ELOY — The five C’s of Arizona, cotton, cattle, copper, citrus and climate, long were considered top exports and have played important roles in Arizona’s economy. However, the flower industry, specifically roses, have been slowly creating a path to being a bigger cash crop for the state.

Francis Roses near Eloy has become one of the top rose breeders in the world. The over 600-acre farm recently moved down to Pinal County after previously being based in Litchfield Park.

They grow, breed and sell some of the best rosebushes in the state and send them out all over the country as well as parts of western Europe, to wholesalers and nurseries. They also run a rose research and development program.

Tyler Francis is the owner of Francis Roses. He is a fourth generation farmer, and his father saw an opportunity to produce roses that could last in the sweltering Arizona heat.

“Agriculture has been in my family since before the Civil War. Originally we were Georgia farmers, then my great-grandfather decided to open up a cotton gin in Peoria and Glendale,” Francis said. “When my dad had the opportunity to start growing roses back in 1989, our first crop was 10 acres of roses, which is approximately 250,000 units, and now we are exceeding between seven to eight million units per year.”

The rose industry has blossomed into a huge business for Arizona, with about 75% of production in the United States moving to Arizona.

The idea of Arizona being the perfect climate for rose growing may surprise some, but Francis said the industry is only going to get bigger.

“I think it has always been kind of a best-kept secret about Arizona,” Francis said. “Of course cotton is a part of our culture, and I think roses have always been a part of our culture. I think it is something that Arizona agriculture should be proud of, because we dominate in this category.”

The Eloy-based rose farm employs around 200 people and is ready to continue the success it has had with the secret cash crop of Arizona.

“With how the economy has evolved, it is really important that we have a vertically integrated business model,” Francis said. “We don’t have any retail centers, but from here, we integrate the roses, grow the roses and send them to our nursery in Texas, then distribute them out.”

Francis only sees bigger and better things for the future of the industry.

“Roses are the best selling flowering shrub in the country right now, and quite honestly, I attribute a lot of this to the new varieties that we are introducing,” Francis said. “As we bring these new varieties out, they are able to provide the consumer with a beautiful show, and if we continue doing this, it is just going to get better.”

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David Church is a reporter covering Eloy, Arizona City and sports. He can be reached at dchurch@pinalcentral.com.