Brandon Leister comes from a long-established Arizona farm family and recently spoke at Maricopa County Farm Bureau’s Farm City- Partnership Breakfast April 17th (one of several during April). This Farm-City Breakfast was hosted by K&S Farms in Laveen, Arizona.

His parents, Dean and Rayanne Leister of Buckeye, inspired Brandon’s love of agriculture, including his grandparents.

Leister was State FFA president in 1999-2000. His undergraduate degree is from Arizona’s land-grant university, the University of Arizona, and he became an Ag science teacher/FFA Advisor at Buckeye Union High School. Later, he went off to Texas for his master’s degree. Once he came home, he started farming. Married and father of a newborn daughter, Leister is also the president of the Buckeye Local Farm Bureau and member of the Board of Directors for Maricopa County Farm Bureau

Leister’s points about Arizona agriculture and farming in general, along with Dairyman Boyle, retail farmers Mark Freeman and Rick Evens highlight the great diversity and importance of this great industry.

  • One of the many great things about our country is that we not only enjoy the safest, most abundant and least expensive food supply of any country in the world, but we have an abundance of choices that go along with it.
  • We have many of these choices because of the efficiency and productivity of our farms.
  • My grandfather was a great man and a good farmer right here in Maricopa County. In 1960, the average American farmer, like my grandfather, produced enough food to feed roughly 25 people.
  • Today the average American farmer feeds 155 people worldwide. 
  • With the world population expected to reach 10 billion people by 2050 it has been projected that agriculture needs to double its productivity in my lifetime!
  • Friends, this is simply not possible by moving backwards in terms of our productivity.
  • The only way we can continue to feed a growing world population is by continuing to become more efficient in how we farm using modern technology.
  • Today’s farmers already produce 262 percent more food with 2 percent fewer inputs compared with farmers in 1950.
  • I don’t mean to suggest at all that we shouldn’t have choices or that being a “Locavore” shouldn’t be trendy.
  • I am simply suggesting that we need to be realistic in our expectations of where the world’s food is going to come from.
  • I have also heard mention of “corporate” or “factory” farms.
  • I will be the first to admit that Agriculture is a business.
  • It’s my business and how I provide for my wife and baby girl.
  • Being a business, many family farmers like me have elected to structure our businesses as a corporation.
  • But even if you see a farm of 7,000 acres … in Maricopa County and throughout America … it is still very likely a family farm.
  • These will be multi-generational farm families like mine
  • In fact about 97 percent of U.S. farms and ranches are operated by families – individuals, family partnerships or family corporations.
  • Perhaps they incorporated for legal or estate succession reasons but they still are a family farm.
  • ROCKER 7 Farms, which my wife and I named after our families long time cattle brand, actually has 3 little letters at the end of its spelling.  I-N-C.  Rocker 7 Farms, Incorporated.  My wife and I work every day along with our 3 employees tending to our family farm, but statistically we could be categorized as “corporate” farmers.
  • Our family farm, like any other successful business, has plans to expand and become more efficient.  Without that effort, we as agriculture will fail to continue to feed the world. 
  • Much has been said about “factory farms” … with the Misleading notion that because a farm has increased in size the animals are kept in unsafe, unhealthy, cramped conditions and treated badly. That is simply NOT the case.
  • Maricopa County has approximately 100,000 dairy cows.
  • Today a 1,000-cow dairy is considered pretty small.  But they are still operated by the same multi-generational farm families that started with 50 or 100 cows in the 1950’s like my grandfather.
  • They have expanded, consolidated, evolved just like any other successful industry in an effort to maintain efficiency and productivity.  That does not mean they aren’t the same good people applying proper care and appropriate stewardship to their animals like they did 50 years ago.
  • Even if they have 5 or 10,000 cows on their dairies today their commitment to animal husbandry and care remains as strong as or stronger than ever.
  • Our country’s farm systems may have consolidated, but they are still comprised of primarily families like mine.  We have evolved out of necessity so that we can continue to provide an abundance of affordable food to a growing population.
  • When you look at agriculture in Maricopa County … it may be large scale or it may be small … it may be a farmers market or a global market… but it’s all Good. Good for you. Good for me.  Locavore or ordinary ole Omnivore.

For nearly 25 years, Maricopa County has hosted the Farm-City breakfasts. These breakfasts are designed to invite community leaders from the political, educational and civic arena to connect with Maricopa County’s farmers and ranchers.

While many would contend we have too many meetings, everyone looks forward to this spring series of Farm-City breakfasts in Maricopa County. It’s a chance to understand this state’s agriculture and connect with those committed to bettering our state and certainly our county.

Thank you Brandon Leister for your commitment to agriculture in Arizona!

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