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Association's Gift Creates New Scholarships for ASU Students

January 28, 2005

Today, the Vegetable Growers Association (VGA) will make a $65,150 gift to the Arizona State University Morrison School of Agribusiness and Resource Management at the Polytechnic campus, the first-ever for the school from this association made up of Arizona vegetable and produce growers.

M.O. Best, a prominent Arizona farmer and businessman in the early 1900s, made an endowment upon his death to the VGA to be used for educational purposes. VGA was previously under the management of Western Growers Association, but members are in the process of dissolving the organization. Before they terminate activities, VGA members plan to donate all of the remaining funds toward endowments as Best intended and is making gifts to ASU, as well as the University of Arizona's agriculture program.

"This is the only gift VGA has ever made of this type, and will be the last once the endowment is distributed," said Anna Marie Aja, of the Western Growers Association, an association that represents Arizona and California vegetable, fruit and nut growers.

ASU will use the gift for scholarships, which will be granted to students majoring in Food Management, Marketing or Agribusiness in ASU's Morrison School.

It's anticipated that initially the gift will support two students annually with an award of $1,000 each, with half that amount to be awarded to the students each semester, thereafter.

"This is a major gift for the school and we are grateful that VGA considered the Morrison School as a beneficiary of M.O. Best's endowment," said Rita Locke, development director at the Polytechnic campus.

Best came from Colorado to Arizona in the 1930's, where he established 1,000 acres in what is now the area surrounding 51st Avenue and McDowell Road. It was in this area that he fed cattle and farmed vegetables for 20 years. Just down the road from the farm, he also started the Crystal Ice Company. Crystal Ice still exists today in the original location at 21st Avenue and McDowell, right next to the MO Best Railstop. Best was a well-respected and prominent businessman in the early days of Phoenix. He was extremely involved in Arizona's agriculture industry. He was a member of the Vegetable Growers Association and Western Growers Association, where he served a term as chairman of the board. Unfortunately, his time in Arizona was shortened when he was diagnosed with Luekemia in his 50's. He passed away in 1956, at the age of 55. With his passing, he bestowed the Arizona Vegetable Growers Association (VGA) with a monetary contribution that was to be dedicated to the purpose of educating youth in agriculture. VGA invested this contribution, and the money now funds the endowed scholarship, in the name of VGA and M.O. Best, for students in the Morrison School of Agribusiness.

A ceremony is scheduled for 11:30 a.m., today, at the Morrison School's Agribusiness Center at the Polytechnic campus.