4th generation chili farmer seeks unity on water

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After a successful agricultural career from genetically modifying chilis to winning FFA awards, Edward Curry now has a bigger goal set for Arizona water concerns.

Appointed to the Governor’s Water Policy Council in November 2023 by Gov. Katie Hobbs, Curry took his water activism work to another level.

“I believe in the development of water way stronger than most people do,” Curry said.

Curry felt many emotions after being appointed to the council. Advising and being a part of state legislation were not in Curry’s career plans.

“I was doing what I was doing to save water before I ever got on there. What I bring is new thoughts and new hope,” Curry said.

Former colleague, Randy Norton, director of agricultural experiment station at University of Arizona and member of the planning committee for the 2022 International Chili Festival, described Curry as passionate and an upstanding person.

“Never dreamed I would be chosen to be where I am at. Honored to be, but never dreamed I would be chosen,” Curry said.

Curry plans to help as much of the state as possible, recognizing that needs vary from county to county. He said Northern Arizona wants less water control whereas more control is needed around the Gila Bend Basin.

“The Governor’s Water Council is important, it’s trying to understand and see what does each individual basin need,” Curry said.

In the upcoming year, Curry set broad goals for the council with intent to have as little legislation change each election cycle as possible.

“Get legislation that will fit a broad of scope as possible in this year and not leave it for one governor or one water department,” said Curry.

Curry said he was “humbled and honored” while he attempts to bring both parties together to help state water issues.

“Am I far right? No. Am I far left? No,” Curry said. “Am I about coming together? Absolutely yes.”

Being a supporter of the Sunset Clause, Curry has created a dream of growing cranberries to strive to preserve the most water.

The Sunset Clause allows for more farming to occur with aquafers if there is more water replenished than what was used, according to Curry.

“What if we get enough water that we can grow cranberries in this desert? So, a Sunset Clause is important,” said Curry.

With years of agricultural experience in Arizona, Texas and Mexico, this has led to a unique insight on Arizona water needs.

Curry Chili and Seed chilis have been genetically traced across 90% of the chilis grown for commercial use, according to the Arizona Farm Bureau.

“We need to farm more not to use it up, kill it. We need agriculture to stay alive,” said Curry.

Curry has used the Gila River for all his farming needs in Arizona for over 40 years. Curry said that agriculture is the backbone to everything, and water sources need to be protected for future generations.

“He’s very protective of this way of life,” Norton said.

Curry said the most needed thing for water preservation is the “embracing of technology.” Curry has allowed his farm in Pearce to be used by universities for studies to improve water and agriculture needs.

Norton said: “Always been a participatory on his farm. He provided opportunities.”

University of Arizona and New Mexico State University has helped with “innovating” his farming techniques. The universities have helped him go from a pivot irrigation system to a drip system.

“He continues to strive to make sure that every drop of irrigation water goes to good use,” said Stephanie Walker, a researcher at New Mexico State University.

Bringing a rural agricultural background to the water council is uncommon as most agricultural is done close to suburban areas within the state, said Norton.

“Traditionally made of major Ag, Ed brings unique perspective in geography, styles and technique,” Norton said.

Curry’s main drive for water conservation is the prospect of future generations being able to work the land.  Both Walker and Norton said Curry was fueled by his love for future generations.

His colleagues and friends have said he has always been involved with youth programs, including FFA, ministry and chili education for children.

“He’s made it a point to really work on things like water conservation, water use efficiency because he really wants to see these kids that he’s interested in bringing into agriculture. He wants to know that they’re going to have jobs in this field that he loves,” Walker said.

Curry has taught many about agricultural, water and moral values over the years. Norton found inspiration in Curry’s unifying efforts to create solutions.

“Ed’s approach to treating others is something we can all learn to do better – find coming together anytime we have made progress,” Norton said.

Walker said it is hard to not get excited about farming while working with Curry.

“He jis ust so exuberant and loves what he does so much. It really rubs off on people when they come,” Walker said.

With no plans of retiring, Curry continues working to protect water and farming resources for future generations.

“I have made a living out this dirt every single day,” Curry said.




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