Farmers drive their own market to EV - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Farmers drive their own market to EV

March 15th, 2019 development
Farmers drive their own market to EV

By Coty Dolores Miranda, Contributor

Every Friday afternoon, a classic 1964 GMC one-ton cherry-red truck rolls into the parking lot of Ahwatukee’s Century 21 Arizona Foothills and is greeted by its host, Realtor Andrew Eiferle.

The truck is the rolling shop for Amadio Ranch, a family-owned and operated organic foods farm that opened in 2010.

Known as the Peach Truck, the vehicle contains a plethora of fresh produce and an assortment of home-baked pies, cobblers, cinnamon rolls and other treats – including raw honey produced by their own bees and organic eggs laid by the family’s 50 chickens.

The Peach Truck, which visits Ahwatukee every Friday from 3:30-6:30 p.m., is also becoming a fixture at special events throughout the East Valley.

Though the Amadio Ranch at 4701 E. Dobbins in Laveen is where their 1.5-acre organic farm is located, the trucks showcase the family’s wares throughout the region. It’s at the Sixth Street Market in Tempe 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Sunday through April 14.

The Amadio Ranch echoes an era when small family farms were common throughout the Valley.

Even the vintage-inspired business logo – a picture-perfect ripe peach against a background of green rolling hills and orchards – hearkens a simpler time.

“We had that logo specially designed to look like turn-of-the-century fruit box labels,” said Eric Amadio, who owns and operates the ranch with his wife, Christina. “We use it on all our products, our t-shirts and canvas shopping totes. We’re looking to do more branded type wear in the future.”

The logo also reflects one of the Amadio Ranch mainstays.

“We’re primarily a peach farm. Peaches are what we’re famous for more than anything and it’s what makes us unique,” explained Eric Amadio.  “We farm more varieties of peaches and have a longer season than any other peach orchards in Phoenix. Actually, there are only two others left – Schnepf Farms and Pinnacle Farms.”

Peaches grown on Amadio Ranch are available months longer than other farms.

“We’re the only local orchard that offers May, June, July and August peaches. All others only mainly offer May peaches and maybe slightly into first week of June,” he said.

“On top of that, we also grow apples, figs, grapes, apricots, plums, pluots, pears and oranges. But it’s the peaches that really gets everyone excited, and in the beginning, we thought we would only run the trucks during the peach season. But we soon discovered there’s a market for running our trucks all year long, so that’s what we now do.”

The small acreage at the Amadio Ranch also yields a wide assortment of vegetables – all organic and tended by the couple, their two children – daughter Casey, 20, and son Eric, Jr., 15 – and two part-time employees.

In summer season, they grow tomatoes, sweet corn, squashes including zucchini and butternut, watermelons, cantaloupes, okra, cucumbers, garlic and onions. Winter brings lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, kale, collard greens, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, radishes and carrots.

Less familiar items such as Swiss chard, collard greens and kohlrabi were the impetus for their ‘Friday Facebook Live’ cooking program featuring Amy Trusler, an Amadio Ranch regular customer who provides tips and recipes.

The family found their ranch property while living in downtown Phoenix, Christina Amadio said.

“It was just an abandoned homestead, and pretty neglected. It had three mature fruit trees on the property – a plum, a pear and an apricot – but it also had SRP irrigation water,” she said. “We had all this water and were just growing grass and Eric said, ‘Why don’t we grow more?’ So we planted our first garden.”

Neither Eric nor Christina came from farming backgrounds. Christina moved from Illinois to Chandler at age 16 and Eric grew up in Chandler. They met in band at Chandler High School.

Christina’s interest in the Laveen property grew from her love of horses, and the desire to keep her horses nearby rather than stabling them, which was costly.

“This has always been a dream of mine,” she said, looking around her neatly-kept property with an old-fashioned windmill creaking overhead. “It’s really a blessing we got this house.”

The ranch also has cattle – Corriente, Holstein and Limousin all crossed with Angus. Family pets include some goats, three dogs, four cats and a potbellied pig named Harriet Plopper.

“The animals are kinda my thing,” laughed Christina. “I always wanted to have a little farm.”

The Ranch house porch is where the refrigerated units holding produce, preserves and pies are located, as well as their honors system payment jar for customers when no one is available to assist them. A nearby detached garage will soon house a commercial kitchen.

She said as much as she enjoys making the pies, cobblers and cinnamon rolls with her daughter, it’s introducing the garden and the value of organic, homegrown produce to youngsters that makes her day complete.

“To see a little 4-year-old pull a carrot out of the ground and see the joy on his face, well, that’s really a driving force that helps keep us going,” she said. “That’s the fun part.”

Each of Amadio Ranch’s Peach Trucks is unique with their own backstory.

The Big Red that arrives Friday afternoons in Ahwatukee had a ‘frame-off’ restoration by a Verde Valley classic truck enthusiast; their white Lil’ Joe is a 1966 Chevrolet and was the first truck purchased to convert into a Peach Truck; Bertha, a yellow 1949 Chevy two-ton, was formerly a farm truck in Casa Grande; Sandy, a GMC two-ton was bought new by Glendale’s Sanderson Farms in 1948 and was lovingly restored by the Amadios, who painted it the original teal blue color as shown in old photographs.

The Ranch’s oldest Peach Truck is a 1941 GMC two-ton named Pearl. It was one of the last trucks built before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, after which GM began building military vehicles.

“These trucks hearken back to a time when things were smaller and more local, Eric Amadio said. “It’s difficult to stand out in an industry that can do things so much cheaper and more efficiently than a small family farm can. The Peach Trucks help us promote an image of old-fashioned ways and values, which is at the core of how and why we do all this.”

Customers like local Realtor Pamela Gottlieb – a 21-year Ahwatukee resident who has been going to the Amadio Ranch Peach Truck for more than a year – are first attracted to their peaches.

But Gottlieb said as much as she loves the fruit, it is the service that stands out.

“The Peach Truck girls are very sweet and helpful. If you’re not sure how to prepare a vegetable or you have questions, they’re great about explaining,” she said.

“I had surgery last year and missed several weeks going to the Peach Truck in Ahwatukee because I couldn’t drive,” Gottlieb added. “Their daughter, Casey, put a video post on Facebook that she was worried about her lost customer because I was always there every week and she hadn’t seen me in a couple weeks and wanted to know that I was okay.

“I thought that was very touching that she’d care enough to find out about her lost customer.”

The Amadios say the ranch takes focus and commitment.

“Farming comes at its own schedule and must be the master of our time. Harvests can’t be put off, neither can lots of other growing tasks. Growing always has to come first before everything else if you want results,” Eric said.

Added Christina: “This is a way we connect with our community and show them how homegrown, organic stuff is so much better for them.”

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