David Elder of Elder’s Greenhouse & Garden has been growing plants commercially for 29 years, but didn’t buy his own farm until just this last year.
Elder and his wife, Pam, previously grew commercial gardens on other people’s land, he said, and have been a presence at the Farmington Growers Market since it began in 1991. Now that he owns 5 acres of his own farm dirt in Flora Vista, New Mexico, he’s bringing food and flowers to Durango for the first time in two decades.
“I grow everything that you would find in a normal home garden – just the quantities are larger,” Elder said.
In addition to flowers, Elder’s crops include okra, squash, hot peppers, jalapeños, cucumbers, tomatoes, green chile, cabbage, kale and cantaloupe.
That last item, he said, is particularly special.
“I will have the best cantaloupe you’ve ever eaten bar none,” Elder said. “The one I grow is super sweet and that extra sugar means it bruises easy, it spoils fast, it doesn’t keep in cold-storage, you can’t pick it green, you can’t stack it deep, you can’t ship it across the country. The only way to get it is to grow it yourself or have a good friend who grows it for you.”
He said that because the melons last about three days from picking to ruining, he’ll pick them on a Friday, bring them to the market on a Saturday and help customers choose them based on how quickly they plan to eat it.
Elder’s flowers are also quite popular in the municipalities south of the New Mexico border, appearing in both the city of Farmington’s medians and the big baskets on Aztec’s Main Street.
“Knowing we’re a good little nursery is kind of like a Mexican restaurant – a little hole in the wall,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where the little hole in the wall is; if you know where to find it, you can eat good.”
Elder said he doesn’t spray with insecticides and uses microbiologicals and beneficials in his greenhouse and gardens. He has shaped his practices to make sure that natural pollinators such as the native squash bees on his farm have homes and are surviving.
Now that he owns his own farm, Elder plans to eventually build a farm stand on it and move his greenhouse business there as well.