Do you ever drive through the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and wonder what is being grown and harvested in the farm fields? Much of the land is under cultivation by Rousseau Farming Company, based in Tolleson.
Rousseau Farming Company is owned by the Rousseau family, who have been involved in Arizona agriculture since the late 1800s. Though they started in the cattle business, today most of their operation is growing produce. The company leases more than 3,200 acres in the Community and grows a variety of produce, including carrots, leeks, cilantro, melons and broccoli. In Lehi, Rousseau grows only organic produce.
Will Rousseau, one of the managing partners, is a fourth-generation farmer.
Rousseau worked with his father, Bill Rousseau, for years, then branched out and managed farming for the J.A. Wood Company, an agricultural company that was leasing farmland on the Community. Then he was given an opportunity to come out to Salt River and manage the J.A. Woods Company farm. “I fell in love with it out here,” he said.
When J.A. Woods Company was no longer financially able to afford their lease, Rousseau told them he was interested in taking it over. After negotiation and with the blessing of the Community, Rousseau took over the J.A. Woods Company lease and began operating in Salt River in 1991.
In 1998 the same happened with another Salt River farmer, Bobby Taylor, who had been farming cotton on the Community. Taylor discussed with Rousseau that it was costing too much money for water and electricity, so Rousseau took over the Taylor farm lease as well.
Every 10 years the agricultural lease is renegotiated; two years ago Rousseau Farming signed a new 10-year lease with the Community.
Brett Hunt, operations manager for Rousseau Farming Company, said the majority of the company’s produce is grown from seed, and it is distributed to local restaurants and supermarkets like Wal-Mart and Costco in Arizona and other states.
Every July, Rousseau Farming donates watermelons to the Community for the Fourth of July event.