Gus and Marsha Arzberger of Willcox, Ariz., state senators, received the Arizona Farm Bureau’s Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award during the organization’s 87th annual meeting in Carefree, Ariz.

The Arzbergers, with a combined 27 years in the Arizona Legislature, were honored for their dedication to their home district in southeast Arizona plus the agricultural and rural areas of the entire state.

During his service in the Legislature, Gus Arzberger served in leadership positions on agriculture, natural resources, and transportation committees. He protected water from transfer from rural Arizona into the urban areas even though the Legislature was dominated by urban representatives. His defense of rural Arizona stretched into water adjudication, federal mandate costs, and funding for community colleges.

Elected to the Senate in 2000, Sen. Marsha Arzberger is the chamber’s minority leader. She led the fight for a fair resolution of sales tax collections not paid for off-road fuel use. Off-road industries, including agriculture, would have been paying millions in back taxes and penalties had she not championed a bill.

Farmer of the Year honors were bestowed upon the Hickman family of Hickman Family Farms, Buckeye, Ariz.

“We honored a family that could be recognized for growing their business right along with the population of Maricopa County,” said Arizona Farm Bureau President Kevin Rogers, Mesa, Ariz. “They started with some chickens in the backyard in 1944 and now have about 4 million laying hens. They are the only local commercial egg producer in Arizona.”

Rogers noted the Hickman’s efficiencies in their operation, environmental awareness for composting manure, a partnership with the Ak Chin Indian Community, and working with Farm Bureau to reach out to the public.

Farm Bureau’s Service to Agriculture award was posthumously awarded to the late Arizona State Sen. Jake Flake, Snowflake, Ariz. Flake’s wife, Mary Louise, and their children received the award. Sen. Flake passed away at his Snowflake home in June from a heart attack.

Sen. Flake was a cattleman and an agriculturist from birth. In 1970 Sen. Flake served on the Arizona Farm Bureau Board of Directors. He was elected to the Arizona House in 1997 and served as speaker from 2003-2004. Sen. Flake was then elected to the Senate.

Flake was agriculture’s voice in the House and Senate Republican caucuses. State trust land issues, property and water right legislation, forest management reform, and community college funding for his district are just a few examples of where his leadership benefited agriculture and rural Arizona.