Arizona farms shrinking in number, growing in size

May 29, 2019, 4:31 AM | Updated: 3:50 pm
(KTAR News Photo/Griselda Zetino)...
(KTAR News Photo/Griselda Zetino)
(KTAR News Photo/Griselda Zetino)

PHOENIX — Jim Boyle Jr.’s family has a long history in dairy farming.

They’ve owned dairy farms in Arizona since the early 1920s, first in south Phoenix and then in Mesa.

Boyle’s roots in dairy farming is one of the reasons he returned home after he left for college and lived in New York for several years.

“I kind of needed a career change and figured I’d raise my kids just like the way I was raised, which is out on the dairy,” he said. “That’s been a good decision. We’ve been back here for the past 14 years.”

Boyle now manages the three dairies his parents own. Two of them are in Mesa and one is in Casa Grande. The oldest dairy in Mesa dates back to 1978.

Dairy has become one of the biggest agricultural commodities across the Valley.

New agricultural census data, released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, finds livestock production in Maricopa County, particularly dairy and cattle, accounts for 61% of the county’s total agricultural product sales. Crops account for 39%.

The new data also finds farms like the ones Boyle’s family own are becoming less common. The number of farms in Arizona dropped by about 5% from 2012 to 2017. There are currently about 19,100 farms across the state.

Though there are fewer farms, they are becoming larger. The number of farms in Arizona with at least 1,000 acres nearly doubled from 2012 to 2017, according the new agricultural census data.

Boyle said he thinks the increase in urbanization, especially in the East Valley, is one reason Arizona is seeing fewer farms.

His family’s two dairies in Mesa – which are about 150 acres combined and have some 1,500 cows – have felt the impact of urbanization. Cars now speed by on the Loop 202 and new housing developments in the area have made it difficult to expand operations.

“As the development in the East Valley started really taking off in the late ’90s early 2000s, we realized we needed farm land,” he said. “The farm land in the East Valley was rapidly disappearing.”

That led his family to buy land in Casa Grande, where their Casa Grande Dairy Company now sits. It’s 1,500 acres and there are 3,500 cows on the property.

Boyle said labor is another probable cause for the shrinking number of farms in Arizona.

“It’s a constant struggle to find skilled farm laborers,” he said.

Boyle said the summer heat hasn’t been an issue, at least for his family’s dairies. He said they set up fans and misters to keep the cows cool during the summer.

“Arizona is a good place to milk cows,” he said. “We actually get some of the highest dairy production in the country here, and it’s because outside of the three to four months during the summer, it’s really lovely weather.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

(KTAR News Photo/Griselda Zetino) (KTAR News Photo/Griselda Zetino) (KTAR News Photo/Griselda Zetino) (KTAR News Photo/Griselda Zetino) (KTAR News Photo/Griselda Zetino)

Arizona News

(Screenshot/Cox Communications)...

Cox opens up free WiFi connections around metro Phoenix for big February crowds

Cox Communications has launched free WiFi connections around metro Phoenix for the crowds settling in for big upcoming local events.
17 hours ago
(Facebook Photo/Peoria Unified School District) Follow @KTAR923...

Arizona House votes to lift aggregate expenditure limit for public schools

The Arizona House voted Tuesday to lift the aggregate expenditure limit, a step toward avoiding massive budget cuts to Arizona public schools.
17 hours ago
Kansas City Chiefs RB Jerick McKinnon speaks with reporters during opening night of Super Bowl 57 (...
Tyler Drake

Super Bowl Special: Here’s what Chiefs and Eagles players like most about Arizona

Here's what came to mind about Arizona when Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs players were asked during Super Bowl opening night.
17 hours ago
(Facebook File Photo/Phoenix Police Department)...

10-year-old boy dies after getting hit by vehicle Tuesday morning in Phoenix

A boy died after getting hit by a vehicle near 23rd Avenue and Thunderbird Road in Phoenix on Tuesday morning, authorities said.
17 hours ago
(Abrazo Health Photo)...

Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital adds state-of-the-art cardiac MRI system

A $4.3 million imaging system at Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital will be used to detect or monitor cardiac disease.
17 hours ago
(Facebook File Photo/Phoenix Police Department)...

Man accused of intentionally driving into 2 people in northwest Phoenix

A man was arrested for allegedly hitting two people with his truck on purpose in northwest Phoenix on Monday, authorities said.
17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
Arizona farms shrinking in number, growing in size