Newsletter Highlights:
  • Meet Your Local Conservationist: Brenda Hauser
  • Featured District: Winkelman NRCD WPF Grant
  • Conservation Corner: Rock Check Dams for Watershed Restoration
  • Conservation Education Spotlight: Oracle Community Learning Garden
  • Arizona Gives Day 2021: Support Arizona's Conservation Districts
April 2021 Newsletter
ARIZONA ASSOCIATION OF CONSERVATION DISTRICTS
Conserve. Grow. Live.
Meet Your Local Conservationist
Brenda Hauser, Verde NRCD
A tradition of family farming
Writen by Brenda Hauser, Edited by AACD
Traffic out of Phoenix in the summer is one long line of cars filled with families anxious to reach the mountains. But for those in the know, the trip always includes a quick detour into Camp Verde for a stop at Hauser and Hauser Farms to pick up a dozen or more ears of what is undisputedly the best sweet corn in the state. 
 
Supervisor Brenda Hauser and her husband Richard started farming in the Verde Valley in 1968, migrating from Scottsdale and Tolleson where Richard's family had citrus groves and farmed alfalfa. Their earliest crops included alfalfa, hay, and cotton and they raised four children on property scattered throughout the Valley including 40 acres in what is now Dead Horse Ranch State Park. It was there the corn operation almost ended before it began when Brenda threw her picking sack and hoe to the ground and made a hasty retreat away from an extremely disturbed rattlesnake.
However, through hard work and perseverance, through floods and gophers, the corn and the family prevailed. The original farm stand was a flatbed truck parked on a dirt road. Brenda set out some signs and invited in the neighbors. Seniors had their own day. Hauser-grown watermelons are a recent addition to the menu. Community traditions continue as Hopi families arrive annually at the farm, tying small gifts for children on corn stalks and digging up entire stalks for use in ceremonial dances. 
 
Hauser and Hauser Farms is a multi-generational business. Concentrated now in Camp Verde, the day-to-day farming operations are managed by daughter-in-law Claudia and grandson Zach who meet each morning and, over a cup of coffee, discuss their plans for the day. Grandson Chance is the best mechanic in the family and keeps the farm equipment running, son Ben returned from a career in law enforcement to work alongside his brothers, and granddaughter Emily runs the farm stand. There are great grandchildren galore, and all are potential farmers. 
Zach said he always knew he wanted to be a farmer and Claudia likes nothing better than to be out in the field. But critical to any decisions the family makes is the understanding that preserving the agricultural heritage of the Verde Valley for future generations means acting now to conserve and protect their resources. The Hauser's have not hesitated to incorporate the best, most efficient irrigation practices currently available. Turning from original straight flood irrigation, most of the farm is now irrigated by subsurface drip systems on cultivated land or micro jets on acreage recently converted to pecans. Pecan tree roots have an added benefit of stabilizing soil and providing protection in the event of flooding. The Hauser’s are committed to the restoration of wildlife habitat and the removal of invasive species from the river corridor along their properties. Crop conversions have transformed high summer water use alfalfa into low water use winter barley. The barley, once malted, is a profitable, high demand crop and is a favorite of many Arizona brewers. Plans include installing additional subsurface drip irrigation. And perhaps, most importantly, the Hauser's have made use of conservation easements to preserve the family farm for all those farmers-in-waiting.
 
Brenda and her family have not done this alone. All of them give credit to The Nature Conservancy and to the Natural Resource Conservation Service for providing the imagination and resources necessary to transform the family farm into a profitable, sustainable, modern, water savvy, environmentally friendly agricultural oasis. 

In addition to Brenda, both Zach and Richard have served as Supervisors for the Verde NRCD. Brenda is in her second elected term and says one of her favorite things about her involvement with the Verde NRCD is it gives her a voice for agriculture in the broader community. As far as changes go, Brenda particularly likes the more focused attention the Board is giving to the concerns addressed by stakeholders at Local Work Group meetings. Brenda is heavily involved in the Surface Water Education program being developed by the Verde NRCD with the aid of a grant from the Walton Family Foundation. 
Thank you, Brenda Hauser!
Featured District
Winkelman NRCD
Receives Arizona Water Protection Fund Grant 
Pictured above: Invasion of non-native Tamarisk (saltcedar) & ranch site impacted by the 2015 Kearny River Fire
The Winkelman Natural Resource Conservation District (NRCD) is located in Southestern Arizona and encompasses over 1.6 million acres of the Gila and San Pedro River Watersheds. The District was recently awarded over $200,000 in grant funds from the Arizona Water Protection Fund (WPF) FY20 for a project to enhance, restore, and maintain 125 acres of riparian habitat along the Gila River, south of Kearny, AZ. This project builds off of an effort to remove tamarisk from 105 acres along the Gila River by the Town of Kearny and the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management (DFFM).  

The Gila River has been negatively impacted by invasion of non-native plant species, especially tamarisk. Tamarisk (or “saltcedar”), an invasive species that can be found across the Southwest, is a shrub or small tree that competes with native vegetation and causes increased water loss; may degrade soils by increasing salt content; causes the loss of native fish and wildlife habitat; has changed the hydraulic function of the riparian system; and increases wildfire risk and severity. The 2015 Kearny River Fire burned over 1,000 acres and was declared an emergency by FEMA. In response to the devastation left behind by the fire, Kearny and the DFFM, through a grant from FEMA targeting the mitigation of hazardous fuels, partnered to address the issue, as mentioned above. Meanwhile, in 2016, the Winkelman NRCD began an informal tamarisk removal program on private lands to combat the negative impacts of invasive saltcedar.  

Saltcedar removal in the Upper Gila River plus the reestablishment of native plants has proven successful in riparian restoration. “Planting native vegetation following the removal of tamarisk is imperative to improving watershed conditions that enhance water quality and water quantity, restoring habitat needs for wildlife, and restoring proper hydrologic conditions/functions.”1 In the Upper Gila, there has been an increase in habitat for fish and wildlife and water loss has decreased as has wildfire hazards.  

While the saltcedar removal on the aforementioned 105 acres is not specifically for riparian restoration, it presents an opportunity to restore native riparian vegetation and maintain the area to keep tamarisk from returning as was done in the Upper Gila River – this is the purpose of the WPF-funded project led by the Winkelman NRCD. With funds from the WPF grant, the Winkelman NRCD will create a long-term, district-wide Tamarisk Management Plan – which includes treatment methods, priority site restoration and site-specific planning, revegetation of native plants, monitoring, and long-term maintenance plans – remove invasive tamarisk on 20 acres along the Gila River and reseed the treated area with native vegetation, and restore the riparian area treated by the Kearny-DFFM project with native species. Native vegetation will be supplied, in part, by the Oracle Community Learning Garden (OCLG), which is sponsored by the Winkelman NRCD. In 2019, the District was awarded funds from the National Association of Conservation Districts towards implementing capacity building and programmatic capabilities of the OCLG. You can read more about the OCLG in the Conservation Education Spotlight.  

The ultimate and long-lasting goals of this riparian restoration project is to decrease water loss along the Gila River, improve long-term riparian ecosystem functionality, restore native wildlife habitat, and “create a long-term tamarisk management plan for the [District] and strengthen on-going collaborative conservation between ranchers, farmers, county and town governments, government agencies, non-government organizations, and public citizens.”
Conservation Corner
Rock Check Dams for Watershed Restoration
Written for the AACD by E. Lamar Smith, Ph.D.
Currently there is much interest in “watershed restoration” in Arizona. Water is and will continue to be a major resource concern because Arizona is an arid state.  Lack of effective vegetation cover results in excessive soil erosion which not only reduces productivity of the land, but also results in sediment deposits in streams and affects water quality. Lack of vegetation cover to slow runoff results in increased flooding downstream and may reduce ground water recharge. A number of treatments are used to try to restore hydrologic function on these watersheds, one of them being rock check dams. This article is intended to explain what rock check dams are, how they affect the watershed, and what are some of the considerations in their use. 
Conservation Education Spotlight
Oracle Community Learning Garden
Pictured above: Liz Harris Tuck (left) and Linda Leigh (right)
The Oracle Community Learning Garden (OCLG) is located within the Winkelman Natural Resource Conservation District (WNRCD). The non-profit community garden was developed to provide environmental education opportunities to the local community focusing on conservation and food production, while growing a strong, healthy community. The OCLG was first conceptualized by Linda Leigh and Liz Harris Tuck in 2017, as a place for people to come and learn about gardening.  

The OCLG has thrived in the local community as a place for children, adults, and families to learn about and contribute to gardening. Through a grant from Sprouts, the OCLG has 20 raised beds that families can rent to grow fresh veggies, herbs, etc., and as part of their education programs, four raised beds are dedicated to children and providing hands-on learning (often coordinated with local schools).  
  
In 2019, the WNRCD was awarded a grant from the National Association of Conservation Districts which supported several projects at the OCLG including, the construction of two hoop houses, the purchase of a rainwater catchment tank, the ability to host an educational workshop, and the planting of a pollinator garden (designated by the US Fish & Wildlife Service as a Monarch Butterfly Waystation). In addition, the OCLG is working with the District to grow native plants to support District riparian restoration projects along the Gila River. The OCLG is growing and providing Freemont Cottonwood trees and Goodings Willows for planting post-treatment to the targeted areas (read more about this in the Featured District article). Currently, planting of some of these native species is planned for the first half of July and second half of November.   
Pictured above: Green houses and Willow cuttings for planting post-treatment
Arizona Gives Day 2021
Support Arizona's Conservation Districts
Conservation Districts are supervised by farmers, ranchers, private landowners, and others who volunteer their time to protect public lands, conserve natural resources and wildlife habitats, restore and conserve soil resources, prevent soil erosion, and protect and restore AZ’s rivers and streams. They are the state’s unsung heroes in the fight to conserve our limited resources. By giving to the AACD, you are supporting the conservation programs Districts implement across the state, conservation education for children and adults, and helping to conserve AZ! 
 
Arizona Gives Day is TODAY, April 6!
Please visit our website to learn more about AACD and the Districts, discover the important conservation work they do, and support them today!
Arizona Association
of Conservation Districts
7467 E. Broadway Blvd
Tucson, AZ 85710

www.aacd1944.com
Have a story you would like to share in our next newsletter?

Contact: Brooke Gladden
brooke.gladden@aacd1944.com
(520) 668-3348
"Conserving Arizona Since 1944"