Gilbert has grown over the past few years. We’ve watched fields turn into developments and tractors turn into bulldozers. While the town is moving away from the rural lifestyle, there is one place that remains a sanctuary to nature and to Gilbert's history.
Agritopia came from the visionary Joe Johnston who wanted to preserve the feeling of “the country” while being an innovator and practicing sustainable farming. His goal was to create a community that embraced the farm and thrived from it.
You might not realize it when you eat at Joe’s Farm Grill but around you stretches 11 acres of urban farm. Just steps from the back of the Farm Grill you’ll find the beautiful community gardens and planting fields.
The farm functions independently from the restaurants in Agritopia, growing seasonal crops. In the fall ans winter they focus on leafy greens as well as broccoli, cauliflower, beets, and carrots. As part of their mission all crops grown on the property are grown organically.
Farm director and 16 year resident of Agritopia, Katie Critchley, makes it her mission to keep the products from the farm in Agritopia to be used to supply the 4 restaurants on property. While they can’t fully meet the high demand of each location when you eat at any of the restaurants in Agritopia chances are you will order a meal with ingredients grown just a few feet away.
“The farm is not only meant for production, but as a place of beauty and to enjoy urban agriculture in Arizona.”
The farm includes fields that grow seasonal veggies, community gardens, orange and peach orchards, date trees and 14 bee hives of over one thousand bee’s. Agritopia harvests over 400 pounds of honey each year.
“We see a lot of bee activity in our farm proper” Critchley explained “they’ll travel up to five miles but their lazy they’ll go closest location.”
While some things remain the same at Agritopia, they have seen changes over the last few years. The farm is no longer home to chicken or sheep, many of their peach trees are at the end of their life span, and most notable construction has begun on the final expansion of the Agritopia community.
Epicenter will be a mix of retail and apartment housing that will follow the values of Agritopia. The center will focus on health, wellness and food. The plan is for the center to be built and ready for new families within the next two years.
The farm relies heavily on community volunteers to keep the farm running. The volunteers help manage the farm and work on big projects around the property. Anyone can volunteer at the farm, Agritopia even holds events to get the community involved, recently volunteers teamed up to plant the seeds for the upcoming tomato season and everyone who came out to help will be invited back to enjoy the tomato harvest this summer.
Community dinners are hosted in the orchards to showcase local chefs and ingredients and to share the beauty of nature and culinary experiences. The events are a major undertaking for the farm. They are planned for months in advance around watering and harvest schedules . You can even have your dream wedding in the orchard; just be sure to contact the farm team well in advance.
Katie Critchley has big plans for the farm and wants to expand the production potential. She looks forward to the possibility of people eating more locally sourced food and knowing not only where their food comes from but how it’s grown.
“I think we could grow a lot more food,” Critchley said “would love it if people would start coming to us as an alternative to a grocery store in order to get their vegetables” Starting in early April, Gilbert residents have access to share in a part of the farms Spring/Summer harvest by becoming members of the Agritopia Community Supported Agriculture Program (CSA). agritopiafarm.com