The History of Armistead Farms

The Armistead family has been in the citrus farming business since the 1920's when H. Thomas Armistead decided to plant citrus trees on desert acreage purchased in northeast Mesa. H. Thomas's interest in farming developed while he was employed by the University of Arizona Experimental Farm; which was located on the corner of Alma School Road and Main Street in Mesa, Arizona.  With the help of his 12 year old son, Lawrence T. Armistead, they worked the desert soil, cleared the desert foliage and prepared to plant a new citrus grove.  This was not an easy task, as the soil was dry and lacking in nutrients.  The supply of irrigation water was limited, and the newly planted citrus trees would need ample water.  As other crop farmers in the area had the same need for water, the local farmers banded together to build a new canal system to bring water from the lakes and rivers to their farmlands.  The canal system is still in use today and operated by the Roosevelt Water Conservation District (RWCD).

Lawrence T. Armistead followed in his father's footsteps and became the second generation of citrus farmers in the family when he purchased and farmed 200+ acres of his own citrus, which was located near what is now Adobe Street and Greenfield Road in Mesa.  Along with farming his own land, he also sharecropped on several hundred acres of citrus groves owned by others.  As he had four daughters and no sons to help farm, he hired farmhands to assist with the cultivating and irrigating of his citrus groves.  In the 1980's as the area grew and as homes were built, Adobe became a paved street.  At that time a street address was assigned to the equipment yard location and Lawrence's citrus operation became known as Armistead Farms.  Throughout his lifetime, Lawrence served on the Board of Directors for RWCD and also the Board of Directors for the local citrus packing house, Mesa Citrus Growers, which was affiliated with Sunkist in California.  Mesa Citrus Growers picked, packed and sold the citrus fruits harvested from Armistead Farms citrus groves for over 60 years. Lawrence's son-in-law, David Mittendorf, married to his youngest daughter, is the third generation of citrus farmers and carries on the traditions of the Armistead Family.  David began working with Lawrence in 1974 cultivating, watering, pruning and fertilizing the citrus trees.

The late 1980's brought big changes to the citrus groves in east Mesa.  Developers began buying the groves and pulling out the trees by the thousands to build homes among the acres of sweet smelling citrus.  The citrus groves quickly changed from crop producing groves to non-producing, upscale, gated subdivisions.  At the end of 1993, Lawrence sold his citrus grove just prior to passing away at the age of 80.  Up until the sale of the grove, Lawrence was still in charge of the farming operations but relied heavily on David for the physical work.  As citrus groves became subdivisions, and the subdivisions maintained flood irrigation systems, Armistead Farms, now owned and operated by David, transformed from a farming business to an irrigation service business.  In November 2010, Armistead Farms became Armistead Farms, LLC, and has been providing irrigation service to many of these subdivisions since the early 1980's.

In April 2004, David had an opportunity to expand Armistead Farms and incorporate a citrus farming division through leasing and sharecropping 300+ acres of citrus groves with his three sons.  Kevin, Chris, and Ryan are now the fourth generation of citrus farmers in the family.  In 2007, Kevin obtained Organic Certification for the leased citrus groves.  In November 2010, the farming division of Armistead Farms became Armistead Farms Organics, LLC.  Armistead Farms Organics, LLC produces Navel oranges, Valencia oranges, Arizona sweet oranges, lemons, white and ruby red grapefruit.  Armistead Farms Organics, LLC's fruit is sold at many local markets.  It is our endeavor to grow, pick, pack and deliver our citrus fruit to the market faster and fresher than any other citrus producer.

Despite the struggles the citrus farmer faces, Armistead Farms has been successful in the citrus industry for 90+ years and we hope the family tradition carries on as Kevin's son, Dominic, could be the fifth generation.  While hoeing in his Nona's garden Dominic said "look Nona, I'm a farmer!"