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Ranchers and farmers are some of the best stewards around. Most are family-owned enterprises, often representing the descendants of original homesteaders who established operations in the late 1800's.

Click on the image to read the Trust's Family Ranchland Protection Fund booklet (file size of some pages is up to 300 kb, so please be prepared to be patient)

Arizona Land and Water Trust is dedicated to keeping ranchland and farms
-- "working landscapes", in private ownership and agriculture production,
and under family management. Working landscapes and the natural landscapes they protect are increasingly threatened by urban encroachment and fragmentation as a consequence of the conversion of ranchlands and farms to real estate development. According to USDA reports, annual rangeland loss in the 11 western states may be as high as 2-3 million acres. Grazing lands provide many benefits to people, including clean air and water, forage for livestock, and wildlife habitat. Keeping these lands in working agriculture is critical to maintaining local and regional agricultural economies, plant and wildlife
habitat, and the integrity of large, intact natural areas.

Most ranchers and farmers are operating family-owned enterprises, often representing the descendants of homesteaders who arrived in the late 1800's. By virtue of their successful ongoing land stewardship and management, these working landscapes provide a vast landscape of open space, maintain natural connectivity, and preserve our rural heritage and culture.

In Arizona the landscape is changing rapidly. In southern Arizona accommodating growth is splintering working ranchland and farms into smaller and smaller pieces. Cochise County lost 27% of its farmland in the five years between 1997 and 2002. We are losing our ability to grow crops, protect our water quality, even the economic fabric of our rural towns. The fallout from growth pressure demands our attention now.

The Arizona Land and Water Trust established the Family Ranchland Protection Fund in 2006, to assist ranchers and farmers who want to stay on their land and sustain our traditional rural economies and communities. The Family Ranchland Protection Fund provides services to landowners who wish to protect their farms and ranches. Utilizing a diverse team of qualified professionals, the Fund allows the Trust to provide tools families can use to make informed decisions.

The Family Ranchland Protection Fund is used to:
• Work with landowners to address their needs and desires.
• Establish the value of the property.
• Assess the impacts of potential sale on estate and tax planning.
• Procure title reports, environmental reviews and other assessments.
• Develop agreements, such as a purchase of development rights.
• Secure funding for permanent protection through acquisition.
Over the last several years, the Arizona Land and Water Trust has leveraged the Fund to work with an average of at least three families who want to protect their land and their traditional way of life. For more information about the Arizona Land and water Trust's Family Ranchland Protection program, call the Trust's office at (520)577-8574 or contact Diana Freshwater at

Ranching Into the Future Workshops
In June 2008, the Trust completed five Ranching into the Future workshops designed to provide Cochise County ranchers with a variety of tools and information to help them maintain their ranching operations and remain sustainable.

In partnership with The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension program, these workshops included topics such as estate planning, ranching for profit and sustainability, and planning and zoning options available for ranches and farms. The Trust's planning committee, consisting of members from the ranching community, along with staff from the Cooperative Extension Program, will offer a similar workshop series for ranchers in neighboring Santa Cruz and Graham Counties. For more information, please contact the Trust's Land and Water Program Manager, Sharma Hammond Torrens at

Locally Grown Healthy Food
With Southern Arizona's agricultural history dating back 4,000 years, the area is not only rich in agricultural heritage, but also well-poised to further locally produced foods. From pungent chiles to brilliant prickly pear fruit, and from savory tepary beans to range-fed beef and roasted pecans, our desert food offers delicacies not found in this abundance in other parts of the continent. The Southwest borderlands is among the top five foodsheds on the continent with regard to its diversity of place-based heritage foods.

In the United States, food typically travels between 1,500 and 2,500 miles from farm to plate, as much as 25% farther than in 1980. For some, the long-distance food system offers unparalleled choice. But it often runs roughshod over local cuisines, varieties, and agriculture, while consuming staggering amounts of fuel, generating greenhouse gases, eroding the pleasures of face-to-face interactions around food, and compromising food security.