The men had worked for this Arizona farm family for decades. Employer and employee families had become like family to this generational farm. Holidays, birthdays, special events and more were celebrated together. 

And when the men passed away in old age, widows were left wondering about their future. So, this farm family decided to take care of them. Ultimately three widows were supported with free housing and more. When the husbands passed, the farm family even paid for the funerals. 

Embracing this Biblical command to take care of widows and orphans, this farm family hosts the widows on the farm as if they were family. “My grandparents started helping the homeless during the Great Depression while they were passing through from the Midwest on their way to California,” said this Arizona farmer who asked to remain anonymous describing the birds-eye view of the great migration. “My parents carried on with the practice and we continue today. We also have paid college tuition for the children of employees.”

On our own farm, I can remember a variety of things Murphree Farms did to celebrate its employees. Pat Murphree, dad, used to give turkeys out on Thanksgiving and Christmas (I hear a common practice) and host a holiday feast just before Christmas for employees. Pennee, mom, would remember employee birthdays. Mom often served as a shuttle service for special appointments for the families.

Beyond living wages, it’s the small gestures – and in reality, big gestures – that go a long way in making a difference for the farm laborers who are so important to our farm and ranch businesses in Arizona. According to the United States Department of Agriculture – Economic Research Service (USDA-ERS), agriculture and its related industries provide 10.4% of U.S. employment. That 10.4% works out to 22.1 million full- and part-time jobs related to the agricultural and food sectors. Direct on-farm employment accounted for about 2.6 million of these jobs in 2022, or 1.2% of U.S. employment. Employment in agriculture- and food-related industries supported another 19.6 million jobs. Of this, food services, eating and drinking places accounted for the largest share—12.7 million jobs—and food/beverage stores supported 3.3 million jobs. The remaining agriculture-related industries together added another 3.5 million jobs.

In this article we profile some of the extra special ways farm and ranch families show their appreciation to their employees. These stories go beyond the paycheck. 


Arizona Dairy Company, Maricopa County: This Dairy farm hosts either a quarterly barbeques or food truck for all the employees. 

Carlink Ranch in Pima County: This 140-year-old ranch hosts a Fourth of July party for employees, along with a Christmas Open House in December. Additionally, they provide Carlink beef to employees celebrating special family events like Quinceaneras, birthdays, and anniversary parties. Finally, they always regularly keep a freezer full of beef for employees.

Dean Farms in Maricopa County: Dean Farms pit turkeys the day or a few days before Christmas and delivers pitted turkeys to each family. If everyone is caught up on work, employees get the week between Christmas and New Year's off paid. 

Everyone gets a new coat, hat, and work gloves when it starts to get cold, usually around Thanksgiving. 

“As a kid, I remember many Easters, Thanksgiving, holidays where the farm laborers would join us if they couldn’t make it home for the holidays,” remembers Shawn Dean Wood. “Our farm laborers have become more like family. We had two families of immigrants from Guatemala come to our farm when I was a kid. My grandma held English classes for the kids (a family of 8). She and my grandfather helped them all get residency and all of them became citizens, who have moved on to be wonderful citizens of this country.”

Farm and ranch families get to know their workforce. Explains Dean Wood, “We found out one of our guys was living in a house with 13 other guys. We purchased a trailer, moved it in and now two of them share one house.”  

Desert Tree Farms, Maricopa County: Supports employees in growing a vegetable garden on the properties for them to grow for their families. Additionally, Desert Tree Farms hosts event celebrations that include Thanksgiving, Christmas, Memorial Day, and Fourth of July parties. They give bonuses twice a year based on how long an employee has worked for Desert Tree. During the summer, Desert Tree Farms asks employees to stay hydrated and work at a non-hurried pace. 

Gold Leaf Farming, Mohave County: Celebrates their employees on their pistachio farm with quarterly barbeques. At each barbeque, an employee is recognized as the “Employee of the Quarter.” Outside of these occasional celebrations, all their full-time employees receive the same benefits package, including retirement savings and health care for the employees and their families.

ZZ Cattle Company, Pima County: Besides providing housing and utilities (another common practice on farms and ranches) and paying the cell phone bills, ZZ Cattle Company is another ranch that provides beef for the employees. 

Take part in “Thank a Farmworker Day” on May 31!

These examples reveal a variety of ways that Arizona farm and ranch families strive to create the best workplace possible for their employees. “Thank a Farmworker Day” is just one day to help celebrate those who are part of our farms and ranches. They are essential in producing food, raising crops and caring for animals. 

How do our farmers and ranchers say thanks in addition to what you just read?  Here are some of the simple gestures others do.

  • Hang a sign on farm entrances thanking employees.
  • Post thank you signs in their breakroom or work area.
  • Celebrate with food such as barbeques and more.
  • Purchase gift cards from local businesses to give to employees especially to recognize birthdays or to simply say thanks to the “employee of the month.”
  • Provide cheese, bags of apples, or other farm products from the farm.
  • Take a moment to personally speak with each worker and thank them for what they do.
  • Share what they mean to your farm on social media. Use the hashtag #ThankAFarmworker

People like to be appreciated. You know your employees best. Even the smallest gesture can make a big difference and make for a happier workplace.