With the latest "Star Trek" movie coming to theaters, the famous ‘Trekkie’ phrase “Where No Man Has Gone Before” certainly applies to Arizona pomegranate growers Marshall Turley and Larry Romney.
Turley and Romney operate what is likely the first commercial pomegranate operation in Arizona.
Turley Bowie Pomegranates farm is a 92-acre operation owned by Turley near Bowie in the Cochise County High Desert in southeastern Arizona. Romney, Turley’s nephew, assists with the farm management.
“We thought Bowie could be a good place to grow pomegranates,” Romney said. “We compared the growing climate in Bowie to California’s San Joaquin Valley. The two areas are fairly similar.”
About 35,000 acres of commercial pomegranates are grown in the SJV. About 30,000 of the acres are bearing.
Turley was in Mexico tending to his apple and peach operation when Farm Press inquired about the Arizona pomegranate farm. Turley also grows alfalfa and Bermudagrass at the Bowie farm.
At a 3,700-foot elevation, Bowie is a vibrant, fast-growing agricultural area including large plantings of pistachio and pecan in recent years.
Turley and Romney opted to grow pomegranates instead of tree nuts since pomegranates, which can grow as a deciduous tree or bush, can commercially produce fruit in about three years. Pistachio and pecan take about seven years to reach commercial production in Arizona.
“We decided to try pomegranates out to see how it would work out,” Romney said.
To gain information about pomegranate production, the wannabe growers perused articles and data from the University of California. Turley and Romney participated in a production meeting at the Angel Red Pomegranate company in Visalia, Calif., to learn how to grow the company’s Angel Red variety.
They also gleaned global pomegranate information from the Internet.
The first Turley-Romney pomegranate planting in 2009 was with bare root stock of the Wonderful variety. The cuttings were purchased from Dave Loquaci, a pomegranate grower and nurseryman with Madera Agricultural Services in Madera, Calif.
A year later, the Angel Red variety was planted.
The pomegranate acreage is equally split between Angel Red and Wonderful. The Angel Red’s are grown as trees and bushes. The Wonderful’s are grown as one-to-three-stem trees.