On a blue checkered tablecloth on Kathy and Alan Robbs’ farmers’ market table sit boxes of pistachios crisp in their shells, jars of homemade apricot jam, clear plastic bins filled with multicolored beans, and a small photo album with images of their family. The Robbs want to feed Baja Arizonans the same way they feed their own family—with local, whole foods.
Robbs Family Farm has always been just that—a family farm. Alan Robbs was raised on the land, once a 300-acre farm in Willcox where his father, Floyd, began growing animal feed and iceberg lettuce in 1955. In 1985, when labor and infrastructure became too expensive, Floyd planted pistachio trees. It was the same year that Floyd’s first grandson, Nicholas, was born. He called it his “grandfather act.”
Alan had moved to Bakersfield, California, for college, where he met and married his wife, Kathy. Five years after planting his first pistachio orchard, Floyd asked Alan and Kathy to return to Robbs Family Farm to continue his legacy. “I always wanted to live in the country,” said Kathy, a Bakersfield native. Her desire to grow plants—and their three boys—in the country made the decision to move from Bakersfield to Willcox an easy one. Since returning to Robbs Family Farm in 1990, Alan and Kathy have grown many things—but they haven’t looked back.
After growing acres of onions, sorghum, iceberg lettuce, and animal feed, the Robbs family now focuses on growing 65 acres of pistachios and five acres of organic vegetables on the land around their family home. While Alan and Kathy’s middle son, Zach, farms the pistachio trees, Alan and Kathy maintain the organic vegetable garden and go to local farmers’ markets to sell pistachios, organically grown vegetables, dried beans, and homemade preserves.
“If we don’t grow it or produce it, we know who did,” Kathy said, of their pledge to only sell foods that the Robbs use in their own kitchen. Their commitment to localism began after the couple read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. After reading about how the former Tucsonan and her family ate only locally grown foods for an entire year, the Robbs were inspired to source their food locally and help others do the same. “It’s really been an educational experience for us,” Alan said. It’s also been good for business. “People like local,” he added.
After the Robbs’ 65-acres of mature pistachio trees are harvested in September and October, the pistachios are sent to Summit Nut Company in Cochise to be cleaned, dried, and put into cold storage until they’re roasted in small batches each month. “They’re always fresh-roasted,” Kathy said, explaining that more than 95 percent of the pistachios available at grocery stores are grown in California, likely harvested and roasted long before you get them. Robbs’ pistachios “have never been out of the state,” Alan said. Robbs Family Farm sells pistachios in a variety of flavors: roasted and unsalted, garlic, jalapeño, hickory mesquite, and, their customers’ favorite, chile lime. Find the Robbs and their pistachios, organically grown produce, and preserves every week at the Green Valley Farmers’ Market, Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market, Willcox Farmers’ Market, and Rillito Park Farmers’ Market.