Henry Jandayan, Payson fire engineer/EMT, has a friendly competition going with his mother, who taught her son everything he knows about gardening.
This year at the Northern Gila County Fair, Jandayan won 79 ribbons and two Best of Shows for a variety of fruits, flowers and vegetables. He also won $165 in prize money, which he's donating to the Payson Fire Department Support Rehab fund.
"In 1987, my mom won 70 ribbons and five Best of Shows," Jandayan said Monday. "I beat her this year, but she beat me on Best of Shows."
Jandayan said that his success in raising everything from artichokes to zucchini comes from his mother, Lolita Latimer's, early lessons. If having a green thumb is genetic, Jandayan got that from his mother, too.
"She's the one with the green thumb," he said. "She started teaching me when I was 15."
Jandayan has been gardening and practicing what his mother taught him for a number of years, but he's only been entering his creations at the fair for three years.
The first year he entered, he won nine ribbons; the second, 48. This year, he received 26 first-place ribbons, 32 second-place, and 19 third-place awards. He received Best in Show awards for a fruit basket and a vase of marigolds.
He entered watermelon, jalapebell, red, green and gold peppers, butternut squash, corn, carrots, green beans and three kinds of tomatoes -- and he grew it all at the fire station on Main Street.
"The guys here at the fire department help out, too," he said. "They give me ideas, and I bring things for lunch and dinner."
"He brings us great stuff," said Payson Fire Chief John Ross.
Not only does Jandayan supply the department with fresh fruits and vegetables, he landscapes the property around the station, adding petunias and giant sunflowers to the vegetables and fruit he grows. There's even a garden in the back of the station where butternut squash is now in abundance and corn stalks are waiting to be picked for fall decorating.
"I share it with the guys," Jandayan said. "I learned this from my mom. She's the main one. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't be doing this."