Page ranch Arizona
I discovered this story after hearing Bill Mollison mention the Page Ranch in recording from made during his 1984 permaculture design courses. One of the attendees had recorded the lectures on old magnetic tape and more recently transferred them to digital form. Listen to the extract.
I decided to search out the Page Ranch online to see if I could learn more. The only real information was found in a 4 page PDF discussing the properties use as a toxic waste dump by the Arizona University.
From this I was able to get an idea of it's general location. Interestingly, not far from BioSpehere2.
The University of Arizona's Page Ranch started as a dream and a gift.
In 1923, at 65 years of age, J.T. Page retired as a Kansas City street car conductor. He and his wife Sarah came to southern Arizona to begin a life of dry land farming to find out "What was it like to really live in Arizona, as opposed to the high-energy, air-conditioned, water-sogged oases that now rupture the terrain?"
January 22, 1941... at the age of 83, Joseph Page transferred his property to the Board of Regents of the University of Arizona to continue his work in arid land ranching for the sum of ten dollars.
A February, 1941 American Forests magazine article tells more of the story:
"At this point death slipped in and robbed him of his wife, his helpmate, and for the first time he felt that he couldn't go on. In what he afterwards called a moment of weakness, he allowed friends to persuade him to move into town and to accept an old-age pension from the State of Arizona. A young man was engaged to take care of his place and to carry on the work”.
In a Tucson Citizen article from June 11, 1983, his then elderly niece remembers her uncle:
“He was a determined sort. He tried to dig wells by hand but never got deeper than 30 feet - not far enough to reach water. He had people come out and try water-witching with a twig. He read his bible every day and planted seeds according to the bible and the almanac. He kept a kind of faith.”
“With only the aid of that faith, a shovel and seventeen years of toil he and his wife undid half a century of destruction and healed their half section of land. One reference refers to him as a “disciple of the land. They showed the rest of the world that a destroyed grassland could grow again.”
At the end of World War II, Wallace Fuller, a professor of soils, water and engineering at the UA, decided to dispose of radioactive materials used for experiments. He chose Page Ranch because of "low rainfall, high evaporation rates and depth to ground water”. "More than 280 tons of toxic waste was buried in the Page-Trowbridge Ranch, not counting radioactive and chemical wastes, as well as unreported toxic wastes buried from the late 1940s through 1977”.