September in St. Johns: Apache County Fair


 Italian Tomatoes grown by a local gardener

Gardeners all over the state grow delicious vegetables, fruits, herbs, and even grains for their nourishment, enjoyment, and to share with friends and family. A unique aspect of living in the county seat of St. Johns is being able to see a vast number of products people in our area are producing in their gardens each year. 

I've been the head of the Field Crops department of the Apache County Fair for several years, and it never ceases to amaze me at some of the amazing things that come into the fair that Wednesday morning. What amazes me even more are the stories that go along with some of those entries and the challenges gardeners tell me about as we sit at the table and fill out fair entry tags. 

Take John Bennett for example. He's been growing, showing, and winning at the Apache County Fair for decades. In fact, he's one of the biggest exhibitors every year. He tells of a pink banana squash that he grows over in Springerville, that he's been growing for nearly as long as he remembers. He says that some of the biggest challenges is knowing from year to year where the squash will pop up. As an organic gardener, he composts all of his plant waste and inevitably some viable squash seeds end up in the compost that gets spread all over his garden site. 

Another big exhibitor who has been growing and showing in Apache County for a long time is Heather Higginbotham, daughter of Rick and Lorie Williams, who own Boondocks Farm and who used to have the job I now have at the Apache County Fair. Heather and her son Karsin win top honors every year for their produce, just like mom and dad did a mere ten years ago. Heather makes the most amazing fruit jams and jellies and sells them at the local Heritage Market through summer and fall, as well, and I can attest at the amazing flavor of the local produce. One of the things they battle on their farm is unpredictable weather. Late-summer hail storms have decimated plants in the past. Late spring freezes have also been a challenge as fruit trees start to flower and bud. This area is known for the challenging weather patterns above all else. 

Dried Beans

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