An interview with Lee Ott of Gila Valley Farms - Yuma, Arizona
Part of an ongoing series about Arizona agriculture’s farmers and ranchers.
Talk about your farm: My brother, Larry, and I farm approximately 6,000 acres in Yuma County, Arizona and we have been farming for nearly 30 years. We grow winter vegetables and we rotate with wheat, cotton, sudan grass, and alfalfa.
Lee, Bailee and Candy Ott at the Yuma County Fair.
What changes have you seen in your lifetime as it relates to farming? More advanced technology such as a cabbed tractor complete with an air conditioner, oh yeah and GPS and satellite technology, too. We are faced with more strict government regulations than ever before while trying to meet the ever increasing demands for product.
Why did you choose to go into agriculture? I followed in my forefathers’ footsteps. I wanted to carry on the family tradition.
What generation of farming are you? I am a fourth generation farmer in Yuma County. My great grandfather came here from Oklahoma during the Great Depression. They were on their way to California to pick fruit when the car broke down in Yuma. They stayed here, living under a billboard sign and found work picking cotton by hand. Eventually, they homesteaded in the North Gila Valley where they began farming sixty acres, doing custom hay work, and also working in the mines.
Will anyone in your family...younger generation...pursue farming and/or ranching? Yes, my daughter, Bailee, is currently majoring in Agricultural Systems and Technology Management. My nephew is also going into the AG field.
Would you ever consider growing an emerging crop or changing your farm or ranch model? Yes, we are constantly changing to meet the needs and demands of the consumers. We are always experimenting with new strains of produce.
If not different model, how about different type of market for your product? Explain. We are contracted growers who pay a broker to market our product.
What are your community activities? Why are you involved? My wife, Candy, and I are volunteer 4-H beef leaders in the Yuma Moos 4-H club. I also serve on the Ag Advisory Board for Gila Ridge High School’s Ag program. We try to give back to the community as much as we can, we feel it is very important to do so, and we love the beef program so this is something we enjoy.
Lee and Candy are actively involved in ag youth programs.
What is one fact/experience/achievement no one knows about you? I was inducted as a honorary Gila Ridge FFA member for my work on the advisory board, the FFA barbecue and the annual banquet.
Why are you a farm bureau member? We are Arizona Farm Bureau members because of their efforts to keep lawmakers informed of agricultural issues and for always fighting for American Agriculture.
How do you participate with your county Farm Bureau?
I served on the board for three years and I am a continual voter and current member. Our daughter, Bailee, is also the Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers & Ranchers co-chair for Yuma County.
How will the next generation of farmers have to operate?
They’re going to have a lot more government regulations to deal with then what we do now. The food safety laws will be even stricter and they will have to deal with an uninformed public who view the "big" farmer as enemy number one.
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