The Knapple and Shelton families have always been embedded in Farm Bureau life. From attending meetings to annually hosting one of the annual Maricopa County Farm Bureau Farm-City Breakfasts in the spring, this generational farm family knows the value of family, farming and community involvement.

Last November at Arizona Farm Bureau’s Annual Meeting, the George Knapple family was recognized with the Heritage Award. Introduced in 2006, the Heritage Awards are annually announced during the Service to Agriculture Awards Banquet. The award, which can be given to an individual or family, was developed by Arizona Farm Bureau to recognize extended service to agriculture. Additionally, those awarded the Heritage Award are recognized for their significant contributions to their county and/or state Farm Bureau.

The Knapple family fit that award ideal perfectly.

Knapple and Shelton Families receiving the Heritage Award at last November's Farm Bureau Annual Meeting.

An interview with John “Rocky” Shelton, nephew of the Knapple family.

Part of an ongoing series about Arizona Farming and Ranching Families. 

Tell Us about Your Farming: Our family farms citrus, cotton, alfalfa and small grains.

Family History : George Knapple was born in Laveen in 1929 and his parents, Louis and Krezenthia, lived in a shack with a dirt floor in Laveen. George was the third son born to his parents.

Having immigrated to the U.S. from Germany in 1925, his parents spent a year in Kansas before moving to Casa Grande to begin farming. A year later, they moved to Laveen. Louis was working for Mr. Wilkins and was paid a $1 a day for work and a $1 a night for irrigating.

The Knapple family now own the land across the street from where George was originally born. George worked with is dad and brother farming 500 acres of citrus, alfalfa and cotton. In 1950, George married Dorothy Shelton and they continued to farm, renting acres for cotton, alfalfa, and other grain crops. They also did custom harvesting work for other farmers.

Farm Bureau Involvement : All the years that George and Dorothy and their four daughters were farming in Laveen they were Farm Bureau members. In the beginning, they would have the local meetings at the Laveen School and it would be a potluck most of the time. George served on the county board beginning in 1955, and for many years represented the Litchfield-Laveen local. In 1987, he was elected Maricopa County Farm Bureau president and served on both the state and county boards.

On the national level, Dorothy and George attended several AFBF meetings in Florida, Chicago, New Orleans and Austin, Texas. They were both very involved with the Legislative Dinners and later Ag Fest. Dorothy says she’s made quite a few pies for the dinners and various meetings over all the years.

In 1969, Dorothy’s nephew came to help and John “Rocky” Shelton soon became involved in Farm Bureau and served many years on the county board representing the Laveen-Litchfield-Tolleson area and served as an officer of the board until 2015. Rocky and his brother Barry, who is currently on the board, have been active in the local, county and state Farm Bureaus as well as the various programs and activities associated with Farm Bureau. George and Dorothy taught the importance of being a member and involved Farm Bureau to Rocky and Barry as well as having them continue the legacy started by George’s father who immigrated to the U.S. from Germany.

George continued to be involved in Farm Bureau until his death in a plane accident in 2004. Rocky and Barry have continued farming the family operation and host the county Farm City Breakfasts almost every year for supervisor district 5.

Why Are You Farm Bureau Members ? It’s family tradition. Uncle George talked me into it and I just went from there. We’ve always been involved. It’s a very worthwhile organization. It has kept us in tune with what’s going on with agriculture in our state. I would recommend it for anyone. 

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