By Justen Ollendick, Arizona Farm Bureau: A family operation that has grown into so much more is nestled back in the Mohawk Valley of Wellton, Arizona. There you will find two brothers, Chad and Travis Cullison. The love for the land and farming industry runs strong through this family, a multi-generation of farmers in Yuma County.
An interview with Chad Cullion of Cullison Brothers Farms - Wellton, Arizona
Chad Cullison stands by the irrigation pump that waters the fields he and Travis manage.
Part of an ongoing serious about Arizona farming and ranching families
Talk about your farm... My brother Travis and I started an 80-acre farm about 4 years ago with the help of my grandfather, Jerry Cullison, giving us acreage from his operation. We grow alfalfa hay and wheat. These fields are watered by a pumping system that pumps water from a manmade lake located below the hill our house sits on. Our farm is located just outside of Wellton, Arizona within Yuma County. I grew up on the family farm all my life, and began working and becoming more involved with the operation my freshman year of high school. The land given to us was land that my father and grandfather no longer wanted to farm. Instead of selling it off, they gave it to us as a project to see if we could handle running our own operation, and operate efficiently. We have been very successful thus far.
Travis Cullison (son), Jerry Cullison (grandfather) and Greg Cullison (father to Travis and Chad) represent three generations of Cullison family farming.
Even at your young age, what changes have you seen in your lifetime as it relates to farming and/or ranching? I have seen a lot of changes in agriculture especially with restrictions on quality of crop that you are growing. Water has been another change that I have seen. I feel like it will continue to be innovative in the future.
Why did you choose to go into agriculture? Being brought up on a farm, you get to see farming a different way than others. Throughout my career in FFA, I decided that this was where I belonged. I was good at what I did. I am attending the University of Arizona, majoring in Agriculture Education with a minor in crop production. I actually just bought my first home in Tacna, which is a few miles east of Wellton. This has officially committed me to my plans of returning home to pursue teaching high school agriculture at Antelope Union High School, and continue working on the family farm. My brother Travis served in the Army Reserves for two years. He is returning home to the family farm and to continue learning how to manage and operate efficiently.
What generation farmer are you? My brother and I are 4th generation Cullison farmers in the Wellton-Mohawk valley, but 6th or 7th counting family in Iowa.
Will anyone in your family…younger generation…pursue farming? When I decide to settle down and have a family, I am not going to push my kids to become involved in what I do. I wasn’t forced growing up to become involved in the family operation, or even agriculture in general. I took the initiative to get involved and stay involved. I hope they would follow in the same footsteps. If they don’t, I am perfectly fine with that.
Would you ever consider growing an emerging crop or changing your farm model? My family has been pretty set on the crops that we have been growing for as long as I can remember. However, we have been approached and asked to grow a test plot of Guayule, which is a crop that takes forever to get started. We weren’t willing to take a chance on the return of investment, as we had no clue what it would or wouldn’t be. If there is something we come across in the future that would have a good return, then I would say yes.
What are your community activities? Why are you involved? The Cullison family helps out with the Yuma Regional Medical Center a lot. We are a huge sponsor of theirs. Cullison Farms is a sponsor of Antelope FFA, as well as Arizona FFA, and the University of Arizona. Cullison Farms provides freshman at Antelope High School in FFA with their first Official FFA Jacket. We also sponsor scholarships to juniors and seniors in high school pursuing degrees in Agricultural Education, as well as students enrolled in the CALS – U of A Ag Ed department that are about to start their student teaching careers.
What do you think you do really well? Explain. I am really good at networking with others in the agriculture industry. I enjoy seeing other operations. It wasn’t until a week ago that I saw my first center-pivot irrigation system, and that was through a professional development tour with my fraternity. Getting to talk to people that farm in different areas of Arizona, and even the United States is great and eye opening.
Why are you a farm bureau member? Because of what they stand for. I like that they advocate for farmers like me, that don’t have the time to drive up and voice my concerns or needs. I also love that they have an educational program that advocates to children who do not get to see agriculture everyday. I have met many people who have no concept of where their food comes from. I’m glad someone is taking the initiative to make this change and dissolve these misconceptions.
How will the next generation of farmers have to operate? Moving water is going to be the next biggest task. Yes, we do have to find a way to feed this growing population. But first, we have to figure out how to get water to our crops if we are going to keep growing, and grow more at that! Water is limited. We pull our water from the Colorado River, it goes down to California, and they use the rest of the water that remains. Conservation is the answer.