151445a_t715Sharla and Gary Mortimer both grew up on farms. As they became adults, they began to pursue other interests.

After graduating high school, Gary started Mortimer Nursery and Landscaping in 1987 – a business he still runs today. Sharla, who is nine years younger than Gary, was figuring out her life while attending Yavapai College.

Once they met, however, it became a team effort. They got married, started having children, and worked together to continuing growing Gary’s already established nursery and landscaping business, which now boasts a strong reputation and services customers throughout the region.

Twelve years ago, the couple started raising cattle on their home ranch off of Highway 169 and eventually acquired another ranch near Cordes Junction. They then took over what use to be Young’s Farm and renamed it Mortimer Family Farms five years ago. They grow a variety of vegetables on the farm and raise Black Angus cattle at all three locations.

Sitting in front of their farm’s market at the intersection of Highway 69 and Highway 169 in Dewey, Gary and Sharla spoke about their multiple operations and how much it all means to them.

Here are a few things that the landscaping department does:

1. Complete Lawn Care: Mowing, Fertilize, Seeding and Irrigation checks
2. Clean up of leaf, branches and debris
3. Fire wise pruning and maintenance
4. Irrigation System maintenance and repair
5. Tree or plant removal and replacement
6. Seasonal pruning and fertilizing of trees, shrubs and perennials
7. Snow removal in the winter time
8. Storm damage repair
9. Tree and Plant spraying to control insects and disease
10. Weed control: Pre and Post emergent application

Number of employees:

Sharla: Depending on the season, we have about 75 to 100 people in the peak seasons. The nursery is busiest in the spring and summer. The fall is the busiest time for us on the farm.

Family: Four children. Ashlee is 17. Hayden is 15. Kayla is 14 and Kolton is 11.
Ages: Sharla is 38 and Gary just turned 47 this last Saturday, Oct. 31. Happy birthday, Gary!

First job: Sharla’s first job was being a server at the Village Inn in Prescott. Gary started helping out at a nursery in Phoenix when he was 12 years old.

Community activities: Involved in 4-H, a positive youth development and mentoring organization; Future Farmers of America (FFA), a student-led leadership development organization for students of agricultural education; Arizona Farm Bureau; Yavapai Cattle Growers; church activities; and school programs for their children.

What is a typical day for the two of you?

Gary: “I start at our home ranch along Cherry Road. I usually meet with the crew there. I come by the farm, check with the crew there. I then make my rounds through Prescott, Prescott Valley and Dewey. I then come back to the nursery and finish up my day there.”

Sharla: “I spend most of my day at the farm, especially during the fall to organize the events and make sure the operations are running smoothly. We’re in the middle of our pumpkin festival right now, so that keeps me busy.”

How do you get away from work?

Sharla: We go out on the mule (tractor) and drive around the ranch and check the cows. That’s an evening off for us.

Favorite vacation spot:

Sharla: We love San Diego. It’s great to go play at the beach and eat seafood. You can’t go wrong with kids and the beach.

What do you enjoy the most about what you do?

Sharla: I love how excited people are about coming to the farm and being able to buy everything they need for their evening meal right here in the store.

Gary: I love everything I do. I don’t consider it work. It’s like waking up and going to a party every day.

What do you enjoy the least about it?

Gary: Anything that I don’t enjoy doing, I usually hire somebody else to do it.

Sharla: You’ve got to find the right people for the right jobs so that everybody is happy.

Key to your business’ success:

Sharla: Over the last 12 years since we’ve been in agriculture more, we’ve diversified our operations so that we can buffer some of the ups and downs that come in the economy. Very rarely do we sell to the commodity market. Most of what we do is raise for our own use and production. We feed our cattle with the grain and hay that we grow and we sell a lot of the meat and vegetables in our store here on the farm.

Gary: We direct market pretty much everything to the consumer. We sell cattle to other ranchers. The feed and grain business has become a big business for us because we are able to grow the feed and people are able to buy it directly from the source, which people love.

Are your children interested in working with the family business?

Gary: They pretty much say that dad’s got enough business that we can pretty much choose what we want to do. They can choose just about any career maybe except for medical and apply it to one of the operations we run.

Sharla: That’s the cool thing about agriculture. There’s so many opportunities that are there. Like our oldest daughter loves being out and helping with the events. And then our son Hayden, who’s 15, loves to be out on the tractor or on the farm away from people.

Outlook on the future:

Gary: We’re just going to continue growing our operation in all aspects. Keep on providing local employment and keep on providing locally grown products.

Best advice:

Sharla: A good friend of ours says the harder you work, the luckier you get. I think we’ve taken that advice to heart. We try to work smart, but we also understand that there’s a lot of work that goes to it. We’re dedicated to putting in that time and effort to make everything successful.