The big get bigger

Well, it’s official:  the PV has grown by 20,000 acres.  We’ve known for a while now that the land deal was in progress, but we held our breaths — especially in light of the recent economic downturn — until every last T was crossed.

From a management perspective, the PV’s purchase of this additional land (a smaller neighboring ranch we’ve always known as the old Decock place) is a dream come true.  The new-to-us pastures are conveniently close to PV headquarters and, even better, pine-tree free — which will make for excellent winter country for mama cows.

The PV lost an important lease last year which left us grappling for winter pasture and for country close to home.  Beau and I expect the Decock place, then, will solve a few of the ranch management quandaries that keep Beau up at night, and we appreciate the steps the ranch’s general manager took to procure the new land.

I know folks sometimes get discouraged because it looks like these big corporate ranches are buying up all the land and crowding out family ranches.  Our own kids are kinda miffed that Beau and I ourselves didn’t try to buy this perfect little family-size ranch.  Like I always did (until I turned 37 and old and tired), the kiddos figure the big goal is for our family to have our own place someday.  They can’t understand, of course, the kind of money it takes to buy a place like this.

And therein lies the rub:  land prices are what prevent young potential ranchers from getting a start.  This Decock place, for instance, was on the market for several years.  Folks sure had plenty of time to get it bought if they wanted to buy it.  What folks didn’t have, probably, was the money.  Even Kroenke Ranches, the mother ship to the PV, considered and declined the purchase many times because the land was priced so high.  (We’re not sure what sort of agreement was reached, in the end, in order to close the deal, but we do know for sure that Mr. Kroenke is resolute about making his ranches pay for themselves with the income they produce.)

There’s no denying that the big get bigger.  The kind of money that’s backing Kroenke Ranches just seems to multiply itself — though we can be certain it’s not been magic but shrewd business decisions that have made that math work.  It’s easy, I suppose, to think of these big corporate outfits as ranch-eating monsters, stomping through the country and gobbling up all the little guys.

The only people who have the power to stop the land grab are the landowners who remain.  The folks who still own little family places.  If they’re concerned about the future of family ranching, if they’re worried about corporate ranches taking over, if they want to see young people get a start in agriculture… it’ll be up to them to price their land within reach of regular folks.  NOT to see how much they can get for it.  Instead, to get things in order and make a game plan to get that ranch into the hands of the kind of people they’d like to see carry it on.

I know lots and lots of young people who are just looking for an open door to get started with their own ranch.  Maybe I and Beau have outlived that particular dream… or maybe, in the way life seems to go, our dream for ourselves has grown into our dream for our kids.


© Tami Blake

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