Arizona Beef Ranchers: Everyday Environmentalists

For Arizona’s ranching families, the land is not just where they raise cattle; it’s also where they raise their families. They have a personal stake in the quality of their environment – so they are always looking for new ways to improve the air, water and land on and near their property. 


Families and ranching go hand in hand. 98% of farms and ranches in the United States are family owned and operated and many of those are passed from generation to generation. The land isn’t just where ranchers raise cattle, but where they raise their families, provide open space and create wildlife habitat.

In fact, today’s cattlemen are significantly more environmentally sustainable than they were 30 years ago. A study by Washington State University in 2007 found that today’s farmers and ranchers raise 13% more beef from 30% fewer cattle. When compared with beef production in 1977, each pound of beef produced today:

  • Produces 16% less carbon emissions
  • Takes 33% less land
  • Requires 12% less water

There are no one-size-fits-all solutions to beef sustainability. Rather, farmers and ranchers balance the resources they have available to meet the goals of their operation: responsibly raise cattle, take care of the land, provide for their families, and produce food for others. Rainfall amounts, temperatures, soil conditions, and vegetation are just a few of the regional geographic variables that affect how beef farmers and ranchers sustainably manage their operations.

Arizonans rely on farming and ranching families to manage and maintain more than 26 million acres of land in Arizona. A healthy aspect of sustainable beef production involves grazing cattle on U.S. rangelands, about 85 percent of which are unsuitable for crops. Raising cattle on this land contributes to the ecosystems by converting forages humans cannot eat into a nutrient-rich food humans can eat — beef.

St. Patrick’s Day: Celebrate with Beef

Green beer and corned beef day is just around the corner! While you don’t need a recipe for the beer, we can help with the directions on the corned beef. Plus ideas for breakfast and lunch the next day! Bonus: A perfect beef-y brunch drink is included in our recipe round up!

Slow-Cooked Corned Beef in Beer with Red Currant-Mustard Sauce

Let your slow cooker do all the work for this complete meal of beer-braised Corned Beef with fresh cabbage and red potatoes. It’s a great dish for your next celebration.

Dijon-Glazed Corned Beef with Savory Cabbage and Red Potatoes

While Corned Beef braises in the oven, cabbage wedges and potatoes are roasted for a full meal. A bonus recipe for the leftovers is included too!

Corned Beef Brisket with Roasted Vegetables and Lemon-Mustard Sauce

Cook once, dine twice. Enjoy Corned Beef Brisket with roasted carrots, parsnips, cabbage and a lemony sauce tonight, then spin the leftovers into a savory salad tomorrow.

Bloody Bull

Try this brunch favorite with a depth of flavor only beef can provide. Roasted Beef Stock is the secret ingredient to this one of a kind Bloody Mary. Garnish with a beef slider, beef meatball, or whatever you can dream up.

Corned Beef Hash

Tied with the Reuben for the ultimate expression of Corned Beef. Here it’s diced, skillet-cooked with cubed potatoes and thinly sliced leeks, and ideally topped with an egg.

Classic Beef Reuben Sandwich

Try this deli classic for lunch or dinner today. Thinly sliced deli Corned Beef or Pastrami is sandwiched between rye bread with sauerkraut and a tangy home-made dressing.

All photos courtesy of BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com.

Cattle Byproducts: More Than Just Beef

What do footballs, lipstick, charcoal, paint, and wallpaper have in common? They are all important items we use in our lives and they all come from cattle.

These guys, they are more than just beef! Photo by Dan Bell.

Wait, what? Yup, you heard us! Those items all contain an ingredient from cattle which we call a by-product. The main reason we raise cattle is for the delicious beef they produce. What is left over is called a byproduct. While the word byproduct might sound like something that isn’t useful, don’t let the word deceive you. These items are extremely important to many of the everyday items you use at home.

You can think of it as a recipe. Just like you have a recipe to make, let’s say, meatloaf, there is a recipe to make lipstick, or footballs, or paint. The recipe provides you the ingredient list and the steps to get you to the end product. The byproducts from beef are one of those ingredients on the list.

Just like this Summertime Meat Loaf has a recipe so do other products!
Photo and recipe courtesy of BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com.

When we harvest a beef animal, about 60% of that animal becomes beef. The remaining 40% includes things like skin, fat, bones, tendons, organs, etc. Here is where byproducts become especially important. We can’t waste half an animal! But we can use those items in inventive and innovative ways to help make our lives easier.

An obvious byproduct is leather. It comes from the cow’s hide. Cowhides are an important part of most of America’s popular sports. One cowhide can make 12 basketballs OR 144 baseballs OR 20 footballs OR 18 volleyballs OR 18 soccer balls OR 12 baseball gloves.

Gelatin is another great example of a beef byproduct. It comes from connective tissue and is a staple ingredient in anything that jiggles or has that well known springy consistency. Hello Jello and gummy bears! Marshmallows and gum are two other products which contain gelatin.

Photo from BBC News.

It’s not just yummy products which contain cattle byproducts. Many important medical items also contain these useful items. Ointments for burns and first aid creams use byproducts as an ingredient along with extremely important antirejection drugs, which are used when someone has a heart, liver, or other organ transplants. The sticky part on bandages can be made from the fatty acid.

Photo by Cattle Empire‘s blog on cattle byproducts.

Other items which contain beef byproducts are insulin, dog food, rawhide bones, laundry pre-treatment, bone china, toilet paper (to make it soft), glue, dish soap, candles, film, crayons, paintbrushes, printing ink, nail polish remover, deodorants, antifreeze, hydraulic brake fluid, car wax, highways, tires, and so much more!

Add this to the list of reasons why cattle are amazing animals. They take sunlight which was used by plants we cannot eat and turn it into delicious and nutritious beef and all of these things we use to help make life easier. Thank goodness for cows!

Graphic by Cattle Tales.

The Beef on 2018: Top Ten Most Read Arizona Beef Blog Posts

It’s the beginning of a new year, full of possibilities, but we can’t just forget about 2018. That was a good year! So here is our annual round up of the Arizona Beef Blog’s top ten most read posts. We visited with ranchers across the state to bring you more information on how beef is raised, delicious beef meals were cooked and shared so you can recreate them at home, and much more. Enjoy!

10th Most Read Blog Post

A Photo Says a Thousand Words, but Only Offers One Perspective

Coming in at number 10, a blog about how perspective can show much more than we think. This blog is an important reminder to think from all angles before sharing a photo on social media channels. It might look fine to you, but to someone else who may not have the background knowledge you do, it might mean something totally different.

9th Most Read Blog Post

A Cowgal’s Story: Caring for the Land

This blog post was reposted from our friends over at the Diablo Trust. It was written by Sheila Carlson who has worked at the Flying M Ranch for the past 10 years. She wrote about how ranchers care for the land they are managing because it’s how they make their living and mistreating the land is simply not an option.

8th Most Read Blog Post

12 Days of Beef-y Recipes

We put these recipes in one spot as a quick read to help with your holiday plans, but in reality, this can be a post you can refer to all year long. There are some delicious appetizers, main courses, and even a dessert recipe! We suggest you save this one to your Pinterest under your “Yummy Food” board.

7th Most Read Blog Post

You Can Always Come Back

Amber Morin, who was raised on her family’s ranch, contributed a thought-provoking read in this blog post. The divide between agriculture and urban life is large and is only getting larger but we are all more alike than we think. Amber explains how. If you didn’t read this already, read it now. If you did read it when it came out, read it again anyway. It’s that good.

6th Most Read Blog Post

Ranch Raised Kids

The iconic photos of western life tend to feature older people who have lived this rough life for many years, and it often shows in the wrinkles caught on film. Seth Joel and Charlie Holland, a photography dynamic duo, set out to show the next generation of the ranching community. We did a question and answer session with these two and shared it on this post, along with a plethora of their beautiful photos and information on how you can order their book.

5th Most Read Blog Post

Baxter Black: The Man, The Myth, The Witty

The writing of the 5th most read blog post was nothing short of an adventure. It took Tiffany, Lauren and Heidi down to the southern end of our state for a visit with the one and only Baxter Black. Stories were told, history was recorded, and there were many belly laughs. In this post we simply introduced (does he really need to be introduced?) Baxter and share some of his history. We also share a little bit about arrows and how Baxter uses those in his life.

4th Most Read Blog Post

Meet Your Rancher: Ashlee Mortimer

The 4th most read blog post of the Arizona Beef Blog is a Meet Your Rancher feature. We were lucky to hear from Ashlee Mortimer and how her family handles things like drought. As many ranching families do, the Mortimer family faces issues that are out of their control but they find innovative ways to keep their cattle well cared for and fed.

3rd Most Read Blog Post

Life Lessons from Baxter Black

Everyone loves a good list and when it’s life lessons from someone like Baxter Black, do you even need an explanation why this is so high on our list? We don’t think so.

2nd Most Read Blog Post

Fancy Night In: Filet Mignon with Mushroom-Wine Sauce

Brooke from Brooke Appetit shares delicious recipes over on her Instagram and we just couldn’t get enough. So we asked her to come up with something delicious for the Arizona Beef Blog. While she shared this delicious fancy night in dinner, she also showed off her family’s dairy farm and the impeccable care that is given to their cows.

Most Read Blog Post of 2018

Meet Your Ranchers: The McGibbon Family

The top most read blog post of 2018 is about a family who has been ranching in Arizona for a long time. They might be old hat at the ranching game but this family isn’t stagnant. They are always looking for ways to improve how they raise cattle, how they manage and care for the land, and keep a constant pulse on what the consumer wants. This family truly is the epitome of our slogan, “Arizona beef. Raised by families for families.”

We hope you enjoyed this round up of the most read blog posts on the Arizona Beef Blog of 2018! Cinch up your saddle and get ready for the ride because 2019 is going to be a fun one.

Ranch Raised Kids

Seth Joel and Charlie Holland have been traveling across the state of Arizona for the past few years. Their goal was to capture life on the ranch, through the eyes of the ranch raised kids. In the ultimate culmination, their photos are being published in a beautiful coffee table book which is set for release on December 3, 2018. It will be available for order on the Arizona Cattle Industry Research and Education Foundation’s website. While you’re waiting, enjoy a sample of their photos while reading through this question and answer interview to learn more about this photography duo and what led them to this project.

A sneak peak of the cover of this beautiful book! Available December 3, 2018.

Arizona Beef Council: How did you get into photography?

Seth Joel: I grew up in a photo family just outside of New York City in a small village called Croton-On-Hudson. Like Ranch Raised Kids, I was mentored by my father, a staff photographer for Life Magazine. I grew up looking at pictures at the dinner table every night. When we started working with the ranch raised kids, I felt a real connection to the ranchers’ kids right from the start. They also have fathers and uncles and grandfathers that were showing them how to do things and then allowing them to learn from doing. This was very much the way I learned photography. After high school, I moved to New York City proper and began building my career. That’s where I met Charlie, who moved from London to New York to work for a publisher. That publisher sent the two of us to India to do a photo story on the Maharaja, and that’s where the two of us met and fell in love, and the rest is history.

Charlie Holland: My background is a little different. I was brought up in England, and I have a degree in anthropology and African history, believe it or not. But I spent about three years in Africa, so maybe that’s why not much fazes me in the outback of Arizona. Then I started working for a publisher doing photo research. We moved to Los Angeles about 20 years ago when our kids were still young where I had a job at Universal Studios.

Julian Arrington

ABC: Photography has taken you all over the world. What is your favorite destination?

Seth: I would say India was probably the most unique destination. Being a photographer is like having a passport into special places and opportunities and seeing people’s lives from a different perspective, almost as an observer. Photography’s been very kind to me. It’s allowed me a lot of opportunities and Ranch Raised Kids is no exception to that. When I’m shooting a photo story, I am completely and totally all in. I just live and breathe and think about it all the time. My discipline on a project is really all about being focused on the story that I’m trying to tell. The ranch kids are amazing because they know that both Charlie and I have come a long way to spend the day with them and they really respect that right from the start. They give me all the time I need. They get completely involved with the project. It becomes very spontaneous. At the end of a photo session with them, they really own their photographs.

Charlie: For me, the beauty of pursuing this type of photography is why I like anthropology. I’m incredibly curious about how other people live and think and the more you know about how other people live and think, the more you realize how similar we all are. This has been a fantastic opportunity to learn that about a distinctive culture in America.

Houston Klump

ABC: What inspired you to do the Ranch Raised Kids project?

Charlie: It was the kids that inspired us to do the Ranch Raised Kids project. We were out in Arizona taking photographs for magazine stories and some other things. While doing these stories, we met some kids in Arizona who told us we should go to the Cowpunchers Reunion Rodeo. We eventually did go, and we met many more children who were growing up on ranches in Arizona. We talked with their parents and learned so much about how they were being brought up. The simple size of a ranch in Arizona was a piece of knowledge we didn’t know. All the kids we met seemed to share certain traits such as excellent manners. My mother would have loved every ranch kid she ever met. We were blown away by their sense of responsibility and the amount of talent they have with livestock. These kids are definitely more mature than their age.

We were ignorant of the fact that there were so many rancheswe had driven through thinking it was empty country. These kids helped us realize something. The cowboy has been portrayed over the last forty to fifty years as a vanishing breed. But these kids showed us that there was, infact, the next generation in ranching. And they are brilliant kids brought up in almost the same way as generations before but with a smartphone in their back pocket. And they are here and now, and they were going to carry on this extraordinary tradition of raising beef. And that, THAT, was what inspired us to do this project.

Hanna Wilson

ABC: How will this benefit the kids you are profiling?

Seth: Our project puts a family face on the ranching business. It promotes awareness to people that are unfamiliar with the devotion families have to the livestock and the range and the desire to raise the standards to a really high level of excellence. We learned every ranching family has many things in common, but the most powerful one is the focus on excellence. They have a job to do, and they are going to do it really well. We are able to show that through the eyes of the children and the stories of the ranch Raised Kids.

Charlie: Kids learn from other kids twice as fast as they learn from grownups.  We want this to be for kids by kids. We hope a school-aged child can pick it up and say, “Wow! That’s what this guy really does? The guy with the cowboy hat on, wow, he really does work at five o’clock in the morning?” The other benefit of telling the story through the eyes of a child is that it removes the need to instruct adults or to correct misperceptions. We are showing just who these kids are, what they are doing, and with any luck, we can weave in some insight on how the community lives.

Seth: We feel so blessed that we’ve been able to go to ranches as far north as the Grand Canyon and as far south as the Mexican border. We saw different operations and different kids and different desires, and I think one thing that really impressed us was the discussion about education. We visited thirty-five to forty ranches, and at each one there was a discussion about continuing education. It was thrilling for us to see this as a common thread, from ranch to ranch.

Charlie: Even at the Cowpunchers Reunion Rodeo we heard announcements about scholarship winners and then at county fairs. I’ve never walked into a community that was so dedicated to the education of the next generation. It was astounding.

Trulin Johnson

ABC: Where do you see this project going?

Charlie: We’d like to be able to pull back to do the Southwest. At that point, we’ll have a national interest, and then we can put everything together into one volume which might appeal to a much broader American audience and possibly German and Chinese audience as well.

Colt Noland

ABC: During all of your time spent at ranches across Arizona, what was the one thing that will always stick with you?

Charlie and Seth: The community.

Seth: We’ve been at this for two years now, so we’ve seen and heard about wrecks and the community really pitches in. It’s remarkable! I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Having traveled a lot and seen a lot of different cultures, the ranching community lifestyle really sets the bar up very high. It’s lovely to be a part of it. And we feel lucky to have been welcomed into it. The first six months we never even lifted a camera. We went to cattle auctions and 4-H club meetings. We just started to talk with people and refine our message, and we began to understand how much we didn’t know about the community. We began to learn little by little, and eventually, somebody said, “If you’re really serious about this, I can help you,” and she did, she really did. She began to share us. And once we started photographing, it took off like a house on fire. People just started passing us around.

Charlie: Something that sticks with me is how different each ranch is. There are no two businesses exactly alike. Regarding simple details like when calves are born is entirely different on various ranches. There are thousands of decisions ranchers make, and everyone has a slightly different way of doing it. There isn’t just one generic model on how to run a ranch.

Along with that, these kids are encouraged at very young ages, as early as seven or eight years old, to invest in their own business. The kids save up all of their money and then when they are old enough, they buy a cow. Or their parents might be generous and give them a cow to start their herd. It’s incredible to see that kind of business sense imparted on these young people.

Cutter Burgoett

ABC: What is your favorite cut of beef?

Seth: Oh, that’s an easy one! I love Ribeye! Especially when they are three-quarters of an inch thick and are cooked on the grill.

Charlie: I’m a Tri-Tip girl. I know that’s very California of me. I really love a Tri-Tip on the barbecue with a coffee and chipotle rub.


A special thank you to Seth and Charlie for the interview and for capturing these amazing photos of our bright ranching future! Be sure to check the project out online at Ranch Raised Photo. 

Meet Your Rancher: Ashlee Mortimer

I consider myself fortunate to have been raised in the farming and ranching community. Growing up, I’ve watched this group of people that grow and raise our country’s food do so with dedication and passion for the land they care for, the animals they are raising, and the people they are feeding.IMG_3052

My family runs an agritourism farm and cattle ranch called Mortimer Farms and Ranches in Dewey, Arizona. I get to call myself the Marketing Manager for our family’s farm which means I write blog posts, post lots of exciting news, events, and stories on our social media channels, design flyers, billboards, and signs, and handle all public relation topics. I also get to drive tractors, teach kiddos how to pick veggies, plant crops, take pictures, watch baby cows walk for the first time, and work cattle. I seriously have the best job ever! After I graduate from the University of Arizona in December, I hope to work for a non-profit agriculture organization in their marketing and public relations department as well as continuing to work on my family’s farm and ranch. Now let’s talk about the good stuff… cattle!

The past months have been the driest on record for many Northern areas of Arizona. Yavapai County, the area we call home, has received less than 30% of the normal rainfall this year. At one-point, homes in Prescott Valley were even asked to cut water usage, do laundry on scheduled days, and water their lawns and plants on others. The decrease in the rain doesn’t only affect homeowners. The drought has greatly impacted farmers, ranchers and can potentially affect our food supply.

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A current map of Arizona showing the extreme drought situation we are currently in. More information on the drought can be found here: http://bit.ly/2QIXpKr

Our farm and ranch are greatly affected by the drought. Our water pumping costs have gone up drastically and our cattle just about ran out of grass to eat.

I remember a Sunday afternoon not too long ago when we went out to check cows. Everything looked dead and the grass was just about all eaten down. It is at this point, in a normal year, we would move the cattle to the next pasture – a pasture filled with tall grasses, new growth, and a filled stock tank from which the cattle could drink. Unfortunately, mother nature foiled our plans and that next pasture, the one we had planned to move cattle to since the beginning of the year, had no water. The stock tank was dry. And the pasture which was next in the rotation for our cattle to graze didn’t look any better.

Due to the drought and lack of grass and water, we were forced to sell 95% of our calf crop from the last 2 years, move a 10,000-gallon portable water storage tank and trough system to the pasture with no water, buy an Army water truck, and found ourselves hauling water day in and day out to the cattle.

The Army water truck driving job was passed from one member of the family to the next. At one point my dad and I were driving down the road and we saw the big truck driving past us, but there was no driver to be seen. We soon realized Kolten, my little brother, was driving the truck and was just short enough that we couldn’t see him over the steering wheel.

It was a daily team effort hauling water and hay, pushing cows into new areas with more feed, and finding the baby calves that were left behind, usually in the dense brush.

I never had much time to plan if I am needed to help move these calves and I somehow always seem to be wearing shorts when I got the call. My job (with the help of my cattle dog – Stella) is to run through the thick bush and push the calves out and back with the herd. Now picture me running through, under, and jumping over dense, pokey, dead brush with shorts on. For weeks my legs looked like I was attacked by a feral cat.

Hauling water, hay, and moving cattle was only a short-term solution to a long-term problem. As each day passed, we watched the grass quality deteriorate and eventually get close to depletion in the pasture the cattle were grazing. Each pasture lasted less time and just when we moved the cattle into a new one it was time to move them somewhere else again. We either needed to figure out a way to provide food and water to our cattle in a more sustainable fashion or we needed to sell them.

My dad, Gary, is a big proponent of using the latest technology and practices in his job as a farmer and a rancher. The challenges the drought brought to our business were no different. He used technology and modern practices to combat the effects the drought had on our cattle and on the bottom line. We implemented a grazing technique, very uncommon in Arizona, called intensive grazing.

Compare
This photo shows how the pastures are separated and the drastic difference from the land which has been grazed and that which hasn’t.

This practice puts cattle on small sections of land. The cattle eat all the forages in a short amount of time and then are moved to the next section. We decided to utilize the farmland we were going to grow hay on to implement this type of grazing. We began by planting and growing 30 acres of sorghum-sudangrass. We then, through trial and error, sectioned off one-acre areas by taking a small tractor diagonally across the field with the bucket of the tractor scraping the ground. The tractor pushes down the 15 feet tall grass to make room for a 2-strand temporary electric fence to be put up.

Wire Fence
This simple two strand tempory fence allows for easy movement of our cattle from one area to the next.

After this is done, it is time for the cattle to eat all this grass! 300 cattle are put on this one-acre section of farm-grown sorghum-sudangrass. The cattle enter the section and in one day the entire acre of 15-foot-tall grass is gone. It is like a buffet for cows! At this point, 15 minutes is taken to move the 2-strand electric fence to make a new one-acre section, the gate is opened, 300 cattle move into the next section, and the process starts all over again.

The cattle know the system now and wait by the gate as we move the fencing around. The whole herd of cattle runs into the next section and for a few hours disappear in the very tall grass. It is really is a site to see!

Cattle34
The cattle enjoying the benefits of intensive grazing.

I asked my dad about the benefits of this type of grazing for the farm and the cattle. 

Why did you decide to do this type of grazing, besides the drought impact?
We are able to grow a crop and not have to use labor, resources, or money to harvest this crop. If we had grown hay in these same fields we would have spent lots of resources cutting, baling, hauling, storing, and then ultimately feeding it to the same cattle that are eating it straight from the field now. 

Is sorghum sudangrass good for the cattle?
Sorghum-sudangrass is a protein-rich grass for the cattle to eat. It also adds nutrients back into the soil.

Will you only use this grazing practice on sorghum sudangrass?
High-intensity grazing can be done in corn fields, sorghum-sudangrass fields, ditches, sorghum alfalfa blend fields, in native grass pastures, and pretty much everywhere else grasses and grains grow.

Cattle
High-intensity grazing can be done in corn fields, sorghum-sudangrass fields, ditches. Pretty much anywhere grasses and grains grow.

How does this gazing affect the farmland?
Intensive grazing not only combats the lack of range grasses my family’s ranch has but it also helps the farmland. Each crop grown in a field takes specific nutrients out of the field and puts specific nutrients back into the soil. Due to this, farmers rotate where they grow certain things (i.e. corn, pumpkin, grasses, etc.). The grass grown for the intensive grazing practice not only added a crop to our rotation but also adds more nutrients back into the soil. It also helps with the fertilization of our farmland. The higher density of cattle paired with short grazing periods allows for even manure distribution and an increase of nitrogen back on the land. The cattle act as a living fertilizing system!

How does this grazing affect the ranch lands?
Higher intensity grazing for a shorter duration allows for a longer rest period for the plant to recover fully which promotes the regrowth and in turn, is beneficial for the environment and for the cattle.

Cattle3
Sometimes the cattle are hard to see but they are there!

Is there anything negative about this type of grazing method?
Anyone would see this type of grazing method as a different management system. This scares some people away from change because there is so much to learn and implement. Overall, the benefits of this program for the land and the animals outweigh the efforts that would need to be taken to implement the program.

Do you see yourself using this practice after the drought is over and the grasses have grown back on the ranch?
Many ranches in the cattle belt use this type of grazing to increase their herd size which in turn positively affects their bottom line. This type of grazing is definitely something we will continue to work with and add to our long-term plan for our native range grazing and our crop grazing.

Intensive grazing saved our cattle herd and our ranch’s bottom line! This way of grazing and feeding our cattle has allowed us to keep ranching through the drought and continue our efforts to care for and protect our animals and the land we raise them on. This is a job that my family and I love very much, and we consider ourselves extremely fortunate to be able to raise cattle and care for the land.

You Can Always Come Back

Amber Morin was raised on her family’s cattle ranch in Southeastern, AZ. This experience sparked her interest and career path in natural resource management, agricultural policy, and agriculture communications. She has worked with the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association, Arizona’s Natural Resource Conservation Districts, and continues to promote agriculture through her current position at the Arizona Farm Bureau. Whenever time permits, she is back at the ranch helping her family run their beef business, running trails in preparation for “fun runs,” or writing.

Here are her thoughts on the urban agriculture divide and why we are all more alike than different.  

Agriculture has been taking place for the last 10,000 years, and yet, ranchers and farmers are now the minority? What the heck happened?

Baby

With agriculture, humans traded the harsh uncertainty of nomadic life for the somewhat more predictable and controllable agrarian lifestyle. An improvement, for sure. In exchange for their time and dedication to caring for plants and animals, humans were afforded more abundant food supplies, health, wealth, leisure, and the ability to trade for goods that could not be grown in their home climates. In short, agricultural abundance improved lives. It still does.

All of this happened because humans are smart, they experiment, they adapt, and find answers to questions, sometimes out of curiosity and most of the time out of necessity. Agriculture changed the way humans live and it wasn’t long before humans all over the world were adapting to agriculture methods on some level. This took place for 10,000 years, and yet, in a mere two centuries, the same curiosity and/or necessity also brought about another rapid change, the movement away from agrarian lifestyles to industrial lifestyles, and now to what pessimists call virtual lifestyles and optimists call entrepreneurial lifestyles.

 

To break the rapid change down for the readers who love numbers, in 1790, about 90% of the American workforce was related to agriculture. In 1890, that number had dropped to about 43%. In 1990 about 2.6% of the population’s workforce was related to agriculture. Now that number has dropped to about 2%. As people moved out of rural America to pursue an improved lifestyle in urban areas, agricultural advancements have made it possible for 2% of the population to feed the masses.

Why is this important? While about 2% of the population clothes and feeds us, we can do other things with our lives and pursue other careers, and not worry about where our next meal is going to come from. If it were not for ranchers and farmers, most of us would be struggling like the unfortunate souls on the show Naked and Afraid! Although I must admit, there are some very tough people that participate! But, would anyone really want to live that way? Or, go hungry because their backyard garden failed due to a pest infestation? I know what my answer is: an emphatic, no!

Thanks to the ingenuity of agriculturalists, technological advancements and improvements in the industry, and the dedication and care that agriculturalists have for their businesses, we live great lives without a lot of worries. The few feed the many. And, it takes an insurmountable amount of dedication to thrive in the agricultural industry when things like global markets, local markets, weather, genetics, natural resources, financial constraints, and the unpredictability of caring for crops and livestock are just a few of the challenges. Being an agriculturalist requires a high degree of intelligence, resilience, and faith in oneself, in the future, and in the process.

Building Corrals
Mr. Morin showing off some serious dedication which is required for success in the agriculture field.

My own dad knew this when he said to both my sister and me, “You can always come back, but you can’t always leave.” This was a gentle but very blatant way of telling us, this path takes grit and serious dedication, so go and experience life before you make the commitment to come back and manage the ranch. And, when you come back, bring what you have learned to make it better. Like all parents, ours wanted the best for my sister and me. They encouraged us to grow, learn, and improve.

So, when I asked the question, what the heck happened? How did Americans get so far removed from agriculture? It’s simple and it’s practical. Like the nomadic lifestyle, the agrarian lifestyle was not easy. It is still not easy, so Americans changed, and the industrial revolution which made promises of wealth and lifestyle improvements spurred that change. It was the anticipation of an improved future that moved most people out of rural America and into urban centers. At the end of the day, no one can be blamed for trying to improve one’s life or that of their loved ones.

Today’s “entrepreneurial revolution” coined by Seth Godin promises an even better future for Americans, as the ability to market goods, build wealth, and have more control of our lives is at our fingertips via smartphones.

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The Morin Family – Working for a better future!

This same optimism has spurred the technological advancements and environmental improvements in agriculture. We want to improve, be more precise, waste less and have more controlled data-driven outcomes. In the case of food production, doing our best is a necessity because we are not just feeding our families, and yours, with less labor and inputs, we are also feeding the world. Doing less than our best, with so many people who trust us for a safe and reliable food supply, is simply not an option.

Just as the public has always been looking to improve, agriculturalists have too!

The reality is, we are all working toward the same goal – to do our best!

– Amber MorinMorning Sun Selfie (002)

Arizona Monsoon Round-Up

Arizona summers are brutal, to say the least, with reprieve arriving only when you catch sight of dark clouds forming on the horizon, smell a hint of moisture in the air, and the mesquite trees start to rustle as a late afternoon wind tickles their branches. The afternoon monsoon has arrived and if you listen closely, you can almost hear the desert sigh in relief.

Monsoon season is a big deal in our state for the average person but proves essential to the cattle rancher. These life-giving rains replenish basin groundwater, recharge riparian areas, give life back to summer grasses, and fill dirt tanks essential for wildlife and cattle alike to survive. Once the rains hit, gone are the days of trucking water to the far reaches of the ranch, as mother nature lifts one small burden off the shoulders of hard-working cattlemen and women.

Enjoy this round-up of Arizona monsoon photos from ranches across the countryside in honor of another monsoon season.

Cassie Lyman
Photo by Cassie Lyman of the Hat Ranch in Gisela, AZ

Cross B Cattle
Photo was taken at the Cross B Cattle Ranch in Elgin, AZ

Jolyn
Photo by Jolyn Smith of Texas Canyon Brangus in Dragoon, AZ

Micaela
Photo by Micaela McGibbon of the Santa Rita Ranch outside of Green Valley, AZ

Santana
Photo by Santana Nez of the G Lazy 8 Ranch. Photo was taken in Tucson, AZ.

Sarah King
Photo by Sarah Henckler King of the King’s Anvil Ranch outside of Tucson, AZ

Tina
Photo by Tina Thompson of the C Bar Ranch in Willcox, AZ

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Photo by Tina Thomson of the C Bar Ranch in Willcox, AZ

Arizona Beef Council Internship – Sun Devils Love Cattle Too

The summer of 2017 had been one for the books. I ended the hardest semester of my life in Spring of 2017 and then dove into the Arizona Beef Council internship shortly after.

I heard about the internship through my high school agriculture teacher. I thought I would apply along with a few other internships but this one stood outs as it looked like a great learning opportunity and a chance to broaden my horizons. I was sure I would get one of the other internships but was not as confident about this one. A stream of doubt ran through my head. “How, out of all the animal science majors and agriculture giants, would I, a journalism major at Arizona State University, land this internship?” Well, I did, and I can say it had been the best internship of my college career.

My first impression

First, I didn’t realize there would be two interns, and I was a little intimidated by the idea of my counter part; a University of Arizona student majoring in animal science. Was she mean? Did she buy into the rivalry between the UA and ASU and would that affect our relationship?  I didn’t know what to expect. Luckily, all of my worries were blown out of the water when I meant my colleague. She is a hard working and committed individual whom I have grown to love and call my friend over the past two months.

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Lauren Maehling, myself, Nicole Van Eerd and Tiffany Selchow at the start of the internship (Photo by Anna Aja)

Then I met my bosses. While I was under the guidance of the Arizona Beef Council staff, I was fortunate to interact with folks from the Arizona Cattle Growers Association, and they all have taught me more about the beef community in two months than I have learned in my 20 years on this earth. They also taught me the importance of effective communication and building relationships with consumers and growers alike.

The Field Trips

Sometimes I still can’t believe was part this internship paid me to go out with my intern compadre, to meet new people and learn more about the beef world in a real-life setting.

First, we went to the Bill Kerr Dairy and visited with Wes Kerr. He explained that just like so many before him, he is using the latest methods and technology to have a successful dairy business. We were lucky enough to see the process of collecting milk from the cows and even go to the barn where the calves reside.

Next, we went all the way down to Nogales, AZ where Dan Bell and Dean Fish took us in and showed us their worlds. We spent half the time on the Bell’s ranch, helping round up cattle, branding, vaccinating and gathering some less-than-compliant horses. Mr. Fish took us horseback to see the Santa Fe Ranch with the bonus of an explanation of the mysteries of life. He also explained how every rancher has different methods of raising cattle, but the goal is still the same: raising cattle in an efficient and safe way to make consumers feel good about what they are eating and to have happy cattle. We left with words of wisdom in our pockets for our future careers.

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Tagging calves at ZZ Cattle Company (Photo by Dan Bell)

I grew up farming with my dad and other members of our family. The sights and smells of alfalfa and cotton were the norm, along with the sounds of squealing pigs coming from the show pig barn at my house. I never really considered myself as a cowgirl mostly because I didn’t know what that really meant. I was a farm girl and a pig girl but not a cowgirl. Thanks to the efforts of Dan and Dean, I was able to discover who cowboys and cowgirls are. They are not just individuals who buy a pair of boots and a felt hat, walking with some sort of saddle swagger; they live and breathe cattle. It’s a way of life and a source of income. I will be forever grateful to have had the honor to live in that world for the short time that I did.

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Nicole and I embarking on our ride with Dean Fish (Photo by Dean Fish)

Then, we came back up to Pinal Feeding Co. in Maricopa, AZ. Our fearless chauffeur, Caline Gottwald, showed us the ins and outs of running a feed yard. It was incredible to see the sheer number of bovine on the property and the massive amounts of feed rations it takes to feed them. Feedlots may not be as glamorous as the dawn rising over the hills of a cattle ranch, but their role in raising beef for consumers is just as important as any other part of the beef life cycle.

It was fascinating to see how well kept the facilities are and the amount of care paid to all the cattle. Feedlots generally have a vet on staff and a nutritionist who make sure the cattle are kept healthy and thriving. Of course, life happens and sometimes it can be hard to work on a feedlot when things are not going according to plan, but I am confident that these devoted individuals do everything they can to prevent and protect their animals.

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Nicole and me at the Arizona/Mexico border in Nogales (Photo by Dean Fish)

 

Lastly came the tour of the JBS Beef Plant in Tolleson, AZ. Our energetic tour guide, Maria, took us through the various stages of meat processing and explained to us the importance of handling the meat safely as well as treating the cattle humanely when they come to their facility. It was an eye opening experience where I learned how my beef came to be from the farm to the table, and I can confidently say I am proud of where my beef comes from.

Convention and Other Fun Events

I had the opportunity to serve as an intern at the Arizona Cattle Growers Association Convention in Prescott, AZ. There, I talked with cattle ranchers from all across Arizona and learned a bit more about how beef is raised in my home state. It was an amazing opportunity to network and connect with the dedicated ranchers in the Sonora desert.

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ACGA Convention Intern Mackenzie Kimbro and I at the Steak Fry Dinner and Dance (Photo by Heidi Crnkovic)

I also went to the Arizona Academy of Dietetics and Nutritionist Conference in Phoenix, AZ with Lauren.  I was a little unsure how beef promotion would go over in a room of nutritionists, but the results were pleasantly surprising. I was able to communicate my love of beef and its nutrient value to many people and I was able to learn about their health concerns as well.

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Lauren and I at the ABC booth at the AZAND conference

We also went along on the Summer Agriculture Institute where teachers came to learn a little more about where their food comes from and how they can bring that knowledge into their classrooms. Coming from a strong agriculture background, I sometimes forget how little those who do not have the opportunities I have had know about animal and crop production. It was neat to see the important messages cattle ranchers like Andy Groseta had to share about the hardships of raising cattle but that it was worth the end result: food on the table.

Takeaways and Thank Yous

From knowing little about the beef community in Arizona to annoying my family friends with the copious amounts of knowledge I have gained over the summer this experience is something for which I will forever be grateful. I feel I am more educated and can address more consumer concerns about how beef is raised.

I have never felt more welcome and appreciated for my efforts as I have at this office working with Lauren, Tiffany, Heidi, Maria, Kim, Patrick, and Bass. I have made unforgettable memories which I will cherish through the years. From porcine to bovine, I love all meat; but remember Beef…It’s What’s For Dinner.

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Lauren, myself, Nicole and Tiffany at the end of the internship (Photo by Heidi Crnkovic)

Father’s Day Favorites Features… BEEF!

Father’s Day is fast-approaching, and what better way to appreciate the role of a father than by preparing him a hearty, home-cooked beef dinner. While it does not have to be Father’s Day, nor do you have to be a father to eat beef, a day like this calls for special attention to this beloved red meat. We asked some local ranch dads what their favorite beef meals are as they should know how to best prepare a hearty, tasty beef meal after spending all day out on the range!

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Bas Aja with his grandson.

“A thick and juicy RIBEYE,” stated Dan Bell who picked the cream of the crop while many others attested to its supremacy as their favorite meal. “Do you need any time to think?” “Nope! Ribeye on mesquite, with salt and pepper. Garlic salt” was the rapid reply of Bas Aja, Executive Vice President of the Arizona Cattle Feeders’ Association and a rancher in Southwestern Maricopa County. Dean Fish agreed, also specifying over mesquite. Maybe we need to check this one out in the office!

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Dan Bell and family all dressed up at the annual Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association convention.

Of course, all beef is great and some fathers had a little harder of a time settling on one beef dinner. Jim Webb of the Scottsdale, AZ answered, “Anything that comes with beef is good. If I had to pick one, it would be a steak dinner. Steak with potatoes. No vegetables…well, maybe asparagus.” Out on the V Bar V Ranch in Rimrock, AZ, Bopper Cannon gave a vote to the rib steak. His son, Keith Cannon, who is also a dad, was raised right with good beef cooking and wasn’t even willing to specify a cut, “Anything!”

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Dean Fish with his son, Garrett, and daughter, Laurel, receiving his president’s buckle from the Arizona National Livestock Show.

Wes Kerr from the Kerr Dairy in Buckeye, AZ followed suit in loving all cuts of beef, but managed to narrow it down while proving to be a fan of his mother’s cooking by saying, “Ooooh I like it all!! Hmmmmm, well my mom makes THE BEST meatloaf.” And in case you’re reading this Wes, we’re expecting an invite over for dinner to prove this true!

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Wes Kerr and family at their family dairy, Kerr Dairy.

Some other popular favorites include grilled tri-tip, volunteered by Patrick Bray, rancher from Goodyear, AZ and a vote for grilled brisket from Joe King of Green Valley, AZ, who also informed us, “We are actually having that for our dinner on Sunday [Father’s Day]”.

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Joe, Sarah, and Evelyn King.

With ground beef, steaks, ribs, roasts, and more, there are endless combinations for delicious and nutritious beef meals that fit you and your family. Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner can help you plan your next meal. The Interactive Butcher Counter allows you to explore the different meat cuts while providing information on how to cook those cuts, the nutrition facts, and some tasty recipes.

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A great example of an Arizona ranching family: proud of each other and proud of their beef! Pictured are the Aja and Bray families.

Every dad enjoys a delicious home cooked meal, and what better dinner foundation than beef, packed with powerful protein and 10 essential nutrients? After reading some favorites from fathers out in the beef community, we hope you gain some inspiration and enjoy beef as much as they do! From Arizona Beef to all the fathers out there, Happy Father’s Day!

Blog post by Nicole Van Eerd and Shayla Hyde, Arizona Beef Council 2017 Summer Interns.