Meet Your Local Conservationist An Interview with Daric Knight
Tell us a little about your family
I was born into a ranching family and am the fourth generation to continue our ranching heritage. I was raised on my Grandparents’ ranch, Hooper Hereford Ranch, in Springerville, Arizona, which is where my wife Patty and I live today. I graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Agri-business, and Patti and I continue to operate the ranch today under the name “White Mountain Herefords.” In addition to the ranch, Patty is an ICU nurse, and we run a hunting business as well as a natural resource construction business to compliment and boost the ranching side of things.
What is the history of your ranch?
We run our cattle operation out of the original Hooper Herefords Ranch headquarters, which is where my mother grew up. Our White Mountain Hereford cattle run on some of the original Hooper Ranch. My parents and brothers all ranch close by, and at times we co-mingle our herds, which means we get to all work as a family often. We also lease an additional small ranch located close to the New Mexico Stateline.
What breed of cattle do you raise?
Patty and I purchased the remaining registered Hereford cow herd from my grandfather, Rob Hooper, around 2003. We have continued the registered Hereford operation under White Mountain Hereford and produce and sell registered Hereford bulls and cows for seedstock producers in the southwest. We also produce a good number of Black Baldy heifers, which we proudly place in beef operations around Arizona and New Mexico.
What kind of conservation work have you done on your operation?
We have done a great deal on the family ranch and other ranches we are involved with. We started off doing prescribed grazing management along with some small rock and brush structures to combat soil erosion. Since then, we have implemented fencing, wells, water developments, major soil erosion control projects, and large Grassland Restoration projects concerning juniper control.
What, in terms of conservation work, is next for your operation?
We are looking at participating in the Conservation Stewardship Program, and we continue to implement conservation practices on our existing ranches and as we continue to work on new properties, adding to our acreage. We have found that conservation is a never-ending job, as maintenance and new challenges come along constantly.
What sort of technologies have you implemented on your ranch and how have they changed over the years?
We have converted to solar power to help sustain a constant supply of water to our livestock and wildlife on the ranches. We have also used satellite mapping to view brush densities across the ranches and identify where we need to concentrate our grassland restoration efforts.
How long have you been involved with NRCDs?
I have been involved with NRCDs for 28 years. I was recruited to be involved with the Apache NRCD when I was in high school by former Board Member Robert Holland and former Chairman Don Colter. I was considered their “youth advisor”. This helped teach me the importance of NRCDs at a very early age (compared to the normal age of many supervisors who made up NRCD Boards at that time). I was able to take the knowledge and assistance I gained from being a youth advisor and implement them on our family ranch.
Why did you get involved with NRCDs?
I thought that by being involved with my local NRCD I would learn many things about range management and what would benefit our ranch from that knowledge. My learning was just the beginning. I became aware of the influence that being on the board could have over all the natural resources in our District. This evolved to being involved on the State level, which led to understanding the roll NRCDs play in influencing things on the national level, like natural resource policy and provisions in the Farm Bill.
What changes have you seen in the Apache NRCD since you joined?
I believe the biggest change I have experienced in the Apache NRCD since I have been involved has been the amount of money that has gone to conservation in our District, and all around the State actually. The Apache NRCD did have a special legislative appropriation when I first was involved in the late 1980s to address a special natural resource concern, but since then the District has increased the funding footprint of conservation on the ground to over several million. Partnerships with other organizations and agencies have helped spur this funding on as well.
What is your favorite thing about being involved with NRCDs?
My favorite thing about the NRCD is the influence we can have on the natural resources in our local area. We are also able to more closely collaborate and partner with other state and federal agencies to make a conservation footprint across multiple landscapes and management jurisdictions. Also, in working with state and national organizations, we can help influence the Conservation Title of the Farm Bills and how best to help producers implement conservation across the State of Arizona and the Southwest in general.