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Thirty Years of Community Support on the Ballot

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[Gibson McKay] – [602-616-9964] [gib@azsherpa.com]

Thirty Years of Community Support on the Ballot

Community family member and pillar at risk without the passage of Prop 401 – vote early

Safford, Arizona — Leaders of business and community organizations are rallying around Prop 401, a voter referendum that confirms the prior zoning approval of the Graham County Board of Supervisors.  Prop 401 would allow two of the current NatureSweet greenhouse sites to be rezoned to allow the cultivation of medical grade cannabis. The rezoned facilities would be purchased by Bayacan Inc., which would use the facilities to cultivate medical grade marijuana.

The two principals of Bayacan are Johan van den Berg and Frank van Straalen, who have a long history with the Bonita community as former principals of Eurofresh.  Between 1992 and 2007, Eurofresh built 6 greenhouse sites with over 300 acres under glass for the purpose of growing tomatoes.  At the time, the Eurofresh greenhouses were the largest high-tech greenhouse complex in the world.  In 2013, the greenhouses were sold to NatureSweet.  Unfortunately, the sheer size of the greenhouses made it increasingly difficult to control the spread of tomato plant diseases, some of which have no cure.  

“Over the course of thirty years, Eurofresh and NatureSweet planted their roots here in Graham County. Both Eurofresh and NatureSweet have provided decades of jobs, tax revenue and community support. Everyone is thrilled with the state-of-the-art greenhouse complex and what it has meant for this community. They are like family, and we have seen them go through good times and bad times, this is not the time to yank the rug out from under them. It is only right that we support our family during these times of need,” said Vance Bryce, Executive Director of the Graham County Chamber of Commerce.

NatureSweet has faced similar challenges related to tomato disease in the past few years, 

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leaving them on the brink of closure. Prop. 401 gives them the lifeline to diversify the crop to medical grade cannabis on their own land. The cannabis plants are not susceptible to the same tomato plant diseases. A YES on Prop. 401 would allow the crop modification in two greenhouses so they remain open and keep an important line of tax revenue and jobs for Graham County residents.  NatureSweet could then use the other four greenhouses for research opportunities, seed development and alternative crops.

“I would ask the people of Graham County, vote early, and vote Yes.  Families need the stability that 401 brings, and so does our business,” said Frank van Straalen of Bayacan.

 “They are the perfect people to come in and breathe life into the NatureSweet greenhouse complex,” said Kay Marchione of the Graham County Chamber of Commerce. “They recognized the value of our agricultural community 30 years ago and want to remain a community asset for Graham County. Their roots run deep here, and I am excited to see the benefits of new jobs as well as continued revenue for the county.”

“NatureSweet has sponsored SalsaFest the last several years. They pay their taxes on time. They provide jobs and revenue to the county. They are as much a part of this agricultural community as anyone else,” said Kip Kempton, Chairman of the Graham County Republican Party.  Mr. Kempton also weighed in on the importance of voting Yes on Prop 401 from the standpoint of protecting property rights, which is a cornerstone of conservative values.  “They should have the right to use their property as they see fit, the same right that every other member of this community should have. NatureSweet wants to sell a portion of their property to a company owned by two men who have deep ties to this community. Marijuana is a legally regulated crop; they should get to cultivate it if they choose.”

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