Meet Your Local Conservationist An Interview with Andy Smallhouse

Andy

Tell us a little about your family

I’m a 5th generation rancher and current owner/operator of Carlink Ranch with my wife, Stefanie (AZ Farm Bureau President), and our two kids Hannah and Johnny. I took over the Carlink’s operation in 2000 after my father passed away. 

What is the history of your ranch?

My great-great-grandfather, William Bayless, settled his cattle operation in the Redington area in 1884 after moving from Kansas.

What breed of cattle do you raise? Do you raise other crops?

We raise English Cross-Bred. Carlink Ranch also grows forage crops, we have established a saguaro wholesale nursery, and a custom mesquite lumber milling business.

Photo by:Joe Parker
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Why did you get involved with NRCDs?

I am the 3rd generation of my family to be involved in the Redington NRCD. My grandfather was a founding charter member of the Redington Natural Resource Conservation District and my father also served. My family recognizes the importance of District work, which has made it a large part of our lives.

How long have you been involved with NRCDs?

20 years!

What changes have you seen in the Redington NRCD since you joined?

Since I've joined the Redington NRCD, I have, unfortunately, seen a significant decrease in the amount of ranchland and farmland in operation. There has been an increase in mesquite which has contributed to greater loss of water in the San Pedro and increased soil erosion and runoff.

Photo by: Scott Baxter
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What kind of conservation work have you done on your operation? Any future plans?

Conservation practices we’ve implemented on the ranch include rotational grazing, fence line/fencing improvements, pipelines, and wildlife-friendly waters every two miles. These practices help improve animal distribution which helps increase favorable native grass growth in grasslands, as well as reduces soil compaction and increases water augmentation. We've added center pivots to increase water conservation and improve crop yield.

What sort of technologies have you implemented on your ranch and how have they changed over the years?

Over the years we have changed the way we draw water from windmills and electric pumps to solar pumps. Conservation benefits of solar include decreased use of oil and gas and savings on maintenance.

Tell me a little bit about they work you've been doing because of the Bighorn Fire - we know you've spearheaded an effort to collaborate with multiple government agencies.

The District has been out front to address imminent flooding and erosion damage as a result of the fire. It has been difficult to find programs which are focused on resource protection and rehabilitation.

How has the fire impacted your operation?

Because of the fire, we had an emergency situation where we had to quickly move our cattle herd. The fire has also taken huge amounts of time away from our operations – if we aren’t working the land, there’s no income coming in and it takes away time from our conservation efforts. There is a lot of stress and concern around imminent flooding as we get closer to monsoon season. This has also had a negative impact on feed resources, which could possibly last for several years, which means facing a possible reduction in herd capacity – this means another loss of income. These are problems many ranchers are having in the wake of these fires. No matter what, we will keep working the land and taking care of it for future generations.

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Thank you, Andy Smallhouse!