Unfortunately, the Secretary of Agriculture’s visit was cancelled today due to bad weather. The following are remarks I composed for his visit.

Honorable Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture

It is with warm hearts that we welcome you to the Bennion Ranch. Although my name is Mitchell, my wife’s ancestors the Bennions came here from Wales in the nineteenth century Mormon migration and grazed cattle here in the south end of this valley, known as Rush Valley. That canyon is named Bennion Canyon and the creek flowing out of it is Bennion creek. One pioneer son, Israel Bennion, homesteaded several ranches in this area until he finally settled here in 1916 and built the home we live in today.

It may be inclement weather today, but I’ve found if I take a picture and view it later, the cold wind or heat goes away, and the work and frustrations go away, and I end up with beautiful pictures of nature. And so I post them on Facebook and write, “Just another day in paradise.” And everybody likes it. Today, we welcome you to just another day in paradise.

My wife and I took over the ranch twenty years ago and began conservation practices to improve the rangeland:
• We built fence, over 15 miles
• We cut cedar posts
• We filled in gullies, 
• We chained Juniper 
• We grew certified Russian Wildrye seed
• We brush-beat rabbit brush
• We burned rabbit brush
• We plowed rabbit brush and greasewood 
• We sprayed Tordon on rabbit brush
• We dug in miles of stock water lines
• We flew on herbicide Spike to control sagebrush—and we planted sagebrush
• We Dixie-harrowed sagebrush mosaics
• We planted multispecies range plants on grazing land
• We buried miles of stock water lines and built over a dozen troughs
• We built roads—we took out roads
• We built irrigation laterals and added wheel lines
• We put BDA’s in Vernon Creek. 
• We implemented a system of monitoring range health in 6 pastures. 
• We plowed a western wheatgrass meadow and planted a multispecies mix
• Just this spring, with ideas from NRCS soil scientists, we began practicing Regenerative Soil Health by planting a 27-acre field to a 12 species cover crop—3 grains, peas, 4 species of clover, and 4 vegetables radish, turnip, collards, and kale.

If you think this list of conservation practices is long, just imagine how long it took to do it. And we couldn’t have done it without the assistance of the men and women of the US Forest Service, NRCS, DNR, DWR, Utah GIP, and USU Extension. And we were aided by our friend Centrocercus urophasianus, the Greater Sage Grouse and the attention he has brought to rangeland health.

But mostly, we couldn’t have done it without the vision and perseverance of Israel Bennion’s great-granddaughter, Elizabeth Bennion—my wife.

We’ve raised 2 daughters and 3 sons—a daughter who last year graduated from Georgia Tech with a PHD in Chemistry. Others are a school teacher, Electrical Engineer, Computer Engineer, and Musician. All five of them served church missions oversees on 3 continents as ambassadors of Jesus Christ, and also ambassadors of the United States.

We raise Angus and Wagyu/Angus Cross cattle, alfalfa and barley, dogs, a few sheep, chickens, bees; garden in a hoop-house, and have off-grid solar power.

We’ve hired dozens of summer help both from Vernon and from our extended family—last summer we hired my cousin’s daughter Anna Hyde from Lilburn, Georgia and who was affectionately nicknamed Georgia by the local boys.

So we have our Georgia connections and welcome you, former Governor of Georgia,, and Secretary of Agriculture under the esteemed President Donald J. Trump, to our little section of paradise.

Alan Mitchell, Bennion Ranch, Vernon, UT May 22, 2019

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