Incredible Shrinking Farms

When was the last time you drove by a farm?

It may have been more recent than you think, and closer than you realize.

Not everyone in the valley knows that Arizona’s agriculture is a huge part of our state economy. Even fewer may know that there are working farms all around and in the Phoenix valley itself.

Our reporter Danny Smitherman gives us a look into the world of the incredible shrinking farm, right here in Phoenix.

Keep your eyes out for farms near you!

East Valley Ag

IMAG0083That’s cotton, soon to be harvested, just east of Phoenix on Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community land. Finding fields of beautiful, puffy white cotton in the desert of Arizona is only one of many surprises and lessons in farming for our team as we travel around the valley to show you what agriculture looks like today.

We also visited with Mark Freeman on his 25-acre farm in the middle of suburban Mesa. His family, back in 1877, helped found Mesa. His grandfather and father farmed here, and so now does Mark.

We asked him, what keeps you farming?

“When you have it in your blood, it’s just pretty easy to just do it.”

He told us Arizona agriculture is not only a $20b a year and more industry, but it’s also growing, dollar wise. And per acre crop yield is not only high, but could go higher, in part due to mechanization and robotisizing.

Lots to learn, folks to talk with. We’ll keep you updated as we work!

Preliminary reporting with Marc Grossman, spokesperson for the Cesar Chavez foundation.

Early morning west of Phoenix, where fields spread out, around, and in between houses, roads, highways, airports, and sand and cactus. Farming began maybe a thousand years ago or more in this valley, at least as far back as the Hohokam people who first built canals that still serve Phoenix today.

It’s difficult to imagine, then, that the home of ancient farmers, and the birth- and death-place of Cesar Chavez, co-founder of the United Farm Workers Union, boasts so few members. But times have changed some of the important elements of the time in the 60’s when Chavez and others were striking, boycotting, organizing and collectively bargaining for equitable pay, safe working conditions, and respect.

-Reporter Danny Smitherman

Arizona Farming: Phoenix’s West Valley and the UFW


Downtown Phoenix: Man on the Street

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The Arizona Farm Union News group took to the streets of downtown Phoenix to ask individuals about their knowledge of agriculture throughout Arizona.

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We interviewed a law student from the Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law and a caulker from Mexico now working in Phoenix. We found that many people are not familiar with unions or what unions do. They were also shocked to find out how many farms are run throughout the Phoenix valley.

Samantha McLaughlin, a law student, speculated that the reason fewer people are joining unions is because they are in the United States working, illegally. IMG-9535

Eric Sosa, a caulker, said that joining a union seemed to make sense but the possibility of being out of work during strikes was a negative aspect.

Through our findings, we hope to shed light on unions and their purpose for the low-to-middle working class. Also, find the answers as to why less people are part of farming unions throughout Arizona.


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