Talking Business at the 2018 Annual Meeting

Talking Business at the 2018 Annual Meeting

On Friday, February 16, 2018, 56 people gathered in the hall at Thornager’s on Kiltie Lane for the 25th Diablo Trust Annual Meeting. The title and theme of this meeting – and the theme for the 2018 Diablo Trust calendar – is The Economics of Open Lands.

Who benefits from business on the land? Who is affected by actions in the open field?

We aren’t searching to answer this question, as it can be obvious (at least on a basic level), but rather we are introducing some of those business owners and managers, including government entities, to the greater public through this lens of open lands and natural resources.

The Meeting, as usual, started with round-table introductions. It always takes a while, but knowing with whom you’re sitting is well worth the time! We had representatives from AZ Game & Fish (AGFD), AZ State Land Department (ASLD), AZ Department of Forestry & Fire Management (ADFFM), US Forest Service (USFS), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Natural Resources Conservation District (NRCD), University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Coconino County Board of Supervisors (CCBoS), Flagstaff City, as well several private citizens and interested individuals.

We then heard short updates from our Collaborators:

Kit Metzger (Flying M Ranch) presenting to a full house!

These updates are to give our supporters a chance to hear what’s been going on out on the land, and an opportunity for our agency friends to summarize what’s been going on in their fields (pertinent to the Diablo Trust community).

Then we heard from two teachers who participated in the Summer Agricultural Institute (SAI), a weeklong intensive program for Arizona grade-school educators to learn about agriculture around the state, and how to better integrate such education into their curricula. Marsha Reynolds and Michelle Weidinger, both Flagstaff-area teachers, presented on the 2017 program. To thank them for taking the initiative to attend the program, and for writing a short summary of their experience along with their presentation, Diablo Trust (through our AZGivesDay campaign) reimbursed Marsha, Michelle, and another teacher, Suze Manci, who presented at our 2017 Annual Campout in August, for their SAI application fees. That fee is the only cost to attend the program, and we want to make the process as easy as possible for any and all interested teachers!

Local teacher Michelle Weidinger giving a short presentation on her experience with the Summer Agricultural Institute.

After a short coffee break, we got back into the meeting with our featured presentations. Our five featured presenters showcased the variety of businesses, and people, on the land:

First up was Tom Mackin, the Diablo Trust Wildlife Committee Chair. He spoke on the drought’s effects on the ranches and our open lands and resources, including wildlife. Did you know that since September 1, we’ve received 85% below-average snowfall: 11.3 inches versus the usual of 60.1 inches? The drier soil conditions lead to less plant vigor and increased erosion – in turn, that creates more stress on livestock, wildlife, and plant communities, and decreases the carrying capacity of the landscape.

This carrying capacity, or the number of individuals a landscape can sustain, translates not only to the ranches’ day-to-day operations, but also to every other business that works with the ranches.

Next was Matt Monahan, president of Reliance Brush Management, Inc. Matt and his team contract with the ranches and other entities, including some state agencies, to cut trees when needed. On the ranches, it is usually juniper trees being removed for grassland restoration. Matt spoke to his own business, and some current projects that could lead into future business, like a compacted block of juniper tree chips as an alternative to virgin firewood (Matt uses a masticator to grind up the trees, instead of just cutting them and leaving the carcasses on the ground).

Doug Norton went next; Doug is the vice president of Farm Credit Services, Southwest. FCS is the primary bank for farms and ranches around the country, and Doug works with both Diablo Trust ranches. In his presentation, “The Economics of Open Lands: A Banker’s Perspective,” Doug outlined what it really takes to start a cattle ranch: just shy of $2.5 million!

And that’s just to start the operation – it doesn’t include the ongoing costs of running an agricultural business, or the variables that one can only try to account for.

We then went to the academic side of things with Sam Garcia from the University of Arizona’s School of Animal & Comparative Biomedical Sciences. Sam manages the Food Product and Safety Lab, which functions as a meat processing house (and where most of the meat comes from for Diablo Trust). Sam’s presentation was more about himself and his family’s ranch down in northern Mexico. Sam gave a perspective of ranching that we don’t tend to consider in northern Arizona, let alone in the US.

To close out this section of the Meeting, we had Linda Wadleigh from the Mogollon Ranger District in the Coconino National Forest. The Bar T Bar’s forest permit is primarily on the Mogollon District. Linda presented on the new Forest Plan, and the changes coming to the management of the AZ Scenic Trail, which cuts into the Bar T Bar ranch’s southern end. Not only do private businesses benefit from proper land and resource management; the US Forest Service also functions as an economic beneficiary of such management, and do that management themselves. We were very thankful to have Linda and other USFS employees in attendance!

Stacy Davies from Country Natural Beef

After these presentations we had a short introduction from Stacy Davies from Country Natural Beef, a ranching cooperative from Oregon. The Bar T Bar Ranch has started working with them.

The Meeting concluded with a short open Q&A with the five featured presenters, although questions were also asked to other speakers from the morning.

This was an enlightening and engaging Annual Meeting for us, and we hope to see many of our friends, both new and old, throughout the year.

Thank you to everyone who attended!