As fields of fruits and vegetables fade from Queen Creek’s landscape and agriculture finds its home elsewhere, so will an annual town event that celebrates those who made the land rich.
Farmers and Farmworkers Appreciation Day made its last stop Sunday at Desert Mountain Elementary School, where colorful classic cars lined the parking lot and dozens of farmers, farm workers and families shuffled through informational booths while chowing down hot dogs and listening to a band.
"Farming is diminishing now and everything is going to construction," said Maria Silva, director of Queen Creek Family Resource Center, which received the event’s proceeds.
For this reason, the event will be moved next year — most likely to Pinal County, where farmlands still sprawl and farming jobs are still in high demand.
"I don’t know why they need to build on good land when there is desert land," said Joe Lopez, a 76-year-old farmer from California who helps farmers in Queen Creek. "Arizona, California, Texas and Mexico . . . we support the whole world. Everything we eat is from the farm."
The annual event, which started eight years ago, was designed to recognize farmers and farm workers for their labor and to give them information to help them in their careers and lives.
Organizations such as the Arizona Interagency Farmworkers Coalition, the Arizona Department of Agriculture and La Unión del Pueblo Entero handed out pamphlets and packets to passersby.
One agricultural worker strolling through was Martin Tiscareno of Queen Creek, who works at Dugan’s Dairy Farm, milking cows, irrigating the land and cultivating crops to feed the cows. He has been working in the industry for nearly 20 years.
Tiscareno said many dairies are still flourishing in Stanfield and that farmland is still widely cultivated in Pinal County and Maricopa.
His wife, Yolanda Tiscareno, runs a local immigrant program, which helps workers who have recently come from Mexico find the resources they need to live.
"This makes me sad because we don’t have as many farms," Yolanda Tiscareno said, "but it’s OK because Queen Creek is growing like a city now."
Carlos Flores Vizcarra, the Mexican Cónsul General in Phoenix, said agriculture is always changing, but that doesn’t always mean it’s diminishing. It may just be moving.
"We still grow tomatoes, but in controlled environments," Flores said. "Other areas are doing agriculture, like nurseries and farms in other places."
Cotton, hay and alfalfa remain the primary crops grown in Queen Creek, said Daniela O’Keefe of the Arizona Department of Agriculture. More than 300 families in the town still work in agriculture, but the farmlands are moving further away.
"It’s wonderful, good land all gone," Lopez said. "There are little bits here and there, but they won’t be there for long."