The State of Arizona Farmland
The Good Food Film Series produced by Local First Arizona’s Good Food Finder kicks off this month with its first of three screenings this spring. The series focuses on the societal challenges facing the farming and food community across the state. It’s the stories of often unsung heroes that are doing the good work of growing and providing healthy, fresh food to our communities and also those taking action to create a more sustainable and just local food system.
The first film up is “The State of Arizona Farmland,” the tale of husband and wife team Sara Dolan and David Vose of Blue Sky Organic Farms in Litchfield Park. The family farm has been around for over 25 years and grows over 120 different vegetable varieties during its main season. Everything is 100 percent organic and certified by California Certified Organic Farmers which means it uses organic, non-GMO and untreated seed. The produce is cultivated in accordance with federal standards set by the United States Department of Agriculture National Organic Program. The farm is also USDA Harmonized GAP Plus+ certified meaning the best agricultural practices are in place. Blue Sky is the only farm in the state that carries that certification.
The farm serves the community in many ways. First are the Community Supported Agriculture box subscriptions with boxes that come in two varieties, classic and petite, available weekly and bi-weekly. This helps to limit food waste and allows the farmer to grow a calculated amount of food to meet the needs of the community while themselves receiving consistent monetary support. Truly a win-win! Another great benefit is that any ordered boxes not picked up by customers are donated to the food bank. There’s also the wholesale option for vendors like schools and restaurants and the farm store on site that’s open Wednesday through Saturday. It’s stocked with the farm’s own produce plus local brands like Noble Bread and Crow’s Dairy. In-house chef Danielle makes her own homemade baked goods, spreads, jams, caramels and more. Don’t forget about the cute goats too that live on the property and provide fresh milk (and are available to go to good homes). If you can’t make it to the store or the farm, Blue Sky’s produce is also available for purchase at many farmers markets in the area.
All this could come to an end if Dolan and Vose don’t find new land to purchase or lease by the end of April, due to the amount of work that it takes to set up a new farming operation. They have just planted their last season of crops on their current leased land and need to be out by July 1 when a new home builder takes ownership. Beginning this summer, 60 percent of the land farmed at Blue Sky will be taken out of production to make way for 600 new homes. In fact, 25,000 single-family residences have been proposed in developments within a 10-mile radius of Blue Sky in the new 10 years, according to Good Food Finder. Dolan and Vose have been looking for a replacement property for almost two years, but it’s been tough to find land that is viable for farming and affordable to buy. Blue Sky additionally provides 35-full time jobs and 14 part-time jobs, from field workers to farm stand and market staff who will be left unemployed if this problem is not solved. Plus if the couple loses its land, the loss of the farm will majorly impact Phoenix’s food system, which is explored more in the film.
Unfortunately, this is not a new problem in our state. The Arizona landscape was once a sprawling view of farmland and ranches, however that farmland is quickly vanishing as residential and business developments take over and continue to expand at alarming rates. Mentioned as well in the film is the story of another farm that is known for its seasonal pumpkin patch and pick-your-own events that faced a similar fate before being fortunate enough to purchase its own land. This was helped along by community support and strong connections in the town, and here’s hoping the same assistance will come to Blue Sky.
Along with the film, Kate Radosevic, the Friends of the Farm Coordinator at Arizona Food Bank Network and a member of the Arizona Farmland Coalition, will discuss how the loss of Blue Sky and implications of our dwindling farmland can weaken and impact Arizona’s local food system. She’ll also talk about what is being done and what you can do to help. If you are looking for a great organization to support, check out the coalition. Good Food Finder and Local First Arizona have partnered together on it to keep Maricopa County farms in business. Every day across the United States, 2,000 acres of farmland are lost or threatened by development which equals out to over 80 acres every hour, according to the coalition’s website. Maricopa County is the fourth largest county in the country and is no exception to this trend. It’s more important than ever to help these local community farms that feed the community, preserve open space, benefit the environment and offer educational opportunities. You can sign up on the website to receive updates and get involved or email Helene@localfirstaz.com. It really could make all the difference. If you are interested in learning more about Blue Sky’s urgent needs, read this Local Arizona post.
“The State of Arizona Farmland” will be released on March 9. It costs $7.50, or you can buy an all-access pass for all the films for $65. The film will be available for on-demand viewing and accessible until February 2022. Or, select four or more films for a discounted rate ($5 for each film).
Blue Sky Organic Farms is located at 4762 N. 189th Avenue, Litchfield Park; 623.266.4031; wwww.blueskyorganicfarms.com