Anvil Ranch, one hour southwest of Tuscon, 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.
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.