Impact on families
Faysak says closing the MCGA packinghouse was difficult and personal for many families.
“The toughest part was telling an employee who has worked for 25 to 30 years that they no longer have a job,” Faysak said at the packinghouse office in early August. “That was the hardest part of the whole deal.”
Three Faysak family members worked at the packinghouse for a combined 77 years.
“I remember coming down to the packinghouse as a young boy to visit my mother when they packed citrus on Saturdays,” Faysak reflected. “For many employees this was their only job since high school.”
Faysak worked his way up the ladder from payroll clerk, to office manager and general manager.
At one time, about 70 percent of MCGA-packed fruit was sold in the greater Phoenix area. Japan was the single export customer; initially grapefruit with a shift to lemons in more recent years.
Like any business trying to survive, Mesa Citrus laid off employees, reduced overtime and repaired equipment when possible to shave costs.
“I am sad to see it go. It’s been a part of my entire life,” Faysak said. “I also look at it realistically as times change. Some things are out of our control. We knew we would close; we just didn’t know when.”
During the packing season, Mesa Citrus employed 150-200 people. All will lose their jobs, including Faysak.
Glenn Wright, tree fruit specialist with the University of Arizona, Yuma, says statewide citrus acreage has fallen from about 35,000 acres in 1990 to about 15,000 acres today.
Most citrus is grown in Yuma County; about 85 percent lemons. Yuma also has been smitten by urbanization. Acreage has dropped from about 22,000 acres during the 1990-1991 season to about 14,500 acres in 2007-2008.
“I think the (MCGA) decision will make it more difficult for growers in the central part of the state to market their fruit,” Wright said. “I think the packinghouse decision was not unexpected given the decline of acreage in central Arizona.”