By Justen Ollendick and Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau: Family and community focused, this young Yuma County couple are daily celebrating the adventures of raising a family and growing crops in our desert climate. Arizona Farm Bureau feels privileged to have this talented couple engaged in leadership roles within Farm Bureau.
An interview with Jonathan and Lara Dinsmore of Dinsmore Farms - Yuma, Arizona
Part of an ongoing series about Arizona farming and ranching families
Tell us about your farm: Dinsmore Farms, Inc. was founded in the early 1940s and is based in Yuma, Arizona. We are a 1,500-acre vegetable, hay, and grain farm. Vegetables grown include iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, red and green mix lettuce, cauliflower, and broccoli. We grow many varieties that respond to specific times of our season. While Yuma is the lettuce capital of the world between the months of November and March, we experience a wide range of temperatures and weather patterns form Baja California, Mexico making it extremely difficult to manage crops at times.
The Dinsmore family (Photo by Kara Curlin of Yuma, Arizona)
The hay grown on Dinsmore Farms includes Sudan and Alfalfa. Much of our hay is exported to China and Japan. We donate stacks of hay to local organizations that work with disadvantaged youth. We also operate a custom hay business where we swath, rake, bale, and stack hay for farms across the Yuma valley.
The wheat grown on our farm is Durum. We often grow experimental plots of vegetables and wheat in cooperation with seed companies and the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension. To accomplish of all of this, our land must be prepared appropriately to allow for proper growing conditions. We operate a minimum tillage program on most of our ground. Reducing tractor passes conserves fuel, emissions, and energy. Much of our farmland in the Yuma Valley is then laser leveled with GPS driven tractors to provide the flattest ground and most efficient irrigation of Colorado River water possible, a method of reducing water use.
What changes have you seen in your lifetime as it relates to farming? The technology, firsthand, has just blown up. One of my first large-tractor jobs was listing making the beds for planting. Once we got the GPS systems in the tractors I became the one to teach our experienced farmers how to use the technology. From then on the speed of technologies’ advancements just seemed to blow up.
Why did you choose to go into agriculture? Growing up in farming gave me an opportunity to see it firsthand. I always watched my father and my grandfather tirelessly work. Looking back, I can remember their muddy boots and dirty hands and it makes me feel like it’s another illustration of the hands and feet of God since they could work the soil, plant seed and see the miracle of farming take place. It’s always been amazing to me. Plus, the science behind agriculture has always fascinated me too. I always tell people I get to play in the dirt for a living.
Will anyone in your family - younger generation - pursue farming? What generation farmer are you? Plus, tell us about your family: I (Jonathan) am a fourth-generation farmer born and raised in Yuma, Arizona. I am married to my beautiful wife, Lara. We have five children; 3 biological and 2 adoptive. We are also foster parents and currently have a teenager living with us. Investing in our children as well as those who are in our care temporarily is one of our passions.
Already, despite how young my kids are right now, I talk to them about agriculture and educate them about this industry. I highlight how many different avenues or careers there are in agriculture. You don’t have to be working 15 hours a day on a tractor. The technology, science and legal fields are all areas that can be applied to agriculture.
Lara and Jonathan Dinsmore are instilling in their children an understanding of all the opportunities in agriculture. (Photo by Kara Curlin of Yuma, Arizona)
Would you ever consider growing an emerging crop or changing your farm model? In the last five years we’ve expanded into the hay market growing our own and custom harvesting. This endeavor has really enlightened us on how taking risk and business management are key. Plus, if any one of the children indicate to us they’d want to be in production agriculture, we’d have to make major changes to provide the opportunity for them. So, yes, we’re always willing to consider other crops and/or changes to our farm model. We’re always open to new ideas. But, whatever the opportunity in agriculture might be, it also has to pencil out.
Most of our past farming has been wheat and product. So, the hay business has been our new business endeavor in the mix of opportunities in agriculture. The hay markets have been doing well so it made sense for us to diversify in this area.
What is your education/community involvement/what do you do for fun? I am an avid sports fan and enjoy coordinating sporting events for local youth. I also enjoy hunting and fishing. For 8 years I have led a high school youth group. I earned a full scholarship to Arizona Western College playing the trumpet in the pep band and community band. I continued on to the University of Arizona In Yuma where I graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Agriculture Systems Management.
Lara is a graduate of Northern Arizona University and is a certified teacher and Reading Specialist. She spent the early years of our marriage teaching Junior High. After our second child was born, she resigned from teaching to stay at home and raise our children. Now that they are in school, she assists in the farm office. In her free time, Lara enjoys writing on her blog, The Farmer’s Wife Tells All. Lara has also spoken at adoption conferences across the country, including on a panel at Arizona Farm Bureau’s Leadership Conference held every June.
What do you think you do really well? Explain. Lara and I have a passion for family and farming. Our love for agriculture is evident and we are eager for the opportunity to share it with others. We have a commitment to serving others, including the less fortunate. We believe that as farmers we should invest in our community. These values shape our family, friendships, and farm operation. Additionally, through our time with the Arizona YF&R, we have learned that speaking in front of large groups doesn’t have to be scary.
Lara added: Jonathan has competed in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s YF&R discussion meet in 2012, and has applied much of what he learned to his every day farming.
The farming heritage of the Dinsmore family will not be lost on the next generation. (Photo by Kara Curlin of Yuma, Arizona)
What is your involvement with Arizona Farm Bureau/why are you a farm bureau member? While serving on the Yuma County Farm Bureau board, I have served as YF&R Chair, vice president, president, and am currently membership chair. I held an Arizona Farm Bureau Board of Directors seat for four years. During that time, I visited Washington, D.C. three times to meet with my legislators and discuss policies that directly impact the agriculture industry.
How will the next generation of farmers have to operate? A college degree still carries weight in our industry. So, young people need to start out with that baseline. We see a college degree as commitment, diligence and the ability to complete a task. For the up and comer, they also need to establish a track record early on that whatever they start, they finish. This is about how to get into the industry.
In how to operate, the next generation may have to recognize that because of potentially serious diminishing resources they will have to work harder and act smarter.
Editor's Note: All photos for this story were by Kara Curlin. Find her on Facebook at Ever After.