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Saving The Family Ranch

Saving The Family Ranch

Every family ranch has a unique story. Some have been in the family for generations, while others are just getting started. Some have grown into sprawling corporations, diversifying with cattle, crops and kids. Other families maintain modest-sized businesses, direct-marketing their products to customers in town. Some families have children who can’t wait to get away, while others maintain an active interest, settling down to raise kids on the ground they, too, grew up on.

Whatever your story is, farm and ranch life certainly has its fair share of challenges -- family dynamics, land and input prices, health issues or a death, preparation for succession, government regulation and global economics, to name a few.

Although I’m a planner and would like to have a crystal ball tell me exactly how things will pan out in my own family operation down the road, I can only work hard, save my pennies and have faith that things will work out the way we hope they will.

I recently saw an article in the Denver Post by Kerry Brophy-Lloyd, a writer who shared her thoughts on what it was like to say goodbye to the family ranch she grew up on in Colorado. The piece struck a chord in me, and I was reminded of a statistic I came across a few years ago -- that two-thirds of family ranches don't make it past the second generation.

Does your family have a plan for the future? Are you currently going through transition or having to sell? Are your kids interested in ranching in the future? Who will be the future food producers for the next generation? Ponder these questions as you read this excerpt from the article; then share your thoughts in the comments section below.

“Memories are all I have left; my family sold our ranch when I was in high school. And this is not just my experience. Every day, other kids in the West have to say goodbye to the family ranch. It's a separation much like losing a loved one or having the roots that once grounded you yanked up.

“These days, keeping a ranch going is a lot more difficult than working one, and that's saying a lot, because to my mind, nothing's harder than ranch work. Eventually, many cash-strapped landowners struggling to make ends meet have little choice but to sell. Faced with daunting property taxes, escalating debt and the prospect of never getting out with your boots still on, the decision almost becomes easy. A ranch sale means retirement money, send-your-kids-to college money.

“What's left behind when the ranch sells? In the West, it's often residential subdivisions split into 10-, 20- or 40-acre parcels. Gone forever is the family ranch, along with a lot of the wildlife habitat and open space that benefit all of us.”

How do we keep the ranching tradition alive, despite the obstacles?

Read the entire article here. [3]