When thoughts of Phoenix arise they usually consist activities like golf, shopping, resorts and beautiful weather. Not many people would think of farming, in fact, most people would never consider building an organic farm in the heart of the city; but that’s exactly what Frank Martin did. Crooked Sky Farms is a 40-acre farm just a few miles from of Downtown Phoenix. In fact, the farmers have some of the best views of the Phoenix skyline throughout the entire city. Crooked Sky produces produce year-round and Frank’s history has created a farm unlike any other.
How it all began
Frank Martin grew up farming with his family and has always loved the idea of growing food. He enjoys getting up to watch the sunrise and the idea that he can produce food with only a tiny seed. “He began farming Arizona land in 1999 and since then he has long outgrown the 40-acres in Phoenix. He now farms on three different areas of land throughout the state and one in New Mexico.
Farm life isn’t a cakewalk though. Frank had experience farming from a very young age, when regulations hardly existed. “I was influenced very early on to not use chemicals . . . we would be out in the fields and the crop dusters just came right over the top of us and they sprayed you while you were out in the field,” Frank said.
After seeing the effects industrial farming had on his own health, he decided to do something differently.
More than just organic
Crooked Sky Farms is more than just an organic farm. They don’t use fertilizers nor do they use pesticides. It’s a 100% chemical-free zone. In the middle of an industrial area of one of the nation’s largest cities, it’s literally a breathe of fresh air. Instead of using pesticides, Frank uses natural methods to control pests on the farm. For example, he lets certain plants continue to grow after they’ve been harvested. This allows the plants to flower and attracts ladybugs (and bees for pollination). What’s a ladybug’s favorite food? Aphids. Some farmers try to buy ladybugs and release them on the farm but the problem is, they end up leaving. Frank uses nature to attract them naturally.
The mission was not only to grow organically but also to feed and support a community. They are located in a lower-income part of Phoenix, which is also known as a “food desert,” where grocery stores and fresh food are minimal. Crooked Sky Farms combats these issues and help produce jobs and food. The goal is to produce healthy, organic food for everyone, not just those who can afford it via expensive stores. Heather Houk, the farm manager believes, “clean water, clean food [and] clean air should be a human right not a right of privilege based on how much money you make.”
Where to find them
At Crooked Sky Farms, the door is always open. At any time of day you can walk in, wave to Frank on the tractor and purchase the freshest in-season produce in the Valley. They have multiple plots of land around the Valley but the main farm is located just off of Lower Buckeye Road and 27th Avenue. It’s conveniently off the southwest corner of Interstate 17. The address is, 2615 S 27th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85009.
They also provide a CSA (community-supported agriculture) program, which allows locals to purchase in-season produce on a consistent basis. For even more convenience Crooked Sky Farms has a booth at two different farmers’ markets every Saturday. Frank himself can be found at the Gilbert Farmers’ Market and his farmer partner, Heather, runs another booth at the Old Town Scottsdale Farmers’ Market as well.
What’s in season?
The year-round warm weather allows Frank and his team to grow produce all year round. During the cooler months some of the most popular produce includes broccoli, cauliflower and Kale. The warmer months bring tomatoes and hundreds of varieties of melons. The farm also has fresh duck eggs and chicken eggs all year long. Frank loves to try to grow new vegetables so there’s always something different on hand no matter what time of year.
I experienced it; See for yourself
Even just one trip to the organic farm is a life-changing experience. Frank Martin is one of the most humbling people I’ve ever met. It’s a great way to teach people – not just children – where food comes from because many people don’t understand the work behind what’s on shelves at the grocery store. It’s also important to note that while food can say “organic,” that doesn’t mean they omit all chemicals from the process the way Crooked Sky Farm does.