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A local farm CO-OP helps keep small farms in Arizona in business

Farmers Market
Posted at 1:22 PM, Jul 16, 2022

TEMPE, AZ — Tomatoes from San Tan Valley, onions, lettuce from Paulden, melons from Litchfield Park and carrots from Mesa. Fresh produce is ready for pick up as part of the "farm raiser" program in Tempe.

"I love supporting local farms. The ones who are dedicating to farming here in the city and the outskirts. It brings the community together," said Maria Brown as she stood waiting to pick up her vegetables, eggs and bread.

The farm raiser program is one of several alternative food distribution streams created by the Sun Produce Cooperative. It's a group of 40 small farms and counting from across the state who are working together to cut costs and create more markets for their produce.

"It becomes reliable income for us. We know how much to grow, plan ahead. We can make a market that's much more sustainable," said farmer Morgan Winburn.

Windburn operates a very small farm, 1/4 of an acre. Others grow on 100 acres.

"When you're supporting a farmer in South Phoenix that money stays in our state. It contributes to the economy," Sun Produce Cooperative Manage Cindy Gentry said.

The Sun Produce Co-Op helps farmers create new markets, transports their crops to buyers and helps keep production costs down.

"It has meant they can spend more time on the farm farming," Gentry said, "That's what everyone wants to do and what they do best."

The results have been good. Last year the CO-OP created $600,000 in new business for the farmers. This year Gentry says that will grow to at least $800,000.

"I like getting farm to table food," Rick Hervig said.

And Gentry says that is just what the farmers want to hear.

"It helps people know more about where their food is coming from and what it takes to grow it."