By Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau: This young farmer and his wife, Jessica, have mapped out their future and it means they plan on running efficient agriculture businesses that are also diverse.
An Interview with Brandon Brooks of Maricopa County Farm Bureau
The latest in an ongoing series about Arizona agriculture.
Tell us about your farm, your business: I am a fifth-generation farmer, whose family took the chance and headed west to homestead 120 years ago. My wife, Jessica, and I are raising our two children and carrying on the farming tradition in the original 100-year-old
Jessica and I are the owners of Fifth Generation Farms, a General Partnership. I am also the manager of a
Committed to farming for the future, Jessica and Brandon Brooks currently live in the 100-year-old
I am responsible for managing the staff, scheduling on-farm duties, crop production, crop sales, crop hedging, purchasing, equipment maintenance, tenant relationships, budgets, safety and training, public relations and advocacy issues with agriculture. I am also responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of MK Farms, a
Additionally, we recently launched Fury Farm this past November (2014) with the objective to provide the freshest organic vegetables possible to our community. We planted our carrots, kale, lettuce, spinach, beets, and onions the last week of October on our seven-acre farm and plan on our first harvest the last week of January.
Fury Farm has partnered with a large, established organic vegetable farmer in order to supplement our offering. We are not limited by our own supply and we feel that is what makes us unique. Many of our competitors offer a type of vegetable until they run out and then they cannot offer anymore. Fury Farm can continue to offer our seasonal customers their favorite produce items regardless of Fury Farms production.
We also plan on incorporating fruit into our offering and will be planting watermelons and cantaloupes next spring. We also plan on growing sweet potatoes and sweet corn, two vegetables that are challenging to grow in our area due to disease and pests.
Although Jessica was a “city girl” when we met, she is now a proud “farmer's wife’ working in partnership with me helping to make decisions about our operation. I have a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration with a minor in Marketing, and Jessica received a Bachelor’s of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management.
Jessica continued her education and received a Master’s degree in Elementary Education. The first ten years after college I had a career in the business world
Why did you choose to go into agriculture? After college, I was encouraged by family to pursue my own career and not work on the farm. For 10 years I wore a suit and tie in various sales management positions and was successful. However, I realized the farm is where I needed to be. My wife and I decided to accept our
After several meetings with my father we came up with a game plan we felt comfortable with and that we could both walk away from in two years if it did not work out. My father tested our will for the first year and encouraged us to get a “Beginning Farmer Loan” with the USDA. It didn’t take long for us to realize "farming was in my blood" so we started with a 20-acre alfalfa field and applied for the loan. My father was willing to sublease us some more ground if we qualified for the loan, and in February of 2011, we were approved. This achievement enabled us to rent more land and purchase some equipment at a few local auctions. 2012 was an exceptional year, as far as yield and price, and this allowed us to double our operation in size on the same loan amount. We leased some small parcels in town that had not been farmed
In 2011, Fifth Generation Farms, LLC was created. Continued high yields and prices gave us the opportunity to start purchasing more equipment and land. We purchased a 10-acre parcel of
Will anyone in your family -
Would you ever consider growing different crops and/or changing your farm or ranch model? In addition to our farming operation, we are profit sharing partners with my father's wholesale and retail hay operation B-1 Hay Sales. B-1 Hay Sales custom harvests 1,500 acres of alfalfa and produces over 15,000 tons of alfalfa per year. This business unit is a very important component to our operation because we also hire them to custom harvest our alfalfa. In 2013, Jessica and I purchased a retriever truck to enhance B-1's ability and ours to sell hay to local customers. I am responsible for all of B-1's day to day operations which include irrigation scheduling, cutting, raking, baling, quality of hay, and contract negotiation.
In order to enhance our operation and also differentiate ourselves, we purchased some unique equipment that opened the door to custom farming for Fifth Generation Farms. We purchased a Spra Coupe and a 500 HP track tractor with some “one pass” vertical tillage equipment. This year was the first year we had this equipment and as a
The Fury Farm is our newest venture, a small organic garden that is grown by us but with community involvement. Our community team is helping us with weeding, harvesting, and packing. This is our first year, but we can already see the potential of this new venture. We have partnered with another large vegetable grower in order to supplement our offering while we continue to grow. We feel this venture may have the most potential because of the "Farm to Table" concept. We lease almost all of our ground and because of the urban outgrowth planned for the
And, we’re willing to try all sorts of crops. For example, we experienced our first production challenge when we decided to grow ornamental Indian corn, a specialty product with aesthetic requirements from the buyer. We realized we did not have the resources to be successful when the opportunity was presented so we reached out to a local vegetable farmer and received the help we needed to proceed growing the crop. We had to purchase packaging and line up a hand harvest crew.
Once harvest came, the challenge continued.
This learning experience was critical to our ability to start Fury Farm, because of the similarities between growing and harvesting ornamental corn and organic vegetables.
What are your other activities including family-related and community-related? I enjoy spending time with our young family while sharing a love for the outdoors and snowboarding with my
I am on several boards that are all
I also plan to help grow the West Valley Mavericks by increasing membership and charity events within the community and become president within five years. A connection with the community as urban development continually infringes upon our operations is critical. West Valley Mavericks will be a strong advocate for charity, culture, community, and commerce.
What is one fact/experience/achievement no one knows about you and what do you think you do really well? I like to make businesses more efficient; to make them really work.
We also wanted to take a "lean manufacturing" approach to the shop and yard and created a new policy "create a place for everything and put everything in its place". This has increased our efficiency for changing out implements and servicing equipment by at least 10%. We also changed the way we service our equipment. For example, we moved to synthetic oil that is 25% more expensive but has twice the life. We also changed the way we purchased fuel by incorporating a
Recently, I have been given the responsibility of handling the marketing for MK farms. This responsibility was directed to me after the results of our personal marketing success of commodities for Fifth Generation Farms. This entails creating and executing contracts, buying and selling options, statistical analysis, and extensive market research. Forward contracting allows us to ensure the potential for profit before we ever plant a seed. This makes working with our bank easier regardless of our cropping decisions.
I was also able to implement “no-till cotton” at MK Farms. This has led to further “
In order to constantly improve, we strongly believe in continued education and strong relationships with industry related organizations. That is why we have established great relationships with Farm Bureau and Cooperative Extension, both of our irrigation districts and with many other local producers and businesses.
Why are you a farm bureau member? Because Farm Bureau is engaged, very much like Jessica and I are with the business. We both plan on expanding our roles in the Farm Bureau. I intend to increase my leadership roles in county and state Farm Bureaus and Jessica plans on becoming more actively involved in the Women's Leadership Program and Ag in the Classroom. She is very actively engaged in our operation and has a passion for what we do. This passion combined with her love for children and education has opened her mind to what and how she can make a difference and bring awareness to children who do not understand where their safe food comes from. I have been involved in Farm Bureau for almost five years and
I am also planning on expanding my responsibilities within the agricultural community, and in organizations like the Cotton Growers Association and the local public power utility in my state. I would also like to become more engaged in the Grain Promotion Council, research and development of technologies with Universities in regards to seed, herbicide, and pesticide development.
Over the next five years, we want to be strong supporters of our community and agriculture because we are blessed to have the responsibilities given to us to provide and give back to others.
How will the next generation of farmers have to operate?
We have to take advantage of technology advances in both production and information technology. But, we have to learn from the past and we have to be present in the present; be aware of what’s going on around you in the business environment. Also, we have to think about the future, the family farm’s future. The biggest challenge in a family
Regarding family farming, we have plans of growing our operation to over 3,000 acres, based on a strategic succession plan in place between MK Farms and our farm. However we also plan on acquiring