Navels from the Orange Patch

Farmer Allen Freeman with granddaughter Emery and a backdrop of navel orange trees at the Orange Patch, Mesa, AZ. Farmer Allen Freeman with granddaughter Emery at the Orange Patch, Mesa, AZ.

Phoenix and Mesa, AZ, locals may know the Salt River for tubing fun, but it also has a serious job of watering the luscious navel orange, grapefruit, and tangerine trees of Lehi Valley. Starting this week, we'll see the benefits of the Salt River and the wonderful fruit grown by the Freeman family.

The Freemans are a fourth-generation farm family, growing citrus on 200 acres in what is locally known as the "Banana Belt" of Arizona and a prime citrus area. Their family has produced a diversity of citrus since 1962, when the trees were planted. Before that, they grew cotton. As the family grew, so did their little roadside stand; it has blossomed into two attractive stores called Orange Patch and Orange Patch Too.

The Orange Patch stores sell gift and decor items year-round and fresh produce in season. Eating oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, and lemons are a great way to capture the energy of the river and sun, not to mention some vitamin C.

"Right now it’s busy season for citrus," says farmer Allen Freeman. While the rest of the country is cinching sweaters and pulling down the earflaps on its hats, the citrus trees of the Orange Patch are basking in the winter sun.

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The FruitGuys Magazine is your source for workplace culture, trends, and healthy living. Previously known as The FruitGuys Almanac, the Magazine began in 2007. Editors and contributors include nationally known journalists and food writers. Submissions and suggestions can be sent to the editor.