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The Farm

Within Agritopia are approximately 12 acres of permanent urban farming. Farming first began here in 1927 when barren desert was cleared. The availability of irrigation water made farming in the desert possible. Initially, alfalfa hay was the principal crop (Gilbert was known as the hay capitol of the world).

When the Johnston family bought the farm in 1960, cotton was the most important crop. Cotton was grown in rotation with wheat, sorghum, corn, and barley. For a time, sugar beets were grown to supply the Spreckles Sugar plant in Chandler. In the 90’s, cotton became less profitable and the family grew mainly feed crops for dairy cattle, such as corn and alfalfa.

With the creation of Agritopia, preservation of agriculture was an underlying principle. In 2000, we began to carve out and convert the parcels that would be the permanent urban farming plots. Some of the earliest plots planted were the Medjool date and olive groves as well as the New Orchard (citrus, apples, peaches, plums, apricots, and blackberries).

The plots closest to the restaurant are for field crops. Seasonally, these plots produce a broad range of vegetables, herbs, and flowers. We are particularly proud of our leaf crops (lettuce, endive, asian greens, etc.) and our tomato crop (heirlooms, yellow, red, plum, etc.). The production of the farm is utilized by Joe’s Farm Grill, The Coffee Shop, and is available for purchase at the Agritopia Produce Stand.

Our farming methods exceed the standards for USDA organic. We focus on building the health of the soil, which is the best way to produce healthy plants. Our staff uses compost as a basic soil builder and proper crop rotation to avoid plant diseases. Pest control is generally through the use of natural predators and healthy plants. If we do need to take further action, we only use OMRI approved products.

The Johnston family - Paul, Virginia, Joe, Jim (behind), and Steve - in their cotton field, circa 1967.

Row crops in the urban farm which are destined for Joe's Farm Grill and an on-site farm stand.

The perennial garden is a source of herbs and other crops that last more than one season.

The Food

Fresh lettuce growing on our farm. Much of our produce is harvested the same day we cook it.

We do virtually everything from scratch. Even our pickles are made in-house.

All of our sandwiches are grilled to order and the buns griddled for crisp carmelized edges.

At Joe’s Farm Grill, we focus on common food done uncommonly well and served quickly. Common foods such as burgers, fries, pizza, salads, and ribs are common for a good reason: people love them. They taste great! We have taken these common foods to the next level.

First of all, we source the best QUALITY ingredients we can find, emphasizing local ingredients. As much as possible, we use fruit, vegetables, and herbs from The Farm at Agritopia, right at our front door. After that we look to other local farmers and then other parts of Arizona. Not everything can be entirely local, but we give it our best shot.

Secondly, we are concerned about using the most HEALTHFUL ingredients. For instance we use local, natural beef for our burgers and transfat free oils for frying, dressings, and marinades.

Thirdly, we minimize using prepared foods by crafting as much as we can in our own kitchen. This includes hand breading our onion rings and making our own specialty sauces. It takes more TIME and EFFORT, but you can taste the difference.

We also take common food to the next level in the way it TASTES. Each of our recipes focuses on bringing out the natural goodness of the quality ingredients. Our menu changes to reflect what is in season, so you can be sure that the flavor of each item is at its peak.

So, enjoy the food at Joe’s Farm Grill, knowing that these common foods have received uncommon care and thought in their preparation.

The Building

It may not look like a home any longer, but Joe’s Farm Grill is created from the Johnston Family home built in 1966. Jim and Virginia Johnston decided to move from Chandler to the farm to be closer to Jim’s work. They hired D. D. Castleberry to design and build them a ranch-style, slump block home for their young family. Sons Joe, Steve, and Paul were excited about moving out to “the country”.

The home was a wonderful place to grow up with plenty of adventure for young boys. The large trees made for good climbing and tree houses. Living on the farm was ideal for the family, too, since Jim could be home for most meals and work with the boys during the summer and, as needed, during the school year. In later years, Steve Johnston would spend time raising his family on the farm and, later still, brother Joe lived with his family in the home.

In the planning of Agritopia, it was always envisioned that a restaurant coupled to the urban farm would be a major focal point for the project. We also intended, from the start, that all of the homestead buildings should be kept and remodeled and that the mature trees must be preserved. This helped guide our redevelopment of the Johnston home into Joe’s Farm Grill.

We decided to keep the 60’s era look and change it to a mid-century modern design of a “burger stand”, while making sure that we took the greatest advantage of the peaceful setting created by the large trees. This meant that we wanted to blend the indoors and outdoors. The resulting butterfly roof and open breezeway make for an airy patio that offers shade and excellent views.

Al fresco dining is one of the great things about living in Arizona. There are only a few months where it is less comfortable. During warm months we’ve added coolness through shade and an integrated misting system. When it’s cold, an hydronic patio heating system (the concrete has heated water lines built into it) warms our guests.

So what is left of the original house? Most of it, actually. The dining room is the former family room with its fireplace. The kitchen is where all of the bedrooms were located. The home’s kitchen and dining room were taken out so we could create the breezeway.

By the way, Jim and Virginia still live “on the farm” in an Agritopia home. So do the families of Joe and Paul. They are all frequent diners at Joe’s Farm Grill, enjoying meals together.

32 Comments

  • Kay Knutson

    I look forward to visiting your restaurant at the end of September

    September 13th, 2010 at 8:06 am
  • Kristin

    You should do weddings!

    September 13th, 2010 at 9:30 am
  • Melissa

    I saw this place on Diners, Drive In’s, and Dives a few years ago and couldn’t wait to visit. It was worth the wait!

    With the way farming is today, I so glad that you are out there keeping the ‘real farm’ alive! All the best to you and yours!

    October 20th, 2010 at 8:35 pm
  • Wendy

    WOW! Great food! and the setting is really nice, the land out there is very pretty.

    November 13th, 2010 at 6:12 am
  • Chandler

    I LOVE Joe’s Farm Grill! You can find myself and my family here atleast once a week even when we live a half hour away. The food is so fresh and yummy its hard not to want it at all times of the day:)

    February 20th, 2011 at 9:32 pm
  • Ron

    This is the way all dining should be, organic locally grown food, prepared by people who care about what they serve. I’m looking forward to eating there.

    February 21st, 2011 at 8:01 am
  • Michaela

    When we took a trip to Phoenix last year to see family, this was the first stop on our destination list. We ate at a wide variety of resturants while we were there, but Joe’s beats them all by far! Home grown and freashly cooked food makes for a happy tummy! :)

    March 1st, 2011 at 1:29 pm
  • Cathy

    I’m in Gilbert, AZ on business and happened upon this place so I picked something up to bring back to my hotel for dinner. I settled in with my dinner, turned on American Idol, and all I have to say is “Yo Dawg! This Grilled Wedge Salad is da BOMB, y’all!!!!”

    May 11th, 2011 at 7:15 pm
  • Kellie

    What an excellent place for great food! I absolutely loved the BBQ Chicken Pizza, The RIbs, the Pulled Pork! Delicious! And the best part is that it is locally grown. That alone makes you feel great about eating out! What a great location too! Love, love, love!

    June 10th, 2011 at 8:48 pm
  • Mike Michelsen

    Gentlemen,

    Before we left our home in Riverside, California, my wife told me that she was taking me to this wonderful restaurant in Arizona as I accompanied her on a business trip. As we drove from where we spent the night to your establishment, I kept thinking “this better be good.”

    Almost 20 miles out of our way, we had a dinner at your place. It was wonderful. The only regret I have about visiting your restaurant is that I was in pain from eating all the good food.

    In short, your restaurant was worth the drive, and it didn’t matter how far out of our way it was to visit. It was worth every bit of the inconvenience. I hope that the next time I’m in Arizona, I am “inconvenienced” again for a wonderful meal at your place.

    Keep up the good work. We’ll be back.

    Mike & Lisa Michelsen

    June 28th, 2011 at 9:00 am
  • Trammel

    Today was my first time eating @ Joes and I am a native here in Mesa, AZ. I heard about Joes from a fellow dog owner. Since dog’s are allowed (not inside) @ Joes I decided to give it a shot.

    WOW, not only did I discover a refreshing taste of what burgers can be like. It’s all freshly grown on site and they don’t mind your four legged friends coming along. This is going to become a regular place to eat from now on.
    Trammel & Deanine

    July 10th, 2011 at 3:40 pm
  • ola

    I was watching DDD and now am determined to make the journey to Arizona the next time i visit the united states.. its worth the time and effort to eat GOOD FRESH ORGANIC PRODUCE. having lost so much weight recently am now keen to explore eating really GOOD FOOD , as in as fresh as possible its so nice to see that these type of outfits still exist well done..

    all the way from the uk..

    July 31st, 2011 at 2:21 pm
  • Barbara Toler Matthews

    So great to see the old family photo! Wow, I remember visiting you all on the farm! The Toler kids had so much fun hanging out there! I remember helping Virgina pick the fresh vegetables and cleaning them in the kitchen sink. I think the most fun was swimming in the canal! Hope you are all well……I will need to come try out the food soon!

    August 17th, 2011 at 9:44 pm
  • Kristen Knutson

    My son and I loved your menu. I think we both changed our minds three times before ordering, it all looks so good. What a refreshing idea, we enjoyed our evening at the farm grill.

    September 16th, 2011 at 7:42 pm
  • Myra Corwin

    We ate here for the first time. It was Fantastic..We are moving here from Nevada and our son turned us on to looking for diners, drive-ins and dives..we are used to only eating at the usual food chains..We will be returning regularly the food was so very good and atmosphere is beautiful….

    October 5th, 2011 at 6:59 pm
  • Gayle Fitzpatrick

    I would like to receivd news about Special Events & Promos to feature on my blog. Do you have an email sign-up? 602-301-6677

    November 25th, 2011 at 2:43 pm
  • J Christensen

    The burgers were great! However, why don’t you recycle and compost? These seem to be in line with your core ideas of using local, fresh ingredients.

    December 29th, 2011 at 2:45 pm
  • Elizabeth Taylor

    I happened to see DDD this evening and there you were. I am a native of AZ, grew up in North Central and have never heard of your establishment. I really need to get out more! I read the food section of the paper, but that’s about it. If you haven’t had a write up in there, you should. I can’t wait to get by and relax at the Farm in 2012. I love local good eats. Until then~peace.

    December 31st, 2011 at 11:44 pm
  • Just watched this on tv and had to visit your website~~ WOW! would I ever love to eat at Joes Farm Grill~ Very Impressed!!!!! :)

    January 1st, 2012 at 4:15 pm
  • Ehren

    I have cut out all junk food in my eating habits thanks to your delicious salads I crave on an every other day occasion. Beats spending less at the grocery store. If you ever have a salad eating contest please send me an invite :) Way better than subway

    January 5th, 2012 at 1:10 pm
  • Stefanie

    Thai Chicken Salad. Wow!!!!!

    January 25th, 2012 at 3:01 pm
  • Becky Spencer

    I just saw your place on DDD! Wow I can’t wait to drive up from Tucson to eat there. My grandson wants to come too. Hope to see you soon.

    April 9th, 2012 at 4:24 pm
  • Tomorrow is a Birthday Celebration!! YUMMMM! Can’t wait!
    Thanks Mr. Stork!! lol

    September 22nd, 2012 at 9:48 pm
  • Cammy

    Just wanted to say Thank you! We came out for Customer Appreciation Day yesterday and it was awesome! Even mass-produced, your burgers are delicious. We had a wonderful, relaxing day on the patio and really appreciate being appreciated!

    November 8th, 2012 at 6:57 am
  • jim packer

    what was the date the grill aired on ddd

    December 25th, 2012 at 12:29 pm
  • melissa

    i love joe’s farm grill its the best place to go to eat a great meal and hangout afterwards at the cafe,,,i have tried mostly all of the food.although i don’t eat beef it looks good and smells amazing thanks you for all you do keep up the great work..also the serve is very good.thanks again…

    January 22nd, 2013 at 12:54 am
  • cort

    we were in the other night for the first time and loved the food. my wife is into photography and we were admiring how great of a location this would be to shoot some couple and small family shoots. we asked one of the employees about this and she directed us to the website after briefly explaining how to get a permit and such. unfortunately we didn’t write down the web address. could you please send the web address to me? thank you in advance.

    February 25th, 2013 at 10:02 pm
  • Damon

    Went to Joe’s this past Saturday March 4th, 2013, and it kicks BUTT!!! The food’s great , and the atmosphere is awesome. We definitely will be back and we’re from Cali!!! Thanks Joe’s Farm Grill.

    March 4th, 2013 at 7:50 pm
  • Damon

    Sorry, it was March 2nd, 2013

    March 4th, 2013 at 7:50 pm
  • jessica

    Love the idea of this! Just wish you used preservative free oils….your “all natural” chicken and beef becomes tainted with your preservative latent oil. :(

    May 15th, 2013 at 5:51 pm
  • Piper Wang

    I have been so pleased with Joes Farm Grill! They have such amazing food and amazing service!! My husband ordered what he thought was a vegetarian meal, we asked them to switch to something vegetarian and even though it was completely our bad, they replaced the item with something vegetarian and my husband loved it!! They are so fantastic and very vegetarian and vegan accommodating as well! I am obsessed with their hamburgers and fries and my husband is now in love with their veggie pizza. Amazing place, you must go!!

    August 19th, 2013 at 2:32 pm
  • Joni Nyberg

    How do I obtain a permit to take some photos of my children at this location?
    Thank you in advance,
    Joni Nyberg

    November 5th, 2013 at 3:58 pm

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