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With USDA Assistance, an Arizona Ranch Family Finds Savings “Blowing in the Wind”

Posted by Dianna Jennings, Arizona USDA Public Information Coordinator in Rural
Sep 16, 2011

The folks in the small community of Taylor, Arizona, have a reputation for creative problem solving. Back in the late 1800’s local blacksmith Joseph Hancock came up with an ingenious solution for celebrating the Fourth of July in the tiny town. The tradition then was for towns to fire their cannons to celebrate Independence Day.

But the Town of Taylor was without a cannon. So Hancock offered up two historic anvils and the tradition of “firing the anvil” became an annual event for the town. At dawn every Fourth of July, the Jennings Band members climb onto a flatbed truck and ride up and down the neighborhoods in Taylor, stopping on street corners while the anvil is fired and patriotic music is played for the sleepy residents.

Decades after Joseph Hancock donated his anvils, descendents of those first settlers continue to farm and ranch in the fertile valley on the Silver Creek. One family, the Salines, have a ranching operation located just outside Taylor.

As a young boy Alma Saline would be up early milking cows, fixing fences and harvesting crops. It’s what the family had to do to keep their 1500-acre farm/ranch running.

Silver Creek Farms is in the Little Colorado River Basin in northeastern Arizona. It was homesteaded by Alma’s grandfather around 1900. About 400 acres of the ranch is in alfalfa hay, silage corn and a little bit of sweet corn and sunflowers. They have black Angus cows pastured in the river bottom and the open range land that spreads across the high plateau.It’s an idyllic life…but not an easy one.

When Alma’s father died in 2000 he left the ranch to his family as a trust. Alma assumed the responsibility of managing the assets and the day-to-day operation of the farm.

“Much of the equipment that Dad left was old,” Alma says. “We had just a minimum of cattle and only 70 acres in crop production.”

For the past 11 years, Alma and his family have been building the ranch back into a higher production operation. They now irrigate 230 acres with two center pivots and have an 80 acre field where all waste water is recycled back into the irrigation system. Another 100 acres is irrigated with water from the Silver Creek Irrigation district.

In 1970 the family drilled an irrigation well, which irrigates about 300 acres. The well requires about 155,00kW of electricity per year to operate.The cost of the electricity to run the well is the single largest expense on the farm.

Alma and his family had considered alternative energy sources, but the 54KW per hour requirement was too large for a solar-powered system that would be within their budget.

Two years ago, in the old tradition of Taylor creative problem solving, the Saline’s neighbors at the Elkins Ranch put in wind-turbines to generate electricity. Alma and his family were intrigued.

Today, thanks in part to a $53,000 Renewable Energy for America Program grant from USDA Rural Development, the Salines have installed a 155,000kW Vestus V-19 wind turbine. The unit is expected to generate all of the electricity needed to run the well…and maybe a little extra to hedge against the rising cost of electricity.

The ranch has a contract with the local utility company to “net meter”—feed power into the utility grid during production months and use power as needed in the off-wind summer months. “At the end of each year, we’ll settle the differences,” explained Alma. Today it’s not just flying anvils that punctuate the Taylor skies. Turbines are taking a spin there too.

To find out how renewable energy programs administered by USDA can help your business, farm or ranch, click here.

To hear Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager and Business Programs Administrator Judy Canales discussing the program click here.

Category/Topic: Rural