Thursday, April 4, 2019

Growing up on a Bug Farm


Sun coming through the branches of a spiny cactus plant. Photo by Billy Cox on Unsplash.

This year, ARBICO Organics is celebrating 40 years growing bugs (and more) in the beautiful Arizona desert. ARBICO has always been a family business and the children of the founders of ARBICO, Rick and Sheri Frey, have spent their lives in this unique world. The following is from their daughter, Aurora:


I remember being very young, maybe in kindergarten, talking with my friends about what jobs our parents had. My friends’ parents were teachers, construction workers, dentists and so on. When it was my turn to talk about my family, I nonchalantly said, “My parents grow bugs and we live on a bug farm”. I was met by the wide-eye look of confusion from my friends,“you live where?” I thought living in a house next to an insectary where millions of live insects of various kinds were growing was totally normal. Looking back, I feel lucky to have had such a unique upbringing and experience. My parents started growing and selling insects years before I was born, so ARBICO has always been a huge part of my life. Being in the bug business continues to play a large role in defining what family is to me.

A young girl in a green outfit standing in a garden holding a long yellow cylindrical insect trap.
Aurora with an Insect-A-Peel trap
Some of my earliest memories are of spending time with my parents at ARBICO. I loved tagging along with my dad at the end of the day to “check the bugs”. We would do a walk-through of the insectary and check the temperatures of the various rooms where insects were in different stages of their development. The “fly room” was off limits for me though. My dad said that it was too intense for a four-year-old to handle being in a room filled with hundreds of thousands of flies. I disagreed but obeyed, hoping for his mind to change. Later in childhood, I looked forward to playing in the offices with the Xerox machine and computers, selling lemonade to the ARBICO staff, helping my parents when kids visited on field trips and spending time in the ARBICO garden. It doesn’t snow much here in Tucson, but we learned that we could jump in an empty tray used to grow bugs in and slide down ARBICO’s giant compost pile (an added bonus of being a bug farmer’s kid).

Close-up of a orange and black butterfly.It is sitting on someone's white high top sneaker. Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash. Throughout the years,  many of my extended family worked at ARBICO, including my grandfather, aunts, uncles, cousins and many family friends. I remember feeling so much excitement when I was old enough to help alphabetize invoices for my Aunt Gloria.

 When we weren’t at the bug farm, we would still spent a lot of time doing insect-related things. I remember my parents taking my younger brother and me up to Mount Lemmon to see the ladybugs that hibernate in the bark of the pine trees. Bugs were our life!

A young boy in a blue shirt and white hat digging with a shovel in a garden.
Clayton in the ARBICO garden
 As we got older, my younger brother, Clayton, and I got more invested in our own interests, but still spent time in the summers in the office or working at the bug farm. One of my first summer ARBICO jobs was working in Shipping, where we jammed out to classic rock music while packing bugs to ship out all around the United  States. When visiting home, I always looked forward to spending time at the office especially helping my mother with her projects. I’ve worked in all areas of ARBICO, including accounting and sales. I continued to work for ARBICO over the years, even when I lived outside of Arizona. I would jump at an opportunity to help with projects like editing our catalogs or attending an event. It was inspiring to be at events and meet our customers (especially those customers who have been with us from the beginning) and hear first-hand how happy they were with the results from our products!

Right now, I am back in Tucson and spend my days helping our Marketing team, which includes my brother. I have loved watching this company grow and I value the friendships and learning opportunities I have come to have here. After all this time, I am so proud of what ARBICO has become and am thankful for everyone who has played a role in this company that holds such a special place in my heart. I can’t imagine a way to describe the way family feels to me without ARBICO. In case you are curious, I did finally get to go into the “Fly Room” and my dad was right. I immediately freaked out, swallowed a fly and ran out crying. I haven’t been back since.

A blonde man with a brunette boy (in a blue shirt) and girl (in a a red shirt)sitting in a field of red flowers.
Clayton, Rick and Aurora Frey

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