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2 Views of Arizona farmland decline

Arizona farmland has declined over the decades, leaving one generation of a Buckeye farming family concerned and another content.

farmland decline

The generational differences demonstrate the changing nature of farms in Arizona, where the number of farms has grown over the last decade but available land and the size of farms is shrinking.

David Kerr said the economy changed in the early 2000s, bringing more retail and housing development to the region and pushing farms to the fringes of urban areas.

“I sold my dairy in 2003, and have been in charge of Kerr Farm Tours for the last 12 years,” said Kerr, who works in the wheat industry.

The program, which includes farm equipment and livestock such as cows, pigs, goats, is an exhibit at the Arizona State Fair.
The average market value of agriculture products sold at Arizona farms dropped nearly 60 percent over 15 years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture.

The number of farms in Arizona has increased — from more than 8,500 in 1997 to more than 20,000 in 2012, according to that census.

“What we’ve noticed over the years with the farm tours is that the older generations come by and all of them will respond, ‘Oh, I remember that John Deere tractor because my grandfather had a farm,’” David Kerr said.

“We have generations of children now that don’t have that anymore, and it is very important for them to know where their food comes from and what these animals look like,” he said.

“I had a dairy farm about a mile from here, and I had about 200 cows,” Jerry Kerr said.

farmland decline

He has another agricultural job, as Field Supervisor for the Arizona Cotton Research and Protection Council. ”

“When I started with the organization I’m with now, there were almost 300,000 acres of cotton,” he said.

“The sector that I’m in charge of, which is basically from Casa Grande, central Arizona, and almost to the Colorado River, this year I had 43,000 (acres),” he said.

“There’s three cotton gins left in Arizona now, and there were, when things were booming, probably 30,” he said.

But Wes Kerr, a fourth-generation farmer, and co-owner of Kerr Family Dairy, sees the upside to the situation that bedevils his uncles.

In 2007, most Maricopa County farms were less than 10 acres, according to the Arizona Farm Bureau’s website.

“In Arizona today there are about 65 families that still dairy farm, where maybe about 30 years ago there were close to 400,” Wes Kerr said.

“We are able to grow food with less land and less water,” Wes Kerr said. “When you think about back in the day, when technology wasn’t up to date, there was no way a cow could produce 10 gallons of milk back in the ’40s. “Today there’s less than 9 million dairy cows, and with those 9 million dairy cows were producing more milk than they had with 26 million dairy cows.

Read More Here: Family family takes 2 views of Arizona farmland decline

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