The story of the farm, as with all life, begins with water. The Santa Cruz River is the life blood of the people who settled in this valley thousands of years ago. Agriculture and working with the seasons of the river has been the way people have flourished here for so many generations.
The farm is on the Tohono O’odham Nation in the San Xavier District in the ancestral village of Wa:k. Throughout time families farmed the land using an intricate canal system to irrigate fields and traded with other villages for staples such as salt. The Santa Cruz River, was the only place on the TO Nation where irrigation agriculture was possible.
In 1887 the United States Congress passed the General Allotment Act, which authorized the president to survey Indian tribal land and divide the area into allotments for individual Indians and families. The Allotment Act (also known as the Dawes Act) was applied to reservations whenever, in the president’s opinion, it was advantageous for particular Indian nations. Members of the selected tribe or reservation were either given permission to select pieces of land—usually around 40 to 160 acres in size – for themselves and their children, or the tracts were assigned by the agency superintendent. Around 69,000 acres of land in San Xavier were part of this Allotment Act with a total of 363 land owners. This fractionized the land and made the production of food up to individual families instead of growing food as a whole community.
Once surface flow along the Santa Cruz disappeared because of down cutting and groundwater pumping, O'odham agriculture in San Xavier became a thing of the past.
In 1971 a group of Allottees in San Xavier got together and formed a cooperative of land owners in order to piece some of the lands back together and find a way to farm it as a whole.
In 1975 the Tohono O'odham pressured the federal government to file suit against agribusiness men, copper mines, and the city of Tucson, who were sucking water from the aquifer beneath the San Xavier District. In the end Congress passed the Southern Arizona Water Rights Settlement Act in 1982, granting 56,000 acre-feet of water a year to San Xavier through the Central Arizona Project (CAP). This allowed for the farm to be productive for the community again.