Farming gave Mesa its early identity. The legacies live on in street names, such as Dobson Road. Cliff Dobson co-owned the Baseline Cattle Company and Sheep Springs Sheep Company that was started in the early 1900s. The companies, known as Dobson Ranch, were bounded thousands of acres in Mesa and Chandler. Dobson Ranch and other farm activities sustained their farming through building an elaborate system of canals that, from the Salt River. Drinking water came from large wells that tapped underground aquifers and which were readily identifiable by well towers through the city.

Until well into the 1950s, farming was common throughout the valley, and agricultural experimentation occurred throughout the region. In Mesa, the University of Arizona's experimental farm occupied over 160 acres near Main Street and Alma School Road. Many different experiments on cotton, grains, grasses and other plants happened on the farm between 1914 and 1960.

Eventually, as Mesa and the region grew in population, farm land became more valuable to developers for commercial and housing development. For example, in the 1970s, Dobson Ranch was sold and become Mesa's largest master-planned community to date (and one of the largest in the region.) The Dobson Ranch residential community, as well Today portions of Dobson Ranch are now Fiesta Mall, Mesa Community College, and Banner Desert Hospital.

Just North of Dobson Ranch, the Tri-City Mall opened in 1968 to great acclaim as the largest enclosed mall in the region. Located in Mesa, Arizona, at the northeast corner of Main Street and Dobson Road. It was named Tri-City because it was intended to draw shoppers from three East Valley cities: Mesa, Tempe and Chandler.

Nearly 500,000 square feet contained 55 stores, including Hanny’s Apparel, Zale’s Jewelers, Walgreen’s and Basha’s Supermarket. J. C. Penny and Diamond’s were anchors. Initially ensconced amongst farmland and housing developments, Tri City Mall helped accelerate the shift from rural to suburban. It ultimately succumbed in 1998 to newer shopping centers like Fiesta Mall and Superstition Springs Center. The last piece of the mall, the J. C. Penny building was demolished in 2006 to make way for Tri-City Pavilions.