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Maricopa Agricultural Center

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By Angela Askey
Executive Director Public Relations and Marketing

Earlier this month, the Arid Land and Agriculture Research Center (ALARC) student data team presented highlights of the team’s high-throughput phenotyping (HTP) project at the USDA’s Agriculture Research Center in Maricopa.

The team consisted of five current and former CAC engineering and CIS students (Jared Gale, Jacob Long, Samantha Nicholls, David Koltz and Devin Lindsey), along with two additional team members (Alex Manning and David Moller), and their mentors Mike Roybal, IT specialist and CAC adjunct CIS professor, and Alison Thompson, research scientist.

Roybal and Thompson have been mentoring the ALARC student HTP team since 2016. The students originally came to ALARC as part of the Project Puente Internship program where they worked on field-based, high-throughput phenotyping (FB-HTP) development and/or data analysis.

Each student spoke for five to seven minutes about their involvement with the phenotyping projects including platform development, data processing and handling, and solutions for the “big data” problem presented by high-throughput phenotyping work. Those presenting on hardware, focused on the development of autonomous field robots and optimization of remote-field carts while the presenters discussing software related challenges concentrated on data processing pipelines and database development. IT support discussed developing high-performance computing clusters and server maintenance.

Due to their hard work, dedication, and skills, each of the presenting students have been hired as part-time employees.

“Each of the team members provided valuable resources for ALARC phenotyping efforts,” Roybal said. “The continued dedication and support by the students enable ALARC scientists to assess field-grown plants, and process and share data with collaborators to assist in developing better crop and management strategies.”


Jerry Walp speaking to visitors in the garden at the Maricopa Agricultural Center. Submitted

By Julie Olson

Master Gardener Julie Olson

Midsummer is a great time to start planning the fall vegetable garden.

Draw the garden to scale in air-conditioned comfort. A crowed garden won’t yield or grow to potential.

Plant spacing recommendations
Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and brussels sprouts:
Rows 30 inches wide, plants spaced 20 inches apart
Leafy greens like lettuce, chard and kale: 20-inch rows with 5-6-inch plant spacing
Radishes and spinach: 20-inch rows
Peas: 2-3 inches apart if grown on a fence or trellis to provide more garden space

Selecting seed varieties is a fun part of gardening. Check the days to maturity on the packet. The desert season is shorter than normal, so quicker-maturing vegetables are better. Make copies of the seed packet information for later reference.

After drawing the garden plot and deciding what to plant, the next step is removing dead plants and debris. The soil may need amendments of fertilizer and compost if a summer garden was grown. September is a good time to start planting seeds as they like warm soil for germination. If using transplants, wait three to four weeks. Irrigation lines should also be checked and repaired. Watering problems are much easier to fix before planting.

Plants and seeds need to be protected from birds and ground squirrels. It`s very discouraging to find a row of holes where peas were planted. Birds will also eat tender new leaves and stems. A light-weight row cover or netting may be needed. Netting should be high enough to prevent birds from poking through to the plants.

Check daily for insect problems. A strong spray of water on the leaf undersides will knock off aphids. Insecticidal soaps will control many pests. Companion planting is another pest control. Onions and garlic help protect broccoli and cabbage from cabbage loopers which eat three times their weight every day.

Weeds are another garden pest that steal water and nutrients, crowd out and shade vegetables. Don`t forget to mark the rows. Plastic knives with plant names written on them make good row markers.

By mid-October radishes and other short-season crops can be harvested. Vegetables harvested at their peak are most nutritious.

Cut the first leaves of swiss chard when 4 to 6 inches, let the next ones grow 6 to 8 inches. Harvest greens when young and dark green for best flavor. Old leaves will become bitter. Pick broccoli when heads are dark blue green and compact. Cabbage should be firm, crisp and rich green in color.

Enjoy fall vegetables through January and February, then it`s time to plant for summer.


Julie Olson is a Master Gardener and Maricopa resident.

This column appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.



Senior residents and winter visitors learn a thing or two at MAC's AgVenture Tours.

By Rita Bricker 

Rita Bricker

Let’s explore the Master Gardener program as it relates to our fair city of Maricopa.

But first some history and definitions. The Land Grant College Act of 1862 ceded land within each state to establish colleges and universities specializing in the “agricultural and mechanic” (A&M) arts. The University of Arizona is our land-grant college.

The Cooperative Extension Service is a large, informal education system to help people use research-based knowledge to improve their lives. This service is provided by a state’s land-grant university and is administered by county agents. Our Pinal County agent is Rick Gibson.

The Master Gardener program is an adjunct of the Cooperative Extension Service along with other groups such as 4-H. Our mission as Master Gardeners is to provide the public with research-based, home, horticultural information through educational programs and projects. We are all unpaid volunteers.

Our local group is fortunate to have the Maricopa Agricultural Center (affectionately known as MAC) as our home base. The MAC is a University of Arizona experiment station known for its research on cotton, small grains, alfalfa and new, specialty crops. At the MAC, our Master Gardeners maintain a demonstration garden, and we are currently planning a new orchard plot. We utilize these areas as teaching platforms to introduce local homeowners to new plants and planting techniques, as well as best practices in planning, cultivation, irrigation, and garden and tool maintenance.

Another vital service we provide is plant diagnostics. The Maricopa Master Gardeners were commissioned by our county extension agent to act as the go-to plant and insect diagnostic resource for the county in January 2014. In that capacity, we assumed responsibility for logging and resolving the plant and insect questions and issues tendered by home gardeners from all corners of Pinal County. We have a diagnostic lab and comprehensive library in our office, which is also located at the MAC.

Becoming a Pinal County Master Gardener requires some time and dedication, but it’s well worth it, not only for one’s personal knowledge but for the opportunity to share that learning with others. First, one must complete a specialized course in gardening in the low desert. The 50-hour course covers topics such as botany, soils and plant nutrition, problem diagnosis, irrigation, pest management, desert-adapted plants and vegetable gardening.

The next Garden and Landscape course will be offered in Maricopa Aug. 22–Dec.19. 

Upon course completion, Master Gardener applicants must complete a specified number of volunteer service hours to obtain full certification. Typical volunteer projects include our annual plant sale, introducing school children to outdoor gardening, staffing the plant diagnostic office, and presenting information at city-wide events. These volunteer opportunities are fun and gratifying, and they can open up a whole new network of acquaintances and contacts.

Rita Bricker is a Master Gardener in Maricopa.


This column appears in the July issue of InMaricopa Magazine.

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Maricopa Master Gardeners hosted their annual plant sale at Maricopa Agricultural Center on Saturday. It was not just a fund-raiser, though money from the sale of plants started and grown by the gardeners helps the program. The event connects the Master Gardeners with other residents and offers them the chance to share their knowledge of growing vegetables, flowers and herbs in Maricopa’s climate.

Senior residents and winter visitors learn a thing or two at MAC's AgVenture Tours.

Maricopa Agricultural Center is set for a busy February.

The MAC Farm hosts its annual Desert Ag-Ventures Tours for senior residents and winter visitors on four days. Registration fee of $20 includes a hot lunch.

Ag-Ventures are an opportunity to learn how agriculture works in Arizona and how farming in the west may be different than it is elsewhere in the country. The tours typically draw “snowbirds” from the Midwest who already know a thing or two about farming.

Extension agent Victor Jimenez, who will demonstrate how to siphon water and also allow participants to give it a try, said there will be six other presenters. Speakers may vary depending on the dates of the tour.

Long-time Maricopa resident Oliver Anderson of Anderson-Palmisano Farms will talk about Arizona agriculture. Jay Subramani, a researcher in the School of Plant Sciences at the University of Arizona, will discuss Arizona cotton. U of A Assistant Professor Pedro Andrada will explain precision agriculture.

Master Gardener Judy Walp will be in the garden that bears her name to talk about home gardens. U of A microbiologist Natalie Brassil has a presentation on Arizona water. Public health entomologist Lucy Li will also talk about agriculture.

The tours are Feb. 6, 8, 13 and 20. Each day starts with check-in at 9:30 a.m. Registration is limited. The programs run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and include a ride around the farm on a tractor-trailer.


This story appears in the February issue of InMaricopa.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa Agricultural Center hosted its annual Family Farm Day on Saturday, filling a temporary parking lot with cars. Attendees tried their hands at traditional farm tasks like corn grinding and tractor riding. There were also antique engines, master gardeners, live animals, cotton gin tours and the challenging cricket-spitting contest.

University of Arizona students and staff ran booths and games, and other vendors and local businesses handed out free items. MAC staff ran arts-and-crafts for the kids and educational stations.

From left, MAC Superintendent Greg Main, Master Gardener Dave Brady, SNAP-Ed Instructional Specialist Carol Diemer and County Extension Director Edward Martin discuss the possibilities of a small-acreage farming program for new growers. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

So, you want to be a farmer?

What: Small-Acreage Farming Opportunity
When: Oct. 25, 8:30 a.m.
Where: Maricopa Agricultural Center, 37860 W. Smith-Enke Road
Info: http://cals-mac.arizona.edu/ 

The local Cooperative Extension wants to help, and even has plots to get you started. A meeting is planned Oct. 25 at the Maricopa Agricultural Center for those interested in learning more.

“It’s kind of an exploratory meeting to find out who’s interested,” said Edward Martin, director of the county extension. “We know that we’ve got folks in Maricopa County that are looking for land to rent and looking for information and education. We know we’ve got folks in Pinal County and in the town of Maricopa itself that are looking for the same type of information.”

The University of Arizona office at the MAC has long had programs to help people learn to grow plants in Arizona – prepare the soil, plot a garden, plant the right plants, water and fertilize, control pests, harvest and even market. Now, they are combining forces to create a seed-to-sale program that takes new farmers all the way through the process, on their own land or land they have rented.

“This our attempt to make it more cohesive program that’s available to all folks, and kind of a sustainable program so we have a place where folks can come and learn about small-acreage farming, learn about the different things it takes to raise crops and raise produce and things like that,” Martin said.

The Small-Acreage Farming program is aimed at turning wannabe farmers into useful growers.

Master Gardener Dave Brady of Maricopa approached the Extension Office with the idea of expanding gardening workshops into something more sustainable. He had a personal reason for it.

“As a small grower, the only options that were open to me were direct marketing, which was either going to a farmer’s market, setting up a farm stand in front of my place or doing a weekly sale they call CSA, community supported agriculture,” Brady said. “I was doing the farmer’s markets and exploring the CSAs, but it would take a day to a day and a half to get set up, do the harvesting, get all the stuff loaded up, iced down, cleaned up, take it to the farmer’s market, do the farmer’s market, put it back in the car, drive back home, get the stuff out. Generally, you’re going to bring back 20-30 percent of what you took. So, it was a real frustrating thing for me.”

Wholesale was intriguing, especially the idea of selling straight to restaurants and schools, but that required special certification. Brady and other small growers went through that process and discovered they had a lot of fun together. They ended up creating their own co-op with processors and distributors and are now focused on school food programs. They are growing on plots of less than an acre up to 40 acres.

“We came to the realization there’s no way we can grow enough to meet our current demand,” he said. “So, we really need more farmers.”

That means finding those individuals in Pinal and Maricopa counties who want to learn how to farm on small acreage or at least expand their knowledge.

The program will combine classroom work and agricultural theory with practical work in the garden. When new farmers have their own acreage producing, they can continue to come to the instructors rather than waiting for the next workshop. As part of the UofA team, MAC is able to call on the college experts to answer questions that crop up alongside the crops.

“The good thing about this is, if they have a problem, there are resources right there for them,” said Carol Diemer, an instructional specialist for SNAP-Ed, part of the UofA Cooperative Extension.

The Natural Resources Conservation Services, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will be part of the program. Martin said they will talk about programs they have for land owners, especially regarding high tunnels (hoop houses).

“There might be people who already own land and are looking for ways they might be able to use that land to produce,” Martin said. “So, they might be able to get some assistance from NRCS.”

Greg Main, superintendent of MAC, said participants can use MAC start to finish on the land available there. The smallest plots are 26-by-34 feet.

“It’s a small area we’re starting out with, and we can grow from them,” Main said.

The program involves serious work and not magical gardening abilities, and they want to make sure participants are realistic in their expectations.

Martin said the Extension has would-be growers who come to them saying they want to plant an acre. “And we say, ‘Whoa, whoa, I’ll tell you what. Pick one of these little plots out here and plant something and let’s see how it goes.’ It’s not as easy as many people think. There’s a lot that’s involved.”

He said the new program will be a way for new farmers to get their feet wet before jumping into something that might be over their heads.

If new farmers go through the program and get certified, Brady said, “We can sell anything they grow; I guarantee it.”

Diemer said SNAP-Ed also teaches about the nutrition aspect of gardening – “Getting that food directly from the soil into a plant and back into your body, and providing those ready resources for you.”

The Small-Acreage Farming planning meeting is 8:30 a.m. to noon at MAC, 37860 W. Smith-Enke Road.

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Maricopa Music Circle chamber orchestra will perform an evening of music from around the world March 24.

If You Go
What: Springtime Serenade
When: March 24, 7 p.m.
Who: Maricopa Music Circle
Where: Maricopa Agricultural Center, 37860 W. Smith-Enke Road
How much: $12/adults; $10/children at the door or via BrownPaperTickets.com
Info: MaricopaMusicCircle@yahoo.com; 520-316-6268

Titled “Springtime Serenade,” the full-length program welcomes spring with a program of works fully expressing MMC’s tagline “Orchestra of Soloists” with music for the full ensemble plus individual and sectional solos. In line with the music’s wide-ranging, adventurous spirit is the concert’s location at a non-traditional performance site, the University of Arizona’s Maricopa Agricultural Center.

“Springtime Serenade” explores the wealth of musical riches from four continents and across four centuries in an evening of appealing and inventive music, balancing toe-tapping rhythms and the spirit of exuberance with introspective and peaceful works.

From North and South America come the infectious rhythms of Joplin’s ragtime and Darktown Strutter’s Ball, Piazzolla’s tangos, and Barroso’s Aquarela do Brasil. From Asia flow haunting melodies for solo flute. And from across Europe are music by Mozart and Beethoven, Grieg’s Two Elegiac Melodies, Mendelssohn’s Scherzo from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Debussy’s Rêverie and solo viola Beau Soir, and Bizet’s richly depicted orchestral duo from the opera “The Pearlfishers” – “sung” here as a duo for trombone and euphonium.

Add to these spirituals, music from film and stage and more, written by inspired composers.

“Springtime Serenade” begins at 7 p.m. at the conference center of University of Arizona Maricopa Agricultural Center. The evening will conclude with light refreshments for the audience and performers, offering a perfect chance to mingle with the musicians.

This story appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.

Seniors and winter visitors are invited to the MAC Ag Tours this week.

This week’s events in Maricopa include tours of the Maricopa Agricultural Center (Victor Jimenez explains below), a silent reading party, 2nd Saturday Market, Councilman on the Corner and a special public meeting about Global Water. For details on these listings or to add your own, visit http://www.inmaricopa.com/calendar/




Arizona Rattler football practice continues 12:30-3 p.m. at Copper Sky Regional Park, 55345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.


Maricopa Historical Society Meeting meets at 5:30 p.m. at Maricopa Public Library, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road.

A Ray of Hope meeting of Narcotics Anonymous is at 7 p.m. at Maricopa Community Church, 44977 W. Hathaway Ave.


MAC Farm Desert Ag-Venture Tours for seniors and winter visitors are at 10 a.m. at Maricopa Agricultural Center, 37860 W. Smith-Enke Road.

Shamrock Farms & Dwarf Car Museum Tour leaves at 10 a.m. from Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Coffee with Friends of the Maricopa Library is at 1:30 p.m. at Maricopa Public Library, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road.

Maricopa Police Explorer Post Meeting is at 5 p.m. at Maricopa High School, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.

Celebrate Recovery Coffee & Karaoke is at 5 p.m. at Maricopa Community Church, 44977 W. Hathaway Ave.

City Council Special Meeting Regarding Global Water is at 5 p.m. at Maricopa City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza.

Maricopa City Council Regular Session is at 7 p.m. at Maricopa City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza.


Harrah’s Club 777 Toastmasters meet at 3 p.m. at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino, 15406 Maricopa Road.

MUSD Governing Board Meeting is at 6:30 p.m. at Maricopa Unified School District Office, 44150 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Hwy.


Chamber Breakfast Mixer featuring Mayor Christian Price is at 7 a.m. at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino, 15406 Maricopa Road.

MAC Farm Desert Ag-Venture Tours for seniors and winter visitors are at 10 a.m. at Maricopa Agricultural Center, 37860 W. Smith-Enke Road.

Silent Reading Party debuts at 6 p.m. at Honeycutt Coffee, 44400 W. Honeycutt Road, Suite 109.

A Ray of Hope meeting of Narcotics Anonymous is at 7 p.m. at Ak-Chin Social Services, 48227 W. Farrell Road.


Strength & Hope Al-Anon Meeting is at 7 p.m. at Community of Hope Church, 45295 W. Honeycutt Ave.


2nd Saturday Market is 8 a.m.-noon at Copper Sky Regional Park, 44345 W Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Picacho Peak Day Hike leaves at 8 a.m. from Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Coffee with the Chief/Councilmember on the Corner discusses human trafficking at 8:30 a.m. at The Green Zone Nutrition, 44480 W. Honeycutt Road, Suite 101.


A Ray of Hope meeting of Narcotics Anonymous is at 7 p.m. at Maricopa Community Church, 44977 W. Hathaway Ave.

Maricopa Agricultural Center of the University of Arizona hosted its annual family fun day Nov. 19, showing off old and new forms of farming and giving kids lots of activities down on the farm.

MAC Farm Village

There is a lot going on at the farm this week, with three chances to see what’s up at the USDA/UofA facilities in Maricopa. There is also a great opportunity to learn railroad history and visit the Zephyr train car, and the annual Seeds of Change Gala is the big fund-raiser for Against Abuse, Inc. See details on these events and more, or post your own, at InMaricopa.com/Calendar.


A Ray of Hope meeting of Narcotics Anonymous is at 7 p.m. at the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce Office, 44480 W. Honeycutt Road, #106.


Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee will meet at 4 p.m. at Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship, 20800 N. John Wayne Pkwy, Ste. 108, with a weighty agenda that includes the General Plan and transit system.

Maricopa Planning & Zoning will meet at 6 p.m. at City Hall to hear about applicable portions of the draft General Plan and hear public input.

The Heart of It All is at 7 p.m. at Central Arizona College – Maricopa, 17945 N. Regent Drive, Community Room A-101. Nancy Elliott presents a fun and entertaining program flowing with carefully selected songs, stories and poems about everyday lives.

A Ray of Hope meeting of Narcotics Anonymous is at 7 p.m. at Maricopa Community Church, 44977 W. Hathaway Ave.


Desert Ag-Ventures MAC Farm Tour 2016 continues at the University of Arizona’s Maricopa Agricultural Center, 37860 W. Smith-Enke Road, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with lunch included.

Coffee with Friends of the Maricopa Library starts at 1:30 p.m. at Maricopa Public Library, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road.

The Streets Don’t Love You Back Fund-Raiser is the spotlight at Firehouse Subs, 21083 N. John Wayne Pkwy., Ste C101,  from 4 to 8 p.m. as 15 percent of the proceeds will benefit the organization.

Youth Council Meeting is at 6 p.m. is at Copper Sky Multigenerational Complex in Multipurpose Room A. They will talk about plans for the Youth Town Hall and other projects.

Open Space & Trails Meeting is at 6:30 p.m. at Legacy Montessori School, 45290 W. Garvey Ave., where members will receive an update on Palo Verde Regional Park.


Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board meets at 6:30 p.m. The agenda includes a discussion of issuing refunding bonds for an estimated savings of $2 million.


Desert Ag-Ventures MAC Farm Tour 2016 continues at the University of Arizona’s Maricopa Agricultural Center, 37860 W. Smith-Enke Road, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with lunch included.

7 Habits of Highly Effective People is the program being presented at Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Lunch included.

A Ray of Hope meeting of Narcotics Anonymous is at 7 p.m. at Ak-Chin Social Services, 48227 W. Farrell Road.

Maricopa Historical Society Seminar & Zephyr Tour is in two parts, start with information about railroad history in a seminar at City Hall in the morning and ending with tours of the Zephyr train car in the afternoon.

Farm Science Day is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the USDA Agricultural Research Center, 21881 N. Cardon Lane, hosting an array of fun activities for the whole family, from face-painting to real science.

Against Abuse Seeds of Change Gala is from 6 to 11 p.m. at the Elements Event Center, 16000 N. Maricopa Road. Funds raised at this formal “Pearls & Pinstripes” event benefit the local domestic violence shelter.

The Maricopa Agricultural Center hosted their annual Field Day at the MAC Farm on Smith-Enke Road Saturday afternoon.

Hundreds of residents flocked to the farm to experience the agricultural history of the area, take tractor tours of the farm and compete in games.

“The Maricopa Agricultural Center is a 2,100 acre research and education farm that belongs to the University of Arizona,” MAC Farm youth development extension agent Victor Jimenez said. “Today is a special day because we have hundreds and hundreds of people coming out to experience what the farm is all about.”

The MAC Farm staff set up educational booths throughout the farm for patrons to learn about the agricultural history of the area as well as modern farming methods. Games such as ring toss and cricket spitting were also spread around the farm to offer entertainment for all ages.

“In some of the activities they’ll have fun learning about science, and some others they can take tractors to the corn maze and around the farm,” Jimenez said. “They can also learn from our master gardeners about how vegetable grow in gardens here in the Maricopa area and just a whole variety of things.”

The annual event is intended to bring in local residents to the farm to have fun and learn about the research being done.

“It’s a fun day and a lot of people are enjoying it,” Jimenez said. “We’re pleased to be able to let them know that we are a resource to the community at large; not only for Maricopa, but for the whole state.”

MAC Farm Village

Maricopa Agricultural Center youth extension agent Victor Jimenez stopped by our InMaricopa studio to discuss what the MAC Farm is, why it’s important and what MAC Farm Field Day is all about.

The MAC Farm is a 2,100-acre research and education facility for the University of Arizona. The farm serves as both a research center for desert dwelling plants and a historical figure for the city of Maricopa. Farming and agriculture has always been a part of Maricopa’s past, so the MAC Farm keeps that tradition alive.


Nov. 21, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
MAC Farm Village
Tractor Photo Station
Tractor Rides
4-H Petting Zoo
Cricket Spitting Contest
Insect Entomology Displays
Q&A Booth
Face Painting and Color the Farm
Wildcat Water Lab Educational Station
First Aid Station
Spectrum Sensor Demo
Cotton Gin Demo
U of A Prize Giveaway
Master Gardeners: “How to Garden – Maricopa Style”
Old Time Tractor Show
Tractor Pull
Corn Maze
Conner the Clown
Food vendors


“We have scientists that study all about plants that grow in desert environments, and we collect that information and share it with scientists around the world,” Jimenez said. “We bring thousands of children to the farm each year through educational field trips, and they love it.”

The MAC Farm will also host its annual Field Day on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the farm on Smith-Enke Road. The event is expected to feature history lessons on the farm, tractor rides around the complex, face painting, a petting zoo, corn maze, Conner the Clown, cricket spitting contests and various other demonstrations of farm equipment.

“We’re looking forward to a great day,” Jimenez said. “It’s a free [event] for all, and we’re expecting well over 1,000 people up there. Like we always like to say, ‘It’s all happening at the Farm.’”