I was one of four children raised by a single mother who did her best to support our family. We moved eleven times from state to state, including Arizona, California, Colorado, and Nevada, looking for better opportunities. I went to several different schools throughout my childhood, and I longed for stability and roots — which I eventually found through gardening. No matter how many different homes we lived in, my mom and I always built a small vegetable garden in our backyard, and our tiny house was filled with more houseplants than you could count. The garden was always a safe place, where my mother and I bonded and worked, and at times it was the only thing that made sense to me. The garden was also a source of food for our struggling family, and by the time I was a teenager, we were cultivating plants in both our front and back yards. I felt a great sense of pride when strangers would stop and take photos, particularly because I had spent so much time making the garden neat and organized — an aesthetic sensibility that I still possess to this day.

My passion for gardening continued in high school, where I read books on botany and joined botany clubs; I later received my associate’s degree in Urban Horticulture. Looking back now, I can see how numerous lessons I had learned in the garden took me down this path. My mother taught me that even though we had to be frugal, we had everything we needed. Through gardening, I learned the value of simplicity — learning from the earth and appreciating the small things in life. As a result of my upbringing, I also was unable to tolerate laziness; working hard, and often alone, in the garden instilled a strong drive and work ethic in me.

“Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do. Plus you get strawberries.”

Ron Finley
After more than 20 years of experience in the horticulture industry, I am now the property manager at Agave Farms. Like many of us in Phoenix, I had driven right past it on Central Avenue many times without even knowing what it was, until finally I heard that the farm was hiring, which piqued my curiosity. I was a bit skeptical, and even a little nervous, because I wasn't sure what to expect from an urban farm located right in the middle of Central Phoenix, but it was like nothing I had ever seen before. I was impressed, but despite my previous experience in farms and nurseries, I knew I had my work cut out for me, because Agave Farms is so much
more than just a farm. It is an agricultural wonderland with a nursery, a community garden, and an educational venue laid out over 15 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds, including a vineyard and a fruit orchard. 

After a lifetime of gardening, I have once again found my safe space. Rather than letting the chaos of this place stress me out, I crave the challenge and the excitement, because no two days are the same. Being in charge allows me to follow my passion and curiosity, and creativity is encouraged by the owner. My goal is to deliver exceptional customer service to each and every person that walks onto the property; because the layout of the farm can be somewhat confusing, it is extremely important to me to make sure that each person is greeted with a sense of comfort and direction. I am also continually able to apply the appreciation for simplicity that I learned years ago as a child as I work to streamline our visitor experience.

While big-picture work fascinates me, I also enjoy discussing minutia — plant care, the importance of clean healthy soil, what microbes are, and what they do. One factor that sets our farm apart is our commitment to only sell local, Arizona-grown plants. Many first-time gardeners have experienced the confusion of buying a beautiful plant, bringing it home, planting it in the harsh desert climate and quickly watching it die — because it was most likely grown in a different, controlled climate and fed a synthetic fertilizer, which made it grow way too fast. Our goal is to make each visitor into a successful gardener with ample knowledge of soil health,
environmental wellbeing, and true organic products and protocols. We encourage visitors to come to our classes, volunteer opportunities, seasonal sales, and markdown events and do their part in keeping our urban farm alive so we can offer more ways to give back to the community. And just maybe, they’ll find their safe space here in our garden, too.