By Peggy Jo Goodfellow, Arizona Farm Bureau: This first generation ranching family says they hope to leave a legacy of the land for and with their children and grandchildren.

In addition to being a wife, mother and rancher, Sonia Gasho is also the Women’s Leadership Chair for Cochise County Farm Bureau and coordinator of Annie’s Project a statewide Risk Management Seminar for farm and ranch women.

An interview with Sonia Gasho, owner of Stronghold Beef in Pearce, Arizona.

Part of an ongoing series about Arizona agriculture's farmers and ranchers.

Tell us about your ranch: We ranch in Cochise County in semidesert grassland at an elevation of 4,500 to 6,500 feet. Our ranch is a typical public lands western ranch with state, BLM, and USFS leases. We raise Balancer cattle for commercial sale and direct market grassfed beef.  Though our extended familes have agriculture in their backgrounds, we are first-generation ranchers hoping to leave a legacy of the land for and with our children and grandchildren.

What changes have you seen in your lifetime as it relates to farming and/or ranching?We work together as a family closer than ever. Grocery shopping tends to be late in the day or at night! Have to be flexible with schedules and timing more than expected. I’ve learned several unexpected skills like running a generator and drawing blood for pregnancy testing cattle.

The Gasho ranching family

Why did you choose to go into agriculture? Ranching had been a dream of both of ours for some time. We wanted to have the opportunity to be good stewards of a piece of God’s creation. We also knew many ranchers and enjoyed their community and lifestyle. David’s family had a ranch in Tucson and he worked with his brother who managed several ranches. Sonia’s family owned small farms in Arkansas and share cropped. She has a degree in renewable natural resources and worked for the NRCS as a range management specialist.

Will anyone in your family - younger generation - pursue farming and/or ranching? Our children are teens but our older son has expressed an interest in continuing the ranch. Our adult daughter is not interested at this point, but is an enthusiastic “agvocate” and has just been elected the Cochise County Young Farm and Rancher chair.

 Would you ever consider growing an emerging crop or changing your farm or ranch model? We are interested in several operations and have or are considering direct marketing, retaining ownership, or backgrounding our own calves.

What are your community activities? Why are you involved?

Our other activities include: 

  • Cochise-Graham Cattle Growers, Arizona Cattle Growers for industry advocacy and legislative involvement,
  • First Baptist Church of Sunizona, AWANA program
  • 4-H program to help children learn leadership, develop skills

What is one fact/experience/achievement no one knows about you? One little known fact:  Sonia is a La Leche League Leader; our daughter, Emily has been on 10 ministry trips in the U.S. and 5 different countries and counting. The entire family are Arizona “bred and fed.”

What do you think you do really well? Teach!  I home school my children and coordinate AWANA at church.

Why are you a farm bureau member? We got involved in Farm Bureau at the invitation of Ann and Paul Palmer. We were interested because of staying abreast of issues. We stay in Farm Bureau for that reason but also for the legislative lobbying, advocacy for agriculture, it’s well organized structure and influence, great resources like Ag in the Classroom, and the community. It has afforded us the opportunity to develop value leadership skills through programs like Effective Communications and the Women’s Leadership Boot Camp. After attending a national women’s convention, I learned about ANNIE’S project and became the state coordinator for Arizona. Annie’s provides risk management education for farm and ranch women with guided learning in a safe harbor setting.

How will the next generation of farmers have to operate?
Business savvy beyond the local sale barn, good personal skills, ability to communicate why agriculture is vitally important clearly, adaptability, as well as the basics of plant science and animal science.