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.