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Agricultural Sustainability – Available in all Shapes and Sizes

June 30, 2011

The second stop on the first day of the SARE tour was with the Deseret Cattle and Citrus Ranch, a 300,000 acre agriculture operation that managed several cow calf herds, orange groves and recently began producing wheat. 

Speaking as someone who originally thought of sustainable agriculture as consisting primarily of pastured poultry and all natural blueberry operations, Deseret Cattle and Citrus Ranch really pushed me to re-evaluate the definition of “sustainable agriculture”.  Deseret Cattle and Citrus Ranch was a huge, well managed operation that also had all of the “sustainable” pieces in place:

Deseret Cattle

 The Social Piece

Deseretis owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and holds family in high regard. Their ranch “family” consists of 90 full time employees who are encouraged to engage in community building service activities as part of their employment. Deseret regularly offers their facilities for training purposes for outside groups including Extension and senior groups. They also have a retreat facility available for large groups to come and stay overnight.

Deseret Cattle and Citris Ranch orange grove

 The Environmental Piece

Deseret Cattle and Citrus Ranch devotes 100,000 acres (a third of their operation) to conservation. They are also using their profits to filter storm water as it leaves their property and have built a stork rookery for endangered birds. The ranch saw future regulation changes coming and chose to start working to meet these anticipated regulatory changes ahead of time to stay within compliance.

Harsh reality of south Florida rangeland

The Economic Piece

Deseret Cattle and Citrus Ranch owns over 300,000 acres. Management responsibilities are divided among 13 foremen, each in charge of their individually run ranch. The Ranch has a set of standard operating procedures that must be followed, but the individual ranch decision making is left up to the foreman. They exhibit their high standards through their managerial requirements. Each foreman on the ranch has a master’s degree and opportunities are frequently available to enhance educational qualifications. 

 Ranch management recognizes its own limitations in finishing the cattle production process. They complete the part of production they are good at and let someone else do the parts they don’t do as well. They also use this model regarding wildlife control. The foremen understand that they do not have the manpower to take care of wildlife control on their own so they rent pieces of the land to hunting clubs in the area, thus efficiently managing wildlife issues and making a profit for the company.

 Deseret offers professional development incentives to their employees and encourages advancement within the company.  Each employ has a list of specific abilities and proficiencies that they can master to receive a higher wage, (i.e. cowboys that become proficient in pregnancy checking or pasture management move to a higher pay scale with each proficiency).

Wheat irrigation

 My experience with Deseret Cattle and Citrus Ranch taught me that agricultural sustainability isn’t limited to organic farmers in tie dyed tee shirts – it can come in all shapes and sizes.

Till next week  🙂


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