MARCH 5, 2012
Rose Houk – Arizona Daily Sun – March 1, 2012
How do you keep them down on the farm? It’s been a universal lament among farmers and ranchers everywhere for a long time, how to keep young people interested and working in agriculture when they’re lured away by bright city lights. And it was the topic of the day at the Diablo Trust’s annual meeting in Flagstaff late last month.
Diablo Trust president Judy Prosser opened the meeting with the observation that her two sons don’t want to run their ranch. She and her husband Bob Prosser, owners of the Bar T Bar Ranch, are in their 50s now and they’re concerned about who will succeed them in their livestock operation. In a broader way, the Prossers and others wonder whether young people today will be willing to take on the vagaries and uncertainties — and hard business — of ranching and farming.
The Bar T Bar is located about 40 miles east of Flagstaff near Meteor Crater. Their next-door neighbor is the Metzger family’s Flying M Ranch. In 1993, the Prossers and Metzgers formed the Diablo Trust to cope with increasing pressures they were feeling on use of the historic family ranches. Through the nonprofit Trust, they hoped to foster an open collaboration of diverse people interested in research and education for better land stewardship. The Trust works not only to keep the traditional cattle operations going, but also to preserve 426,000 acres of northern Arizona as open space and healthy wildlife habitat.
Introductions around the meeting room in the Federated Church showed a decided diversity. Along with ranchers in blue jeans and snap-button shirts, there were university scientists; college students; local, state and federal agency employees in green uniforms; farmers with long ponytails; and environmentalists. Owners of a bed and breakfast, a local-foods caterer, and Foodlink representatives also attended.
Meeting facilitator Dennis Moroney, from the 47 Ranch down near Bisbee, set the tone for the morning: “Our concerns are the same … who’s going to feed the people?” The United States, he noted, had recently passed a benchmark, with more than half of all food imported. The “craft knowledge” of raising food can’t be learned from a book or YouTube, Moroney remarked. It comes from on-the-ground experience on land that’s “not the easiest place to produce food.”