The Best in Arizona Agriculture Celebrated in 2024
Arizona hosts some of America’s top farmers and ranchers. The Arizona Farm Bureau annually recognizes them for their achievements. The following awards were given out during the Service to Agriculture Awards Banquet during the 102nd Arizona Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in Tempe.
Ag Communicators of the Year: Yuma Growers
Arizona Farm Bureau recognizes the Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture, Yuma County Agriculture Water Coalition, and the Yuma Fresh Vegetable Association as the 2023 Communicators of the Year.
From November through April, the Yuma growing region produces 90% of the leafy greens consumed in the United States and Canada. The ongoing drought in the West has put significant pressure on the Colorado River and its users, reducing storage levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell to historic lows. While federal and state agencies and elected officials engage in discussions on future water allocations, these three organizations came together last year to create and produce a high-quality video and distribute it to an interested public to share the importance of water to Yuma-area agriculture and the rest of the nation and the world.
The Yuma Ag Water video features farmers, extension specialists, and support industry representatives who highlight Yuma's unique and intricate farming system.
Done in partnership with the three organizations being recognized, Arizona Farm Bureau also featured the video on its channels. Paul Brierley and Mike Pasquinelli representing the Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture, Yuma County Agriculture Water Coalition, and the Yuma Fresh Vegetable Association were present to receive the recognition last November.
Environmental Stewardship Award: Jeremy Weiss
As UArizona director of the Arizona Meteorological Network (AZMET) managing the AZMET stations that provide localized weather data for Agriculture, Jeremy Weiss leads a project to help the Yuma non-attainment area for PM10 better determine sustained wind speeds across a wider area. To help us understand this, a PM10 exceedance, with an average 2-minute wind speed of 25 miles per hour or greater, could be submitted to the EPA for exclusions from the data set of exceedances. A PM10 non-attainment area is only allowed three exceedances over three years. For context, there was only one ADEQ/EPA-approved weather station for the entire county located at the Yuma regional airport. It did not record all 25+ mph events that the AZMET stations, located throughout Yuma County, recorded. By getting the AZMET stations to record a 2-minute average for wind speeds, the potential for excluding more PM10 exceedances increased.
Ultimately, the effort could help Yuma avoid spending money on projects that would not impact the overall air quality in Yuma County. As this project proceeded, it was determined that the updates to the Yuma stations could be applied to all the AZMET stations throughout the state of Arizona. All of Arizona’s counties would benefit from having AZMET stations record the average 2-minute wind speed, so Jeremy has now applied this update to all of Arizona’s AZMET stations.
This project involved partnerships between the U of A, Yuma County, ADEQ, and the Yuma County Farm Bureau, which provided the vision for the project. By minimizing the impact of High Wind Events on our attainment status, which is beyond our control, there will be higher participation by the public to participate in activities that can minimize the generation of PM10.
While it’s too early to have any demonstrated achievements other than gathering the data needed to file for Exceptional Events Status since at least three years of data are required before ADEQ can apply for Yuma to be reclassified, Yuma County Farm Bureau has been working on PM10 for over 30 years. Thanks to Jeremy’s efforts, we have a real opportunity to get our non-attainment status changed on a more permanent basis.
Lifetime Service to Agriculture: Mark Killian
Mark Killian’s agricultural experience is broad and diverse. A fifth-generation farmer/rancher and also a native Arizonan, Killian was involved in his family’s farm and ranch enterprises, overseeing 1,500 acres of farmland in Arizona. He and his wife, Nancy, own Killian Angus Ranch LLC, which produces registered Angus bulls for Arizona and New Mexico ranches. And up until recently, his family was involved in the direct marketing of Killian Premium Beef to local families. More broadly, the Killian family has owned and operated farms and ranches in California, Kentucky, New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona including a Thoroughbred racing and cattle farm in Kentucky. Today the family operates a Ranch Horse operation that provides ranch horses to a broad equine market.
Mark has also had several experiences and careers outside of agriculture, including as a commercial real estate broker specializing in the management and development of commercial real estate and marketing farms, ranches, and residential properties.
And in the thick of all that, Mark devoted many years to serving Arizona's citizens in various capacities, including serving 14 years from 1983 to 1996 in the Arizona House of Representatives, including Speaker of the House and House Majority Leader. Following his time in the legislature, he served as the director of the Arizona Department of Revenue from 1997 to 2002. He later served on the Arizona Board of Regents from 2010-2015. And then from 2015 until earlier this year, Mark served as the Director of the Arizona Department of Agriculture. Mark currently serves on the Board of Directors for Huma Inc., an international fertilizer company, and was recently appointed as a Senior Fellow of the Arizona State University Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems.
As the Arizona Department of Agriculture Director (AZDA), Mark spent a lot of time on the road and traveled throughout the state to visit individual agricultural operations. He made himself accessible to his farm and ranch customers by sharing his private phone numbers and often sharing them at the end of meetings. You could count on him to answer the phone or return your voicemail.
As a farmer and rancher, Mark understands firsthand the challenges that people in agriculture face. As the AZDA Director, he was passionate about helping people and working toward positive solutions so that those in agriculture and citizens alike had access to all avenues of agriculture in Arizona.
We’ll always know him as a true advocate for industry.
Lifetime Service to Farm Bureau: Gerald Flake
Gerald Flake is a 4th-generation Arizona rancher raising cattle in Northern Arizona. He and his late wife, Arlene, were married for 59 years and raised eight children. He is a graduate of Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in animal Husbandry. Along with his ranching operation, Gerald was County Supervisor with Farmer’s Home Administration USDA for 10 years, and also a Farm Supervisor with Snowflake Pig Farms for 15 years.
Gerald’s service to both Navajo County Farm Bureau and Arizona Farm Bureau began in 1970. Gerald’s sons, Will and Reed, are actively involved in Farm Bureau coming up through the Young Farmers and Ranchers program. Reed is currently serving as Navajo County President and as a member of the State Board.
One of Gerald’s greatest achievements is his service that spans five decades serving in numerous capacities. He and Arlene were instrumental in keeping their County Farm Bureau active and functional, each serving in various leadership capacities on their county board and helping to recruit new members to join and be involved. One notable leadership position Gerald served in was that of the second vice president of the Arizona Farm Bureau. When the Second Vice President slot came open, he felt it was important to have a rancher represented in the officer team and when he couldn’t get a rancher to run for the Second Vice President position, he ran himself and served three terms.
Gerald has always had a love for agriculture and felt like the Farm Bureau was the best voice he could side with to help support and protect the agricultural industry and producers. He took multiple trips to Washington D.C. and discussed issues that were critical to his ranch and the ag industry directly with legislators. Gerald has always seen the importance of staying involved in things to know what is going on within the industry. Not an unusual truth for leaders with decades of dedicated Farm Bureau service, policies Gerald introduced at a Navajo County Farm Bureau policy development meeting in his living room ended up as legislation on Capitol Hill, or simply as powerful policy in the American Farm Bureau Policy handbook. The grassroots concept and far-reaching voice are what kept him involved and driven.
Farmer of the Year Award: Carrie Mayfield
If you ask her, Carrie Mayfield will tell you, “My passion is to share hospitality and agriculture. I want to encourage people to make others welcome in our homes, on the road, and in our everyday lives! I want to share how our food and fiber are grown on the farm.”
Her husband, Gary, and she farm in Buckeye, Arizona. They grow vegetables, cotton, alfalfa, and grain. Married for almost 38 years with 3 terrific children, and 11 grandchildren, Carrie and Gary are 3rd generation farmers.
A highlight of Carrie’s efforts to engage families and the public was starting a school on the farm during the pandemic when schools across the country were shut down. As farm owners in Buckeye, the family decided to take education matters into their own hands during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Mayfields bought some supplies, hired a teacher, and went to work.
A throwback to the days of the one-room schoolhouse, two days a week, nine students of all ages were under one roof. They learned reading, writing, and arithmetic, with time set aside for things like art and cooking. Capturing the hearts during trying times for the whole nation, TV 10 News profiled the experience on their nightly news.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the January 2024 issue of Arizona Agriculture.