The owners of Mortimer Farms strive to give families firsthand experience with agriculture … because it’s part of the fabric of our lives

By Hilary Dartt

Sharla Mortimer lived on a cotton farm until she was seven years old, and her experiences there set the trajectory for her future … and for her lifelong mission.

Sharla and her husband Gary own Mortimer Farms in Dewey, and they strive to create the kinds of experiences children and families will remember … the kind that translate to an understanding of agriculture, how it works, and how important it is that we grow our own food in America.

“I remember being out combining cotton with my dad, riding on the tractor with him when I was just three or four years old,” she said. “Then one day I decided I was going to hand-pick cotton, and I made myself a little pillow with it. It had all the seeds in it and it was a lumpy, terrible-looking pillow. But I was so proud of it.”

A person just doesn’t forget those experiences, she said.

When Sharla and Gary met, they realized they’d both grown up in farming … and they knew they wanted it to be part of their future—and their children’s lives (they have two sons and two daughters). About 18 years ago, before Mortimer Farms, they bought a ranch in Dewey comprised of private land and a National Forest permit, and started raising cows and farming.

Even then, Sharla had a passion for education. She went into her kids’ schools and taught the students about ranching, agriculture, the tools of a cowboy, and dairy (including how to make ice cream), “helping kids understand what’s going on, why agriculture is important, and how it works.”

When the Mortimer Farms property became available in 2010 Sharla and Gary decided to expand their agriculture business and revitalize the farm in Dewey.

But, she said, there was one caveat: “If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it all. We want the education side, the experience side. We wanted families to come out, get firsthand knowledge, and understand what we’re doing.”

Sharla has always loved children, and she has always loved farming. Mortimer Farms, then, brings together those two passions. Children come to the farm to play, the old-fashioned way: in the dirt. In doing so, they develop a connection with the land that, Sharla said, “we really need as a society.”

This connection to the land becomes part of the fabric of who we are and gives us a well-rounded understanding of how the world works.”

The end result: people are willing and able to protect American agriculture, to enable our farmers to grow produce, food, and fiber.

And it all begins with experiences kids will remember forever.

“Farming is personal,” Sharla said. “This is our life around the clock, seven days a week. Farming is what I do in my free time, what we do to make a living, and what we do as a family. We love being farmers and ranchers.”

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