By Aubry Fowler-Shaw, AgriPOWER Class X member
When the AgriPOWER Class X members learned we were headed to Arizona for our out-of-state session, we were all ecstatic! Who wouldn’t want to get a break from the Ohio cold and visit a sunny state in the middle of winter? The reality: we visited Arizona during record-setting rains and temperatures never above 50 degrees. Even though the weather wasn’t in our favor, that didn’t stop our class from having an amazing experience, learning about Arizona agriculture and finding new ways to be good liaisons.
We started our tour at Woolf Roses, a family run farm that supplies roses to stores like Walmart, Lowe’s and Home Depot across the United States. Winter is a good time to harvest rosebushes since they are in their dormancy and can be transported to growers to be repotted. This allows the plants time to grow before shoppers pick their favorites from the store. A key concern for this farm, like many of us here in Ohio, is a reliable workforce. Some of the jobs on a rose farm may not be glamorous such as grafting (where the bud of a rose plant is attached to the rootstock), which has to be done by hand. When a farmer finds workers that are good at skilled jobs, they work to make them feel appreciated to ensure they will stay.
An impromptu tour allowed our class to visit The Kerry Family Dairy, which is a member of the Arizona Young Farmer & Ranchers program. This unexpected stop was a class favorite, because we were able to see how farms adapt to their environment and find ways to provide the best care for their livestock. One of the biggest differences was the lack of walls on the barns. When you have to protect animals in heat that can reach above 100 degrees, it’s more important to find ways to cool animals and keep them protected from the sun. Wes, who currently runs the dairy, was an excellent speaker who shared the importance of educating the public about agriculture. His words about the future of agriculture in the United States were inspirational.
After each AgriPOWER session I am always left feeling inspired, and visiting Arizona was no different. Our class also got to visit a carrot processing facility, orange grove, olive mill, the University of Arizona research farm in Yuma and the U.S Customs and Border Protection Port of Entry in San Luis. If you had to sum up this trip in one word, it would be diverse. It is diverse because every commodity has a problem within their industry, but if we all take a minute to learn each other’s stories, we would find that advocacy, education and awareness are key to a thriving agricultural community!
Applications for AgriPOWER Class XI are being accepted through April 19, 2019.