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Arizona Ranching Family Are Long-Time Conservationists

John King standing with wife, Pat, son Joe, and daughter-in-law Sarah.

John King standing with wife, Pat, son Joe, and daughter-in-law Sarah.

Anvil Ranch, one hour southwest of Tucson, Ariz. in Altar Valley, is a fourth-generation operation in the heart of cattle country.

“Ranching is what we do,” says Joe King, who is the youngest of the four children of owners John and Pat King. All four of the kids ranch, although Joe and his wife, Sarah, are the only ones who live and work on Anvil Ranch. Ranching is what the Kings do—and so is conservation.

The King family has been working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) since the 1950s. They started with some basic conservation practices—planting for erosion prevention and livestock forage. Then John began removing invasive mesquite trees, which deprived the native grasses of the sunlight and moisture they needed to thrive. He also added cross fencing and implemented pasture rotation.

In the process, he discovered that some of the pastures didn’t have enough water for the livestock. On ranches, water needs to be delivered to the areas where livestock graze, so the animals don’t have to walk long distances. The ranch had a few ponds that filled up when the rains came—but when it didn’t rain, the ponds dried up.

The largest solar pump on Anvil Ranch pumps seven to eight gallons of water per minute.

The largest solar pump on Anvil Ranch pumps seven to eight gallons of water per minute.

With the help of NRCS, John developed and implemented a plan to put in new wells and pipelines. Over the past ten years, the Kings have added more fencing and pipes. With increased water access across the ranch, cattle are now moved seasonally, giving pastures a chance to rest and regenerate growth, and helping reduce soil compaction and erosion.

The Kings have also begun using solar technology to pump water. Large solar panels power pumps that move water from the aquifer to a storage tank, then through pipelines to other tanks on the ranch. The solar pumps are more efficient, have a larger capacity, and need less maintenance than the previously used gas generators.

The King family are not just conservationists—they are also incredibly active in their community. John serves as Vice President of the Pima Natural Resource Conservation District, and Pat sits on the board as an advisor.

The Kings are also core members of the Altar Valley Conservation Alliance. Pat serves as the president of the board of directors for the alliance, and Joe’s wife, Sarah, is the community outreach and education coordinator. In addition, the family participates in Arizona Farm Bureau and Arizona Cattlemen’s Association events.

The Kings are not only advocates for conservation-minded ranching, but also provide a fantastic model for how it can be done.

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Check out other conservation-related stories on the USDA blog.

NRCS worked with the Kings to provide water tanks throughout the ranch, creating a reliable water source for the livestock.

NRCS worked with the Kings to provide water tanks throughout the ranch, creating a reliable water source for the livestock.

10 Responses to “Arizona Ranching Family Are Long-Time Conservationists”

  1. Trish McIntyre says:

    I live in the area & am wondering if the Kings have accepted living among the few bands of wild horses out in that area or are they part of the ranchers who want to send them all to slaughter?

  2. J.M. Cartwright says:

    How many bands of mustangs are on the ranch?

  3. Becky Whisenant says:

    Do the Kings have problems with illegal immigrants on their property or are they ever in danger from the border traffic?
    Thank you.

  4. Another Rancher says:

    For 130 years the Kings have been on the same ranch. There has NEVER been any ‘Wild Horses’ on the ranch.

  5. tjoswald says:

    Trish, it does matter. It is not the topic of the article. Enjoy the fact that they are conservationists.

  6. tjoswald says:

    Trish and J.M.,
    Wild horses are not the topic of the article. Enjoy the fact that they are conservationists.
    Seems rather rude to posit those questions.

  7. John Heiligenthal says:

    Solar is a great way to provide power to pumps for fresh water. In your area you probably have adequate trees/brush for shade for cattle, but there are also shade structures they can build that also serve the purpose of solar power. Nice article and topic on the Kings.

  8. Olaf Gunderson says:

    To Trish: What in the wide world of sports does your question have to do with the article or ranching or conservation?

  9. Olaf Gunderson says:

    Trish: I have to wonder what folks like you expect. The carrying capacity of AZ ranches is pretty low – are ranchers expected to reduce their herd size on their allotments so that your infamous wild bands can forage? Would you like to help ranchers offset cost of feed and water? After all – it sounds as though you are asking them to subsidize what you want. Want to chip in? Say what, $2,500 a month maybe?

  10. Olaf Gunderson says:

    Nice article about a ranching family in Southwest Arizona. Good job Amanda

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