The Arizona Beef Council is excited to present to you a blog series about the one and only Baxter Black. Baxter is a celebrity in his own right, but those of us here in Arizona consider him a state treasure and are proud to say he chose this piece of the southwest to make his home. Many thanks are owed to his beautiful wife, Cindy, for dragging him back to the best state in the Union. While we realize our writing will leave much to be desired in the wake of the true poet’s work, we hope you enjoy reading anyways.
In a house tucked in the hills of the outskirts of Benson, lives a man, or might we say “legend,” and his wife. Here they peddle books of poems written by this man to places near and far. Guests are welcome with open arms and are given a great opportunity to hear prose in real time while talking about the past, present, and future. Upon stepping out the front door of their ranch-style home, you are greeted by an impressive wall constructed of many different types and styles of stone. These stones, bricks, and even a concrete Texas (which was accidentally placed upside down in the wall) make an impressive sight and are made even more significant when talking with Baxter about each individual piece’s origin.
In case you don’t know who Baxter Black is (we won’t judge too hard), let us explain. Baxter is a cowboy poet who has performed for cattlemen, cattlewomen, dairymen, ranchers, cowboys, cowgirls, and even made a few appearances on the Johnny Carson show. But he’s not just any cowboy poet. He’s a cowboy poet who has made a living entertaining people with his witty poems based on real-life situations, mostly from personal experience. Some of our favorites, and we would venture to say classics, include The Vegetarian’s Nightmare, The Oyster, along with his continuing column seen in many publications across the country properly titled “On the Edge of Common Sense.”
But Baxter didn’t start off his professional career as the cowboy on stage dressed in hand-embroidered western shirts. He comes with a history, just like most successful people. His started out with work on a feed yard, went to veterinarian school and then, as life has a way of doing, turned him on his head and pushed him in another direction. He shared with us his meaning behind the saying “down to no keys,” when life has taken everything from you to the point where you end up with no keys: nowhere to call your own and nothing to drive. But, in true Baxter style, he didn’t let this setback stop him.
He continued on and ended up managing the veterinarian work for a large feed yard. During his time at the feed yard, he began speaking and entertaining people with his wit and poems. One of the biggest blessings in his life was ending up in the same place as his wife. She was playing the fiddle in the band at the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association Annual Convention and he noticed. The rest really is history!
One of the many things we learned from Baxter on our visit was his philosophy on shooting arrows. You can’t do something unless you keep asking and doing and that’s exactly what Baxter did. A fun fact about Baxter is that he was featured on NPR for 20-years! NPR wasn’t looking for someone like Baxter, but he made himself known and kept reminding them that he might have something else to offer. Finally, when Yellowstone was burning up in ’84, they took notice. No one on NPR was reporting on this huge fire and Baxter told them they should be. He wrote a poem about it, sent it to the station and then they called him. They kept calling him after that asking for more, so he gave it to them. When asked why it worked, Baxter says, “I was the oddity. That’s why it worked.”
Now that you have some history on this guy (or character?), get ready for some serious life advice from this wise man in next week’s Arizona Beef Blog post.
This blog is a repost from our friends over at the Diablo Trust. This particular post was written by a cowgirl named Sheila Carlson who has worked on the Flying M Ranch for 10 or so years and before that worked on the Bar T Bar Ranch. She’s a horsewoman from Utah and is a good hand on a ranch. Enjoy some thoughts from her perspective on caring for the land.
The myth of the rancher who is out to make a buck by letting his livestock damage and destroy public lands is far from the truth as I know it.
In reality ranchers care more about the land and the waterways than most people I’ve come across. They make their living off the lands and over-grazing it is NOT something that is done.
They carefully monitor the land, use grazing rotations, watch for invasive and non-native species of plants and work closely with local agencies to maintain a positive impact on the land. Many times they will not use a pasture in their rotation because they feel there isn’t enough growth or moisture and would rather let it rest than use it.
They are the ones hauling water during drought times, not only for their livestock but for the wildlife in the area. The run-off from winter snows and summer rains flow down ditches they maintain, to fill water tanks and flow into lakes.
This isn’t something that nature has created in most places; this is something that they have worked hard at accomplishing each year. Those ditches need to be cleared and cleaned. The same with those water tanks that provide a life source for so many different species.
Without the rancher taking time, money. and effort, those same water tanks would fail.
There are so many scare tactics out there, so many un-truths being spread and the saddest part is that so many will believe what they are told without questioning the source.
Speak to your local rancher if you have a question. Treat them as you would like to be treated; don’t just assume they are the “bad guy.” I think that people would find out they have a common interest when it comes to care of the land . . .
Does the thought of kids helping in the kitchen send you into a fit of anxiety with visions of big messes and broken dishes? Fear not! Though we can’t guarantee the prevention of a mess or two, there are many benefits to having the little ones help to prepare meals. Here are some tips from Katy Wright, Arizona cattlewoman, mom, and survivor of letting her three kids (all under 5) help in the kitchen. And she does it all with grace.
Memories from my childhood include hot meals on the table and beef on the menu more than anything else. I grew up completely confident that beef was a “no brainer” for feeding families, especially children. I still hold this same opinion today with my own kids and am grateful I can frequently include beef as our protein of choice. I’ve learned some tips for including beef on kid-friendly menus as well as some ideas on ways to include kids in the kitchen.
Tip #1: Cook once, eat twice.
Or three times. Time is valuable, isn’t it? Even if you don’t have multiple small children underfoot, time always seems to be in short supply. One of the best tips I can offer while meal planning, is to plan on cooking your cut of choice and then how you would like to use the leftovers. This saves both time and money in the long run. One of my favorite ways to do this include roasts in the slow cooker (like a Crock-Pot). The slow cooker always makes me look good because I can “set it and forget it” and go about the business of my day with minimal thought about dinner. Just last week I put a top round roast in the slow cooker with a can of beer and packet of onion soup mix. It cooked all day, and I served it with potatoes and a vegetable that night. I made the most of my leftovers by making roast beef sandwiches the next day, and burritos the day after that. Win-win-win.
HB helping cook ground beef. For enchiladas, I lay out the ingredients and HB helps assemble.
Tip #2: Provide safe opportunities for kids to participate.
My kids are at the wonderful (and sometimes chaotic) stage of life where they want to help with everything. Whether it’s washing windows, changing laundry or cutting vegetables, they are often asking if they can chip in. And while it is easier and more efficient at times to charge forward without them, this is the time of their lives to be creating helpful habits for the future. They also take pride in the tasks in which they get to contribute. When it comes to kids helping in the kitchen, slow down, and find tasks that can be completed safely by small hands. In my own kitchen, some of these tasks include stirring ground beef as it cooks, peeling carrots and adding spices.
Tip #3: Choice is the spice of life.
My kids love getting to choose. It doesn’t matter what the options are, they love having the power to choose. If you struggle with getting kids to eat their dinner, whether it’s just the vegetables or all of it, make choices a consistent part of your dinner time routine. When I’m meal planning, I ask for suggestions from my kids on what we should include on that week’s menu. More often than not they request hamburgers but it still makes them feel included. Another way to incorporate decision making, is to allow your kids to choose what they eat and when. I don’t mean letting them choose cereal over a hot meal for a dinner that you’ve prepared, instead allow them to choose if they’re going to eat their beef or vegetables first. This empowers them and allows them to feel like they have a little control over their own decisions.
Like all things in life, children change and grow constantly, forcing us parents to adapt and grow with them. Intentional choices like meal planning leftovers, slowing down to allow children to help and providing opportunities for choice can make a huge difference in their lives.
This week’s blog post was a realization I (Tiffany) had on a recent tour we conducted for dietetic interns. We typically tour a large feed yard with the interns and have a fairly set routine of how the tour proceeds. This year, we decided to mix it up and instead of immediately getting off the bus at the office, we stayed aboard and took a driving tour of the cattle pens first. This offered our tour participants an elevated view of the feed yard because we were in a larger tour bus which sets you up much higher than the average vehicle. This was a unique perspective and one I’m glad we were able to show our dietetic interns.
Part of my typical work week with the Arizona Beef Council has traditionally been heading out to Arizona high school classrooms to teach students on topics ranging from how cattle are raised in Arizona to preparing a delicious beef meal. Most teachers request that I share the beef lifecycle whether they are learning about culinary and have no connection to agriculture or are traditional students in an agriculture education setting. People are asking the question more and more, “Where does my food come from?” and these students, and often times the teacher, want to know the answer. So, we talk about the cow-calf ranch, the weaning process, why we give vaccinations and brand in the state of Arizona. We cover the feed yard and then talk about the harvesting plant with the conclusion of that story being a juicy, delicious steak on the consumer’s plate. (For a more detailed account of the entire beef lifecycle click here.)
A presentation slide I always enjoy showing is an overhead view of a feed yard. This photo does a great job of representing an average feed yard set up. I let the students talk me through what they see instead of telling them what I see and what they notice is often very different from the common misconceptions you hear about feed yards. They tell me they see lots of space for the cattle to move around. They also mention that the cattle are bunched together, but not because of the fences, so we have the conversation about herd instincts (cattle are flight animals by nature and prefer to spend their time surrounded by their own kind). They talk about how there are some cattle gathered at the front of the pens. We talk about why that is: that’s where they get fed and have free choice as to when and how much they eat.
Then I show another photo. This was a photo taken of Lauren and me a few years back at one of our Gate to Plate tours. We were excited to see a lot of hard work coming to fruition, and that excitement is written all over our faces. Because of Lauren and I’s personal perspectives earned through many visits to this and other feed yards in our lifetime, we see nothing but happy cattle in the background and happy, productive employees, in the foreground. But to others who may not have had the privilege to visit a large feed yard, this photo might say something else.
The perspective of this photo shows only one flat view. Immediately behind us, the view is of lots of curious black and white steers standing at the fence line watching us. We interpret their stares as curious, for which Holstein cattle are known, but it might not read that way to someone with less cattle experience. As you look further back into the frame of the photo, your eye is met with more cattle who also looked squished together. Unfortunately, as much fun as this picture is for Lauren and me, it only shows one perspective of a feed yard which doesn’t accurately describe how cattle are housed.
The thing that struck me was this is often the perspective the average person has of feed yards or even dairies (which are often set up similarly). Most people only drive by a feed yard or dairy and never get the chance to talk with the person running these locations, or even better, get to see it from a bird’s eye view.
And it is also a reminder for myself and others in my unique position to be very mindful of the photos we share. I love posting photos on social media of my experiences on feed yards, dairies, and ranches throughout Arizona, but considering what the photo says if there was no explanation given is an important factor to consider. Not every person is going to see or read the text you attach to a photo. Remember, a photo says a thousand words only offers one perspective.
Lots of great stories were shared in 2017 here on the Arizona Beef blog ranging from delicious beef recipes to family stories of our Arizona beef ranchers and farmers. Here is a round-up of the top ten blog posts you enjoyed reading the most this past year. Take a moment to give them another read or if you didn’t get a chance to when they were originally published, now you can catch up with the times. Here’s to a great year of storytelling and to another year of amazing stories to share with you all!
10th Most Read Blog Post:
The 9th Most Read Blog Post:
8th Most Read:
7th Most Read:
6th Most Read:
5th Most Read:
4th Most Read:
3rd Most Read:
2nd Most Read:
And our most read blog post of 2017 goes to:
Meet Paul Heiden! Paul’s family has a long history of farming and raising cattle in the west valley of Phoenix. Not only does he share the legacy of his family in this Q&A blog post, but also how his family works hard to be good neighbors to those who have moved in around their feed yard and farm.
What is the history of your family’s farm and feed yard?
Paul: My great-grandfather started farming in the 1940’s which is when he acquired the current farm and feed yard my family still owns and operates. Along with my grandfather, he started with just 320 acres, which is where our headquarters currently is, and a few corrals of cattle. We are fortunate to now farm a lot more land and raise about 5,000 head of cattle per year.
What does your family currently farm?
Paul: We grow cotton, wheat, alfalfa, and cattle.
Who in your family is still involved in the farming and feeding business?
Paul: Myself, my brother, my father, my uncles, and my grandfather.
When did you start working at the feed yard?
Paul: I grew up on the farm and feed yard, so I guess you can say I’ve always been here. I started irrigating fields when I was in 5th grade. In 7th grade, I was promoted to tractor driver and did that through my sophomore year of high school. Then I started driving a feed truck on the feed yard. I attended Arizona State University to further my education and after graduation, I came right back to the feed yard. I’m proud to say I still live on the feed yard along with my grandfather who lives just a few yards from me.
What changes have you seen with the town of Buckeye?
Paul: When I was growing up, Buckeye’s population was about 5,000 people. Now the population is close to 65,000. Before we didn’t have neighbors anywhere close to us and now we have neighbors half a mile away in one direction and a mile away in the other direction. This has brought both advantages and challenges to our farm.
What challenges do you face with neighborhoods so close to the farm and feed yard?
Paul: We make a great effort to be good neighbors. I can remember being younger and there was a noticeable dust cloud around the feed yard. Now with residences closer to our farm and feed yard, we manage the feed yard and cattle much differently. We want to ensure we are cautious of what is going to affect our neighbors and keep the goal of being good neighbors top of mind.
To accomplish this, we water the corrals daily to help keep the dust down with a goal of not allowing dust to leave this property. We clean the corrals yearly, so any smell associated with the feed yard is kept to a minimum.
Flies can also prove an issue, so to keep the population small we use a predator fly from a company called Kunafin. This is a natural way to control pests with the use of a fly that feeds on the common house fly. Looking around a feed yard you would expect a lot of pests and flies, but there aren’t any because of these guys. The lack of flies also helps to prevent the spread of illnesses between cattle as flies are great hosts for common cattle-related illnesses.
What benefits are there to managing a feed yard close to an urban area?
Paul: We have the chance to interact with consumers in this setting much more frequently whereas before we hardly saw anyone not related to or working at the farm or feed yard. I often conduct tours through the Arizona Beef Council which allows people to experience a family-owned feed yard first hand. These folks are always curious about what we do and come with misconceptions I can help clear up by simply taking them around our place and showing off what we do here.
How do you care for the environment around you?
Paul: We are big proponents of reusing and recycling here at our farm and feed yard. We clean all the manure out of the pens on a yearly basis and then apply that manure as fertilizer to our farm fields. What others see as only a waste product, we see as an invaluable resource full of nutrients for the plants we grow. You might say, you only clean the pens once a year?! Let me tell you why that’s a good thing. Because we do live in such an arid climate, we are able to leave the manure in the pens during the year because it dries out quickly. This also helps to form a layer on the top of the dirt which also aids in the control of dust.
When it rains, we have a pond which catches all the runoff from the cattle pens. We store this wastewater in the pond and when that gets full it’s used to irrigate our crops, providing more nutrients for the plants. Basically, our goal is to not allow any waste to leave our property. It’s reused in some way.
Do you work with any government agencies?
Paul: We work closely with the Maricopa Air Quality Control. They come out once a year to check out air quality. We work with this agency to make sure our farm and feed yard are not adversely affecting the air quality around us. Working with agencies like the Maricopa Air Quality Control is an important part of our work. We care about the environment and the land we use, and these folks help verify we are doing a good job reaching that goal.
What sort of technologies have you implemented on your feed yard and how have they changed over the years?
Paul: We now use radio frequency identification tags, also called RFID tags, which make it easier to track our animals. These work by inserting a small button tag into the ear of the animal, much like an earring, when they arrive at our place if they don’t already have one. This allows us to scan the tag, which automatically brings up all the information we’ve previously logged about that animal while allowing us to add more information, such as vaccinations, illness records, which medications were given, etc. I also use apps on my phone to track weather changes. I check out the temperature, humidity, and if it’s going to rain. This helps us predict if the cattle will start to eat more or less feed depending on the day. Cattle’s appetites greatly depend on the weather.
What do you do to ensure the beef you raise is safe for consumers?
Paul: We work closely with a veterinarian who is on call seven days a week. If something happens, which is out of the ordinary, we can call him any time of the day to find out what we should do to ensure the safety and welfare of the animal in question.
We also take great strides to prevent illnesses and other issues. Two of our employees walk through the cattle in the pens every single day. They look for any sign of illness, most times being able to identify those signs before the cattle are showing great signs of sickness. Because these cowboys are so good at their job, we can pull them out of the regular pen and transfer the animal to the hospital pen. This is where our veterinarian really becomes integral to our feed yard and the welfare of our animals. We treat the animal with whatever our veterinarian recommends. Whatever product we gave to that animal comes with a strict withdrawal time to ensure all the product is free from the animal’s system before it goes into the harvesting process. At our family feed yard, we actually double the required withdrawal time, airing on the side of caution as each animal metabolizes products differently than the next. If an animal becomes sick and has to be treated within four months of leaving our feed yard, we separate that animal from the usual group, as one additional safety guard against any chance of sending an animal to harvest before their withdrawal time is up.
We also have a nutritionist who formulates all our feed rations which are the mixture of feed we feed to our cattle. It’s extremely important to ensure our cattle’s nutrient needs are met throughout their lifecycle as this helps to ensure they stay healthy.
What is your favorite thing about raising cattle?
Paul: I really enjoy going to work each day and spending the majority of the day outside. I also really enjoy knowing I work hard to raise a safe, wholesome, and nutritious beef product for my family to enjoy while other families get to enjoy the same product.
What is your favorite cut of beef?
Paul: Grilled New York Strip
The King’s Anvil Ranch located in the Altar Valley outside of Tucson, Arizona is a piece of history. Unlike some relics, this ranch and the King family continue to implement the latest scientific research and technology to ensure this ranch doesn’t become a thing of the past and continues to move forward with the rest of our society. A day-long visit to this beautiful desert gem with husband and wife team Joe and Sarah King gave us the opportunity to learn all about what they do and bring you this blog post.
Tell us about yourself, your family and your ranch:
Joe: Our family ranch is the King’s Anvil Ranch, west of Tucson in Three Points, Arizona. I am 37 years old, a fourth-generation rancher and have lived on this ranch nearly my entire life. We have a long history here on this ranch and in this area. My great-grandad founded our ranch, and my grandad followed in his footsteps, including roping in the first Tucson rodeo. My great-grandad had an extremely large ranch and what we currently operate is a small parcel compared to what they used to manage and raise cattle on. He was the one who bought barbed wire for the fence on this ranch way back in 1895. We have not bought barbed wire since then. I’m still fixing his barbed wire and I’ve never met him.
Sarah: I grew up moving around. I was born in Wisconsin, moved to Mexico City for two years and then on to New Jersey. When we lived in Mexico City, we would go on weekend trips and there would be horses by the side of the road you could pay to ride and that’s where I started getting into horses. I rode in New Jersey at a small English stable where we did the little horse shows.
My family frequently visited the Elkhorn Ranch, which is just south of the King’s Anvil Ranch, for vacations as I was growing up. This led to my employment at the Elkhorn Ranch in Montana, originally to be the babysitter, and then I ended up being the Peanut Butter Mother which is the kiddy wrangler who organizes the kids’ activities during the summers of my college years. I came down here my first fall out of college nine years ago to work at the Arizona Elkhorn. The barn boss, who was a childhood buddy of Joe’s, got to scheming that Joe and I should get together. He had just gotten married, so love was in the air. And he was right! It panned out! Here we are nine years later with two children hopping around. I went back to Montana for one more summer and then Joe and I got married in 2011, so we’ve been married for six years now.
How has technology changed on the ranch?
Joe: In many ways. I just got an iPhone! I can now use it to do all my cattle records on. The apps are fun and help to keep track of the age of cows better. We also use a sonogram to check if cows are pregnant. We also now use cars, horses, barbed wire and a mixer to feed calves, just to name a few.
We almost take smartphones for granted these days, but they’re definitely something that generations before me didn’t have on the ranch. We have two new cowboys, who haven’t made it to every corner of the ranch yet. The other day, I needed to run to town for parts, and they were going to ride to a gate in the mountains. We went over verbal directions in the morning, but I wasn’t sure it had clicked. Midway through the day, they called, and they were in the wrong spot. I was able to pull up the Maps app on my phone, drop a “pin” where the gate is, and then send it to one of the guys, and he brought it up on his phone, and they rode to the point. It saved them several hours of lost time riding through the mountains searching for the gate.
What apps do you use?
Joe: Dropbox so I can save stuff between computers. If I ever smashed my phone everything would be backed up. I have Beef Market Central. I have a tally counter so I can count everyone’s ages as they walk by without having to do it 9 times. Now we have an accurate count of their actual ages.
How does the sonogram help?
Joe: It makes it easier and eliminates some human error when checking for pregnancy in our cows. It also speeds up the process! We can tell if a cow is bred much earlier (for example, in the first trimester) which means we can turn these cows out to a large pasture. If we check by manual palpation (feeling the uterus with a hand to check for pregnancy) and a cow comes up open, we hold them in a pasture or pen nearby and recheck later, because she could either be only in the first trimester or could truly be open. We can identify these bred cows earlier so they can go on to better pastures.
In your lifetime, how have you seen technology change the way you are doing things on the ranch?
Joe: We used to employee many more cowboys than we do now. Technology has helped us do this job more efficiently and make up for the loss of skilled workers. We used to have to keep forty or more horses to make sure we had enough horsepower to do the required work. While we don’t use ATVs to move cattle like some folks do (still just horses), we will use a helicopter at times to close out our fall round-up and have them gather the last remnants in a pasture, as we ride our horses along with and bring out what the helicopter pilot finds. The helicopter has shortened the time to finish out gathering a pasture from three weeks to three hours, along with a much better success rate of finding all the cattle in that area. The terrain in our pastures can be rocky and tough to get into and the flat area is large, so it takes time to cover all that land.
What are some common misconceptions the average person has about raising cattle?
Joe: As previously explained, Sarah has a strong connection to the guest ranch, the Elkhorn Ranch, next door so we often visit and talk with the folks who are staying there from all across the U.S. (and even internationally!). They ask lots of questions, which is great. There’s a lot of basic questions but one that I enjoy the most is when they realize our ranch is more than just a hobby – it’s a full-time job. Like when we start to talk about trade issues and about how the price of cattle is trailing the price of oil, and they are surprised that I know what the cost of oil is. As it is a large factor in the price of live cattle, it’s an important one for me to watch. They are surprised by that. I tell them my job depends on it. They don’t take the second level of thinking unless you push them to and then it makes sense to them.
Sarah: It’s really the same as anyone thinking about someone else’s job. You might know about the first layer of what a job requires, but I think this job happens to be one people romanticize and might think the same thing is going on from times past. It’s also a visual job, allowing people to be more set into their perceptions of what they think goes on at a ranch versus seeing the business layer. As a rancher, you are in charge of making all the business decisions to ensure your family business stays afloat and that’s not something people often see.
In terms of misconceptions, they can go both ways. There tends to be a view of people in ranching or agriculture that those folks are simple or uneducated, which I don’t think is the case at all. I also think there are some missed opportunities to communicate when we go on the defensive instead of listening. Sometimes when you’re deeply involved in something, you can’t understand how others wouldn’t understand it. But sometimes if we take a step back and think, “why would someone know that?” we might understand why they’re asking the question.
What is the most important thing you do on your ranch every day to make sure you are raising safe beef for the consumer?
Joe: Keeping gentle cattle is the biggest thing you can do to ensure that yourself, your family, your employees and your animals all stay safe and healthy. When your animals stay safe, you don’t have to worry about doctoring them and it helps to ensure our end product is high quality. By working on gentling our cattle while they are here, they avoid stress when being trailered somewhere else, they settle into new environments, such as a feed yard, faster and with less weight loss, they know how to eat out of a feed bunk and how to drink water out of a trough. These things ensure they are relaxed so they can grow healthier, just like anyone else would.
We also ensure our cowboys adhere to the philosophy of calm, gentle cattle handling and Beef Quality Assurance designations. It’s the philosophy you want your group or team to follow to produce the best product.
Sarah: Additionally, we also must stay on top of research and continually educate ourselves even after we are done with our college degrees. We must stay on top of vaccinations, medical treatments, range management, etc. This can mean we have to make a change to how we are doing something. All this thought and research goes into our cattle and our ranch. This is a product which not only has the end game of putting a delicious meal on the shelf, but also has benefits for the landscape, for wildlife, and for people broadly, such as hunters coming to the ranch. This product helps us keep our little portion of the universe in good, healthy, functioning condition.
What do you do on your ranch in terms of range management and conservation?
Sarah: The King’s Anvil Ranch is a founding member of the Altar Valley Conservation Alliance, which is the local collaborative conservation group. This group is made up of ranchers and agriculturists who live and work in the Altar Valley. It was founded in 1995, in the spirit of the Malapi Borderlands Group and the Diablo Trust. The goal is to conserve the Altar Valley for future generations. We work to promote, sustain, and maintain the habitat. A lot of what we’ve done has been to get partners to work together at the table and find common ground in discussing challenges and resolving issues. Even if we can’t have some of those big conversations at the national level, we can bring them down and have them at the small, local level.
There are a lot of different players in this valley. Pima County’s Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan was enacted in 2001, and their Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan was finalized recently. This led Pima County to purchase a couple of the ranches in the valley. The valley is the largest open, unfragmented space in Pima County. This area is a cornerstone of their conservation plan. Some of the other stakeholders in the Altar Valley are the Arizona State Land Department, national designations such as the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, which used to be a cattle ranch, the Bureau of Land Management, and the National Forest Service toward the south end. The Alliance is focused on getting those partners to come together to talk and collaborate. The best way we’ve found to do that is by working on tangible stuff on the ground. There have been a whole variety of projects. We here at the Anvil are working on a prescribed burn plan, along with low maintenance road care.
Pick out a piece of info that you want everyone to know about you and the work you do on the ranch every day:
Joe: I’m really in the people business. It’s the most fun part of my job. When I can get people to see eye-to-eye on the ranch and work together to get tasks done, it’s a great accomplishment. Managing people and working with people is the best part and the most difficult part. But when it goes right it’s just a home run.
What is your favorite cut of beef?
Joe: I’m always up for a good rib-eye, but smoked brisket on my new smoker is a new favorite. But it’s always a floating favorite. Beef ribs are another good one.
Sarah: Flank steak
What do you think of when ranchers and cowboys are brought up in a conversation? Is it the picturesque image of a mounted horseman silhouetted against the setting sun, surrounded by the blazing oranges, pinks, and purples so characteristic of the Arizona skyline at dusk? Well, hopefully, you’ve read some of our previous blog posts (like this one, or this one, or that one), and have gained a better understanding of what modern ranching really looks like, but this romantic image of the old west is often what comes to mind when ranching in Arizona is brought up.
In my line of work (and life), beef and raising cattle is always at the forefront of my thoughts so it comes up often! A large goal of ours here are at the Arizona Beef Council is to share with people the continuous improvement our ranchers are working towards while showing the rich heritage we’ve built on. Many ranches have changed immensely over the past hundred years, while some ranches, due to physical location and terrain, have remained a mirror image of their past.
One such ranch is the O RO Ranch just north of Prescott, Arizona. The challenges faced on this ranch and the remote location have made it hard for the average person to visit or even see photos, but Kathy McCraine, Arizona rancher, journalist, and photographer, was granted permission to photograph this living piece of history from 1993-2013. She has since taken her collection of photos and curated them into a beautiful coffee table-style book titled Orejana Outfit, Arizona’s Historic O RO Ranch 1993-2013 for all to enjoy while gaining access to this hidden world. Kathy’s book gives us a glimpse into what the past most likely looked like, and may still, on many Arizona ranches. Her title includes the Spanish word Orejana which refers to an ownerless, unbranded bovine who is old enough to be without its mother. This type of cattle could also be referred to as a “maverick.” The name certainly fits the challenging landscape and remote setting of the O RO which has remained far separate from modern life. This land isn’t suitable for much. Crops won’t grow here, but grasses will, making it an ideal location, now and then, to raise cattle.
Her collection features countless black and white photos from various places on this 257,000-acre ranch, most taken during fall and spring works. Fall and spring are busy on most ranches, but at the O RO Ranch, this is especially the case. Cowboys with the right set of skills (meaning they must have more with them than just the right outfit and tack) show up to assist the full-time camp men (those that stayed on year-round to ensure the safety and health of the cattle and land) with the task of gathering, branding, weaning, and shipping that season’s calf crop. As you flip through this book and learn about all that goes into these busy times, it’s a tricky task to separate the older photos from the new. The black and white images take away the clues you might use to tell what year each photo was taken and acts almost as if it is a time machine to the past.
Along with the numerous photos, a brief description before each chapter gives the viewer more information on what is happening in the photos and why. Detailed histories and understandings are given on the O RO Ranch history and its Spanish land grant roots, the wagon and the crew, the various roles each person plays on the ranch and why, the horses and their importance during these working times, branding, shipping, and much more.
Kathy’s book is available for purchase at www.kathymccraine.com. She will also be at the Arizona State Cowbelles’ booth during the Tucson Festival of Books signing copies of this Arizona treasure. Currently, her book is also available at the Phippen Museum of Western Art, Sharlot Hall Museum, Oggs Hogan, and the Old Stage Stop, all in Prescott. Also, at Animal Health Express in Tucson, The Scottsdale Spirit of the West Museum in Scottsdale, and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.
Review was written by Tiffany Selchow of the Arizona Beef Council.
This week we are excited to bring you not just a delicious recipe, but a cool story from an Arizona native and foodie, Brooke Phelps. Brooke has connected to agriculture, and specifically beef, through 4-H and it looks like she’ll be sticking around for awhile (see her story about her future husband’s family farm). She often posts drool-worthy Instagram stories featuring her family’s foodie creations which is what inspired us to ask her to share with you all! Enjoy and be prepared with a snack. Guaranteed this blog post will make you hungry!
I’m a total foodie at heart and normally plan my days around meals. Doesn’t everyone do that? My mom (Jacque Phelps) gave me her passion for cooking. Growing up I always loved to learn from her (still do!) and help her in the kitchen. Nowadays we love to make up recipes and cook together! I’m a beef eater through and through. In fact, my whole family is a family of beef eaters. It’s usually not a real meal unless it has beef in it. Don’t get me wrong, I love seafood, pork and the occasional chicken dish but it seems like most of my favorite meals include beef.
I grew up in the small town of San Manuel; my family has a car dealership off Highway 77 in Oracle. Even though we weren’t directly tied into agriculture, there has always been a strong influence from family and friends. I raised steers and veal calves for 4 -H at the Pinal County Fair and I think that is what really validated my love for agriculture. After high school I went on to the University of Arizona where I graduated with a BS in Agriculture Communications in 2016. I now work for the Arizona Association of Conservation Districts as their communications director. I’ll soon be living on an Arizona dairy farm with my future husband (Clint Gladden) whose family farms and dairy in Palo Verde, AZ.
This is a great weeknight savior for the leftover veggies in the fridge that you haven’t used and are soon going to go bad. It can also be a great Sunday dinner. I love stir-fry because it is endlessly customizable and lightning fast to whip together. This combo is currently one of my favs. This recipe should and needs to be in every Arizona family’s weeknight rotation.
I am a spicy food addict and most of my meals contain some heat in one way or another. I like my Spicy Beef Stir Fry with lots of Thai Chilies. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but the good news is it’s optional for the non-spicy folks in the crowd.
1-½ lbs. of thinly sliced beef Top Sirloin cut across the grain into bite-size strips
1 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, divided
1 ½ tablespoons of sesame oil, divided
5 or so Thai chilies (optional, could replace with a milder chili or just add some red pepper flakes)
½ cup of teriyaki sauce
½ cup spicy stir- fry sauce
¼ cup of sliced carrots
¼ cup of bean sprouts
6 chopped green onions
1 ½ cup of sliced white mushrooms
1 ½ cup of broccoli
8 oz. of cooked Pad Thai rice noodles
NOTE: If you can’t find Pad Thai noodles you could substitute with spaghetti or rice
Marinate meat with your favorite teriyaki sauce for at least 30 min. I included a picture of mine that I get from Trader Joe’s.
Heat 1 Tbsp. of oil (part veg oil part sesame oil) in a large skillet or wok over high heat. When the oil is simmering add broccoli and mushrooms, tossing until mushrooms are browned and tender, about 2-3 minutes. Add carrots, green onion, bean sprouts, and chilies, tossing for another minute. Transfer vegetables to another bowl.
Heat 1 Tbsp. of oil in the same skillet over high heat. When the oil is simmering again, add part of your beef and arrange slices in a single layer in skillet. Cook until beef is browned and caramelized on the first side, about 1 minute. Toss and continue to cook until brown all over. Then repeat with the rest of your beef. Drain any excess liquid in your skillet.
Add your cooked noodles, vegetables, and spicy stir-fry sauce in with the beef and cook on high until everything is combined.
Serve with toasted sesame seeds and cilantro (Optional)
In case you haven’t followed Brooke on Instagram yet, here ‘s a sneak peak at the deliciousness she often shares.
A very important aspect of the beef community is found in all of the culinary wizards who prepare beef to serve to others. Cattle ranchers do all they can to raise healthy, high quality cattle that will produce high quality beef, and then, ultimately, it is in the hands of cooks and chefs to prepare a delicious meal. Meet Bruce Brown of Phoenix-based Bruce Brown Catering. The Arizona Beef Council has partnered with Bruce to serve beef creations at several events and we’ve also learned a lot from him about the world of catering. We visited him to share about the catering business and beef.
What brought you to catering and when did you start?
I have actually been in the food business my entire life. I grew up on the largest commercial hog farm in New York State. When I was seven years old, my mother started a frozen custard stand which also offered bbq, pork and beef burgers which were all produced on the family farm. Before I could see over the service counter, I was offering people delicious food. When I graduated from college, my father had progressed into the catering business, doing mostly bbq chicken, ribs and pig roasts. At that time, we worked together for a few years, and then, with his constant encouragement, I branched off with my own similar business in Upstate New York.
Have you always enjoyed food and preparing food for others?
As the story goes, at the age of eight, I made my first pasta sauce and dinner for the family. I am not sure how good it REALLY was, but, they told me it was and my culinary career was begun. So I have to say with an emphatic YES, I have always enjoyed preparing food for others.
What’s the most fun type of catering event?
Without a doubt, the most fun and rewarding catering that we do each year is the Arizona National Livestock Show (ANLS). We have been honored to be the caterer for the show since 2008. As challenging as providing many different types of services, serving approximately 4500 meals in four days is a lot of work, but rewarding! The people involved in the ANLS make this so rewarding and fun.
What cuts of beef are best suited to catering and are the biggest hits?
The cut of beef best suited really depends on the event and type of service needed. Our most popular and favorite beef item is hand carved, Arizona mesquite smoked, New York Strip Loin. We like the personal service offered through the carving station and everyone loves hand carved, medium rare beef! For an event which does not allow for a carving station, we like to offer braised short ribs with a California cabernet bbq sauce or smoked brisket with spicy horseradish sauce.
We’ve asked you to create some wild beef pairings (beef bacon and chocolate chip cookies, beef and beer chili, mini beef Rueben bites). How does the versatility of beef benefit your recipe creations?
One of the things I enjoy about catering is creating so many different items for people to enjoy. We offer everything from an upscale plated dinner with a filet steak to a backyard bbq with burgers. One delicious long and ongoing trend is the gourmet burger…we have had a call for a mixed grind including brisket with sirloin and short rib…a TRUE steak burger! For instance, for a buffet utilizing a chafing dish, we prefer to offer a braised beef. This prevents the concern of serving an over-cooked product. On the other hand, for a nicer offering, we will serve steaks directly from the grill or as a plated dinner where we control the temperature the meat is served.
What are some trends you’ve seen in the catering world?
The trends in the catering world seem to be set by “The Food Network,” celebrity chefs and their shows as well as Pinterest. They say the only thing constant is change and we certainly see that in our business. One of the main trends is Farm to Table and seasonal, local products. It seems like a pretty basic and simple concept, yet it has become a great marketing tool. Small plates and miniature desserts are popular. You see many passing trends such as molecular gastronomy. Happily for us beer lovers, beer and food pairing and gastropubs certainly seem to be a trend here to stay! We have always concentrated on our core value of serving delicious, simple food, prepared properly.
What, if any, changes have you seen in catering and what do you see for the future?
We have seen a great increase in fast/casual restaurants offering catering services. You also see people looking for healthier options to serve their guests.
What are the most common questions you receive about beef from your clients?
Mainly, our clients ask about the different preparations and which cuts of beef will work best with the menu they are offering. Many times people will want to offer a second protein option along with beef and we offer them a cut and preparation which pairs well together.
Lastly, what is your favorite cut of beef?
Tough question…I am definitely a steak-and-potatoes guy! It is a tossup between a perfectly grilled, medium rare Ribeye and thinly sliced Arizona mesquite, smoked New York Strip Loin with spicy horseradish sauce…sometimes a good grilled Tri Tip, thinly sliced. Maybe some smoked brisket with either tangy bbq sauce or my go to horseradish. I also like a good carne asada taco…sometimes a slowly smoked beef bbq sandwich. Then again…you just cannot beat a thick, juicy burger!