Arizona’s Five C’s

Anyone who attended school in Arizona as a child has heard of the five C’s: Copper, Cattle, Citrus, Cotton, and Climate.

The five C’s have been the driving force behind Arizona’s economy for many years. Traditionally one or more of the five C’s have been behind the growth of Arizona towns and communities. They provide jobs, opportunity and economic security.

Arizona Flag

It is impossible to go a day without benefiting from at least one of our five C’s. The clothes on your back and the pillow you lay your head on are possible because of cotton. Most electricity current is run through copper wires. The milk you drink and the hamburger you eat, not to forget the numerous beef by-products you use daily are all thanks to our cattle. We have citrus to thank for our OJ in the morning, and of course the climate for our numerous hiking and out-door activities throughout the year.

The five C’s were essentially the building blocks of Arizona and for that reason deserve a closer look.

Arizona Copper

Arizona has been referred to as the “Copper State” and the star in the center of our flag is even copper in color. The reason for this is that since 1910 Arizona has been the nation’s top copper producer. In fact, Arizona produces more copper than the other 49 states combined.

  • According to the Arizona Mining Association, the combined direct and indirect impact of copper mining is worth up to $34.2 Billion in the U.S. economy and 12.1 billion in Arizona.
  • From the 1880’s to the 1920’s numerous Arizona towns were built around mining claims. Jerome and Bisbee are two such towns. No longer mining towns, they are historical tourist attractions.
  • According to the Arizona Experience, Morenci and Bagdad, still significantly contribute to Arizona’s gross exports. The Morenci open pit complex is the largest copper mine in North America and the largest employer in Greenlee County.
  • In 2013, 65% of US copper came from Arizona mines.
  • Kelly Norton, President of the Arizona Mining Association says that, “The average annual salary of Arizona mining jobs is over twice the average salary of all other industry in Arizona.”
  • During the great depression demands and price for copper dropped, so Arizona started to make its license plates from copper to increase demands and to keep AZ miners employed.
  • Some of our copper mines offer tours if you wish to learn more first-hand about Arizona’s copper industry.


Arizona Cattle

Much like mining, cattle ranching brought people to Arizona. During its peak around 1918 Arizona had as many as 1.75 million head of cattle that provided beef to the nation. Though the cattle industry is about half of what it was then, it is still an important “Arizona C” and remains a large source of revenue for the state.


Arizona Citrus

In 1889 commercial citrus production began in Arizona when a man named W.J Murphy planted his experimental citrus orchard near what is now known as Phoenix. Murphy planted around 1,800 young orange and other fruit trees that he had brought over from Southern California. His trees were so successful that he planted other varieties of citrus like lemon. Because of Arizona’s climate our fruits were ready before California’s allowing Arizona farmers to sell to the Eastern markets first.

  • Arizona commercial citrus groves are found in the warm climates of Maricopa, Mohave, Pinal, and Yuma counties. These groves grow crops of grapefruit, lemons, oranges, and tangerines.
  • Arizona is one of only four citrus growing states in the nation. Southern California, Texas and Florida are the other three.
  • Today in Arizona citrus is only grown on about 20,000 acres across the state. At its peak in 1970 there were nearly 80,000 acres of citrus groves across the state.
  • Arizona is the second largest producer of lemons in the United States, falling only behind California.
  • Arizona is the fourth largest grower of oranges and grapefruit.
  • In the year 2000 Arizona grew 13% of the nation’s tangerines, ranking us third in the nation.
  • Yuma County is Arizona’s largest citrus growing region.
  • Nearly 95% of the nation’s lemons are grown in Arizona and California.


Arizona Cotton

Cotton growing became a “cash crop” for Arizona in the 1910’s. It was during that time that a new cotton, Pima long-staple cotton, started to be grown in the state. At its peak there were nearly 800,000 acres of cotton fields grown in Arizona. Today there are only around 200,000 acres. However, Arizona is to this day a leading cotton growing state along with California, Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi.


Arizona Climate

Climate refers to our states weather, which is considered mild. Meaning that we don’t have a whole lot of weather changes. Arizona is sunny most of the time and many people like to visit for that reason, which positively effects our economy. Today climate refers to Arizona’s tourism industry.

Back before antibiotics and vaccines were discovered people would come to Arizona believing that sickness was the result of the polluted air in crowded cities. They believed that Arizona’s climate would help prevent illness. Many pioneers would find the cold, dry, and clean air in Northern Arizona refreshing and rejuvenating. Many tuberculosis patients were cured by living in tents and huts with screened porches in the dry air near Phoenix and Tucson.

Natural wonders like the Grand Canyon, saguaro forests and ancient ruins would also draw people to the state, along with warm weather being a draw in the winter months. Whether it was for recreational or health purposes, the climate attracted people to Arizona supporting a large portion of the economy. Climate, to this day, brings in a lot of revenue for the state.

Arizona’s climate also plays a key role in our agricultural industry. Our semi-arid climate and average rainfall allows farmers to plant and harvest crops all 12 months of the year. This helps to bring more revenue into the state as well.


You can learn more about three of the five “C’s”, cattle, citrus, and cotton, here on Fill Your Plate.


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