The Number Of Farms Are Decreasing In Arizona

Dairy farms in Arizona, like the one Jim Boyle Jr. owns, are becoming less common.

Jim Boyle Jr.’s family has a long history in dairy farming having owned dairy farms in Arizona since the early 1920s. Boyles took a short hiatus from farming to attend college and live in New York.

“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 manages three dairy farms that were owned by his parents. One is in Casa Grande and two in Mesa.

Dairy is one of the leading agricultural commodities in the Valley. Recently, new data was released that showed livestock production in Maricopa County accounts for 61% of the county’s total agricultural product sales. Crops only account for 39%. It also showed that the number of farms dropped by about 5% from 2012 to 2017, and there are 19,100 farms in the state. However, the number of farms with at least 1,000 acres nearly doubled during the same time frame.

Boyle credits urbanization for the decrease in farms. Highways and new housing complexes make it difficult for Boyle’s to expand his farm. “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.”

This is why the family purchased land in Casa Grande. According to Boyles, a lack of labor is also to blame. “It’s a constant struggle to find skilled farm laborers,” he said.

The Arizona heat hasn’t been an issue, and the farms set up fans to keep the animals cool.

“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.”