Phil Bond Named 2015 Dean Merrell Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient
By Angela Askey, Director of Marketing
Phil Bond of Casa Grande, Ariz. has been named the 2015 Dean Merrell Lifetime Achievement Award recipient by the South Central District of the Arizona Association Future Farmers of America (FFA).
Bond, a third generation native of Arizona grew up in Double Adobe, a one store farming community in the most southeast corner of the state. After graduating high school, he attended the University of Arizona and worked his way through college at the institution’s experimental dairy.
Just days after graduating college, Bond began his career at Coolidge High School. “I worked with an exceptional teacher, Cy Henry,” stated Phil. “We supervised the FFA farm of 190 acres and earned numerous accomplishments such as National FFA Chapter of the Year.”
It was while working at Coolidge High School that Bond met his wife and best friend of 45 years, Julie. Together they established a small ranch along the Mexico border that sells thousands of Ocotillo plants each year and Avocado Nursery in Casa Grande, which may have been the first residential-landscape drip irrigation company in the state.
When the plants in their back yard had gotten to the point of being out of control, Phil and Julie formed the plant nursery, Distinctive Earthscapes, LLC. They also partnered with two other families and formed “Vine Fresh of Arizona,” producing commercial tomatoes for stores such as Safeway.
Most recently, Bond began teaching horticulture courses at CAC and oversees the new greenhouse facility.
Bond became a Pinal County Master Gardner in 1982 and has maintained his certification ever since. He continues to teach courses throughout the county. Phil enjoys landscape design and offers free advice and services to those new to the area as well as residents. He also established the Black Butte Experimental Garden and shares his knowledge with members of that community.
Over the years, Bond has remained active. He has served as a 4-H, FFA, and Gila River Boy Scout leader, is a member of the Casa Grande Optimist Club and has been involved in his church. He has built many things such as a gyrocopter, off-road vehicles, greenhouses and other unique buildings made of mine timbers.
“The CAC Ag Department is honored to present the Dean Merrell Lifetime Achievement award to Phil,” said Karen Geldmacher, professor of agriculture. “Phil played an integral role in the development of our new greenhouse. His knowledge and dedication to the field of agriculture and education are exemplary.”
Considered to be the founding father of agricultural education at CAC, Merrell practiced what he preached. He farmed for over two decades. Additionally, he was a pest control adviser, owner and operator of Hacienda Ag Labs, and served as president of the Farm Bureau, the Pinal County Fair Board and the Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association. Dean also was an adviser of the CAC Rodeo Club, an academic adviser and livestock committee chairman.
Each year, CAC's Dean Merrell FFA Field Day brings together students from the south central Arizona region to compete in events such as agricultural issues, agricultural mechanics, agronomy, dairy management, entomology, horse evaluation, job interview, livestock evaluation, meats evaluation, nursery operations, range management, and soil and wildlife management.