WILLCOX — When Floyd and Rose Mary Robbs arrived in Cochise County to start a farm in the Kansas Settlement area just south of Willcox, they found fertile land with moderate weather and abundant water.
Like friends had done, in 1955 the Robbs moved from the panhandle of Texas, with plans to make a life farming in Arizona.
Before long they began clearing land, drilling wells and growing Milo, an animal feed also called grain sorghum.
The farm began to grow cotton and then lettuce in the early ‘60s. The 1970s were a heyday for lettuce in Arizona, with growing regions in Yuma, Tucson, Eloy and Cochise County, which had a spring and fall crop.
Alan Robbs was born in the mid-’50s. Alan said his family made their home in the town of Willcox, about 11 miles away from their farm. It was something his dad simply preferred to do.
He remembers working at the farm as a kid, helping his father clear land of mesquite. The old tractor they used still sits on the property.
Following his high school graduation Alan moved to Bakersfield, California, where he continued his education, graduating in 1980 from Cal State with a degree in ag business.
He met and married Kathy there, started a family and remained until 1990 before returning to Willcox.
The farm moved to producing new crops. Out went the water-intensive lettuce and maize to less-thirsty cotton. That expanded into sweet yellow onions, pumpkin, peppers and watermelon. Alan started a pistachio and pecan orchard.
Sons, Nick, Zack and Joram have grown up on and helped or have worked different aspects of the farm, with Zack currently managing.
The family’s farm has downsized from those days to 40 acres where the pistachios grow, and about five acres of homestead and vegetable gardens.
The business model of the small farm is to sell and live off what they produce.
The farm is near Willcox and Kathy says they would like to develop a larger local customer base.
Right now, to sell their organic veggies, nuts, and fruits, they travel to the Tucson area and sell at farmers markets. They show up at one three times a week, a task with time-consuming drives.
On Wednesdays they’re in Green Valley, Saturdays in Vail and Sundays at the Rillito Racetrack market in Tucson.
This year the Robbs have started something new on Saturdays. Alan travels to Vail while Kathy tends to a veggies and dry goods stand they’ve opened at their farm.
The mini-store sits roadside at mile-marker 16 on Kansas Settlement Road. It’s a small cabin with a porch, decked out inside in a warm, welcoming country style.
For sale inside, a selection of seasonal crops from the farm is available, squash, beans and pecans. Pantry goods like pistachios, honey, Gibson’s Spice Rack spices, Pawlicious Pet Treats and Sonoita Soap Co. soaps are for sale.
There’s a few odds and ends, coffee mugs and garments. Also there are earrings by Robbs Custom Leather Works and a couple of books from Kathy’s suggested reading list, including Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable Miracle.
Zack creates the leather work and wife Sarah helps him sell on Etsy and Facebook.
Photos by Nick decorate the store; he’s a photographer for N Cross H Productions in Sonoita.
A shaded area, and more, is in the works for 2023.
“We’re hoping to get this place fully going, to get it finished, with the roof and signage and stuff,” Kathy said. “And maybe be a little more locally minded here. We promote local in Tucson, and we’d like to promote local here at home, in our hometown,” Kathy said. “When I’m in Willcox, and I see the people, I realize I love this town. So, I’d like to be here more.
Kathy mentioned their web site, robbsfamilyfarm.weebly.com, is a bit outdated, but good for general contact info. Go to Facebook for the farm’s current doings.