

Lyle Riggs was born in 1916 in Mesa and his father operated a farm on Jep Peterson’s land, located a mile and a half south of Williams Field Road on Gilbert Road, according to an oral history from the Chandler Museum.

Willetta was born in 1917 on John and Fanny Nelson Farm in Gilbert Road and Chandler Heights Road, according to Chandler-Gilbert Community College’s “Driving Chandler’s Streets, The History of Chandler’s Streets as said by CGCC Students”. Lyle and Willetta met at Chandler High School.

Lyle’s family moved to different farms between Gilbert and Chandler and as a young man Lyle worked for various farms, including harvesting hay for the Chandler Improvement Company, according to the CGCC report.

Lyle Riggs created a planter, a device for spreading seeds, on a chassis of a Ford Model A vehicle, and the prototype is in the Chandler Museum, said Nate Meyers, curator of the Chandler Museum collections.

“It was such a great little piece of innovation and ingenuity,” Meyers said. “They sold the idea to John Deere. The Riggs have obviously contributed a lot to this community.

He said Greenhouse Gardens “sounds like a really cool idea. It looks like a great reuse of this historic farmland.

The Greenhouse Gardens Farmer’s Market is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon at 13103 East Chandler Heights Road. Information: facebook.com/GreenhouseGardensAZ.


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Terri S. Tomasini