Our blog will help keep you informed about news and information related to the farm, ranch and rural real estate markets. If you share our desire for wide open spaces and investment in the land, we hope you will subscribe, read and discuss the stories we find and develop here. More than just an investment, ranch, farm and rural real estate evokes a type of lifestyle that was born over a century ago and still provides a certain romance and passion for those who embrace the pioneering spirit from those days gone by.

Hall and Hall Participates in Record Setting Barrett-Jackson Auction

Barrett-Jackson “The World’s Greatest Collector Car Auction” held its latest record-setting auction in Scottsdale, AZ last week.  During  the ten day event, more than $136 million in vehicles and automobiles were sold, achieving the highest sales total in the company’s 44-year history.  In addition,  $8.6 million+ was raised for multiple charities such as the Armed Forces Foundation and Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation.

Hall and Hall Auction’s Scott Shuman and Rob Hart are long-standing team members of Assiter Auctioneers, the official auctioneers of Barrett-Jackson.

“The Auction Team at Barrett-Jackson is the greatest collection of auction talent in the country,” said Shuman. “It’s a great opportunity to maintain relationships and continue to learn from the best of the best.”

Hall and Hall Partner’s John Wildin and Tom Metzger partnered with Assiter Auctioneers Spanky Assiter, the official auctioneer of Barrett-Jackson, in staffing the Assiter booth.  Tom and John, along with Assiter staff, worked to promote Hall and Hall’s current listings and build relationships with as many of the 300,000+ attendees as possible.

“Barrett-Jackson is best known for the elite muscle cars they sell, and we sell the most exceptional rural real estate in the country.  There is no better place to promote our clients’ properties than to a crowd of similar interest and capabilities,” said Wildin.

The 1950 General Motors Futurliner was driven partially up the stage ramp.

The 1950 General Motors Futurliner was driven partially up the stage ramp.

Advice on Buying Texas Farms and Ranches For Sale

By: Tyler Jacobs

So you want to buy a ranch in Texas?   Having worked with Texas ranch buyers for the last 16 years, I’ve found that most do not end up buying in the first location they set their mind to, for one reason or another. It is ever important to know your goals as a buyer, and at Hall and Hall, we want to match our clients’ goals precisely with the right ranch location.

For example, I am in regular contact with buyers and sellers who want to own a weekend ranch in the “Hill Country”.   The Hill Country is a beautiful region of Texas, west of Austin and north of San Antonio. The region is marked by its large limestone hills covered with juniper, crystal clear rock bottom creeks, big views, strong deer populations, and more recently, vineyards and wineries. If a buyer, however, lives east of I-35, near Houston, buying and enjoying a Hill Country ranch can have significant traffic challenges. It is no fun to sit in Austin traffic, extending a 4 hour drive to the Hill Country into a 6 hour drive.

If you are not going to live on your Texas ranch as a primary residence, and maintain a regular work or family schedule, consider focusing your search within a 2-3 hour drive limit or approximately 150-175 miles. This travel limitation seems to be the sweet spot. It’s far enough to feel like you gone somewhere, and not so far as to consume the entire day and a majority of your energy.

Cripple Creek Ranch is located just north of Groveton, 80 miles northeast of The Woodlands.

Cripple Creek Ranch is located just north of Groveton, 80 miles northeast of The Woodlands.

If you live and work within or near one of  the 3 large metropolitan areas in TX, a 150 mile range will allow you to choose from a great diversity of Texas ranches for sale. A Dallas buyer, for example, could go north into the ranchlands towards the Red River, east towards the pines and lakes of East Texas, and south west towards the Brazos basin and the blackland hills.  There is an abundance of Texas beauty and variable distinction in such a radius. Don’t limit your choices by looking too far away.

Odds are, you will find a ranch in that limited radius that will capture your imagination and become your new refuge.  The best part is that it will be close enough to enjoy on a regular basis.  It’s tough trying to schedule a hunt with your grand-daughter with her busy schedule, and it’s tough trying to keep your cows fed in the winter when you are just too far away.

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Lucky Star Ranch is a unique and diverse ranch property located in southwest Wise County, approximately 7 miles southwest of the community of Bridgeport, Texas.

I was recently able to help a client reduce his drive time assisting in the sale of his ranch in the southern part of the Hill Country, which was a 5 ½ hour drive, and  replace it through a IRC Sec 1031 tax-deferred exchange, with a beautiful East Texas ranch 2 ½ hours away. In his mind I saved him almost a full day with every ranch visit, and his grandkids visit more often.

Now that’s a good location…..deep in the heart of Texas.

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Montana Outfitters & Guides Association Convention

Hall and Hall partners Randy Shelton, Ryan Flair and B Elfland attended the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association annual convention on January 8-10 in Bozeman, MT. The event is a great opportunity for Hall and Hall to show support for MOGA, meet longtime friends and build new relationships within the guide and outfitting industry.

Many of our client landowners work with local outfitters to manage the hunting and fishing opportunities on their ranch. Outfitters provide a valuable service to landowners by aiding in the management of both wildlife and human resources. Family and friends often benefit from a hunting or fishing guide’s expertise. Guides and outfitters are often called upon to manage public hunting opportunities on the ranch, as well.

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Hunting and fishing opportunities represent one aspect of ranch management. Healthy stewardship also involves the management of livestock, farming, grazing and water resources, to name just a few. Hall and Hall Resource Management has decades of experience overseeing all aspects of ranch management and often serves as a single point of contact for landowners. Our resource managers work with local outfitters, ranchers and Montana Fish and Wildlife to meet the needs of each individual landowner.

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Thanks to the Montana Guides and Outfitters for the opportunity to participate in this year’s convention. We look forward to the year ahead.

Modern Women in Western Ranching

By Dennis Higman:

The number of farms and ranches operated by women has more than doubled since 1978. Today, according to a recent United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) report, more than 300,000 women serve as principal operators on 62.7 million acres in the United States, producing some $12.9 billion in farm products.  What the USDA report doesn’t tell us, however, is who these women are, where they came from, and what motivates them to take an active, leading part in what has traditionally been a male dominated industry.

Women have always played an essential role on farms and ranches, of course, but as Larry McMurtry, author of Lonesome Dove, puts it in the introduction to Tough By Nature, Portraits of Cowgirls and Ranch Women of the American West, by Lynda Lanker, while the cowboy has always been romanticized, the role of women has largely been ignored “by the simple method of stereotyping.”

In fact, with the exception of The Big Valley, a popular ABC television series in the 60’s staring Barbara Stanwyck as the dominating owner of the Barkley Ranch, there are few current portrayals of women involved in ranching today, fictional or otherwise, that go beyond that stereotype.

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Jael Kampfe’s family, on her mother’s side, founded the Lazy EL Ranch.

Not surprisingly, many of the real life women behind the USDA numbers have ties to the land going back generations, an independent nature, and a strongly held set of ethics and values based on that background.  Beyond that, however, they are a diverse, unique group of individuals who have bridged the gender gap, one way or the other, each in her own way.

Jolly Tyler owns and operates the Hayrack Ranch on the Little Big Horn River near Wyola, Montana, running cows and sheep.  She’s been there for 42 years.  She and her late husband, Lyle, raised a boy and two girls on the Hayrack, located in what Tyler describes as one of the most fertile valleys in the world with “tall grass and very little sage,” but a place that can be harsh in the winter. Ninety or more inches of snow is not unusual.

Tyler’s great grandparents, the Spears, came west in 1874 and moved into the Little Bighorn area only a few years after Custer’s Last Stand.  Her husband’s father, Bud Tyler, had the second oldest herd of Herefords in the country, and the Tyler family started raising polo ponies during the Depression which turned out to be a profitable business.  Bud Tyler rode competitively into his 80’s.

Jolly Tyler is outspoken about the role of women in ranching.  “Let’s face it, a ranch like this is a family operation and women are a big factor, so are the kids.  We never hired help except on an interim basis; we did it all ourselves.  Women have a natural maternal instinct that extends to animals which is pretty darn important when your entire livelihood depends on the health and well-being of your stock.”

She also sees involvement in the day-to-day activities of ranching as a great learning experience for people of all ages.  Over the years, in addition to raising their own children on the Hayrack Ranch, the Tyler’s hosted other family members, friends, and students from as far away as Switzerland for periods ranging from a couple of weeks to several months (their oldest daughter once coached basketball in Switzerland).

Today Tyler continues this tradition because she enjoys it and believes it teaches people from different backgrounds invaluable lessons about life.  “On a ranch, you have to know exactly where you are and what you’re doing at all times.  Getting lost or careless is dangerous.  You have to be alert to sudden changes in the weather, to be prepared for the unexpected, and figure out how to deal with it on the spot.  Knowing how to tie basic knots in a crisis is not a trivial matter on a ranch, it’s a skill that can literally save your life.”

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Women have always played an essential role on farms and ranches.

Margie Taylor was raised on a neighboring cattle ranch; she and Jolly Tyler are still good friends. Unlike Jolly, however, Taylor left the Big Horn country after the 7th grade for boarding school and graduated from Stanford with a BA in Anthropology and eventually went to the Kennedy School at Harvard, specializing in energy and environmental policy.   “I always wanted to learn more about ranching and animal husbandry and stay in the West,” she recalls, “but I found it difficult for a woman.  There was no clear path and very few mentors.”

After college Taylor went to work for a vet back in Montana to learn as much as she could about animals and even managed a feed lot on the family ranch for a time, but eventually went east to work as a lobbyist for the Burlington Northern in Washington D.C.   She spent 11 years there as the Vice President of Legislative Affairs, handling all non-railroad issues including natural gas, pipelines, and forestry.

Still looking for ways to get back to ranching in the West, when Burlington reorganized, Taylor jumped at the opportunity to go to work as second-in-command of Ted Turner’s domestic ranches, headquartered in Bozeman, MT.  During her almost ten-year tenure there, Turner’s holdings grew from six to fifteen ranches comprising some 2 million acres (supporting more than 45,000 bison), making him the largest private landowner in the United States.

“It was a great chance to make good use of my education and background in agriculture and energy policy,” Taylor says.   “Every property and landscape was different and it was a delight to be involved with an operation owned by a man like Ted who looks a hundred years down the road and not only cares about the economics, but also for the responsible development of land and its natural resources.”

After working for Turner, Taylor helped the Bozeman Animal Shelter reorganize and become a leader in its field, a labor of her love for animals that brought her full circle from her days on the family ranch and at the veterinary clinic. She’s retired now and devotes her time to public service, volunteering for the local land trust and serving on the Board of the Wyoming Nature Conservancy.

Pat Millington, a Stanford graduate, grew up a long way from the outback of Wyoming and Montana, but her father owned large ranches in California and Arizona.  The family was involved in horse breeding and her brother, Edwin Gregson, trained the 1982 Kentucky Derby winner Gato del Sol.  Millington’s mother died when she was two, and she was raised by her uncle, Bill Janss, the Olympic skier and developer who owned the Snowmass Resort in Colorado before moving on to buy the Sun Valley Resort in Idaho.

That was how Pat Millington ended up buying the 550-acre Susie Q Ranch in Picabo, Idaho, located on historic Silver Creek, one of the premier trout fisheries in the West made famous by Ernest Hemingway.  “I always wanted to raise my kids on a ranch so I just bought it,” Millington says matter-of-factly. “My father said it looked like ‘starvation acres’ to him.  Bill Janss said it was a mess. I said I could fix it!”

As it turned out, Millington was—and is— very good at fixing rural properties, putting in the hard work required to improve them and then running them successfully.  When she was finished, the Susie Q Ranch was fenced and cross-fenced with 37 individual horse paddocks, a 12,000 square foot indoor riding arena, and an owner’s lodge.  In addition to horses, she also raised cows and farmed potatoes, hay and barley.

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Pat Millington owned the 550-acre Susie Q Ranch in Picabo, Idaho.

Once Millington had the Susie Q in hand, she went on to buy another property in need of care, the Selway Lodge in the middle of Idaho’s 1.3 million acre Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.  Among other improvements, she installed solar power, planted 2,500 fruit trees and completely redid the lodge and guest cabins.

“When Pat got done, it looked like something out of a Ralph Lauren ad,” says Hall and Hall’s Stoney Burke.  “But it wasn’t just beautiful, she turned it into the premier wilderness property in the United States.”

Millington no longer owns either property and currently lives with her daughter, Poppy, and her family on The Nighthawk, an organic farm south of Bellevue, Idaho.   But she’s still looking at other properties where she can engage her talent and experience.

Betsey Baxter, a 4th generation Montana rancher, never really seriously considered being anything but a rancher like her parents, grandparents and great-grandparents who founded a ranch in Two Dot, about 90 miles west of Billings, Montana, at the turn of the century.  In her words, the “ranch bug” bit her early on and never let go.

“I always wanted to be my own boss, I never liked to take orders, I like to make my own choices, to do things on my terms and live with the consequences.  Ranchers have to confront what comes along, make a decision and deal with it.  Despite friends and neighbors who might help now and then, basically you’re on your own.”

With that in mind and armed with an MBA from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, Baxter bought a 15,000 acre ranch near Miles City, Montana with her mother and sister and went into the cattle business. They recently sold the ranch after 19 years.  It was a rewarding experience in many ways, she notes, but it wasn’t an easy way to make a living.

The most rewarding part was the life style.  “I always enjoyed the people I worked with,” Baxter says, “there was a genuine sense of community. That’s a very hard thing to find anywhere else these days.  And I’m so very glad my son John was raised on the ranch in his formative years.  It gave him the experience of working with all kinds of people, taught him to respect his elders and enabled him to master a lot of practical things you just don’t learn in school.”

Pat and Daughter

The number of farms and ranches operated by women has more than doubled since 1978.

When you run a big ranch, she notes, you have to integrate and manage a wide diversity of elements, any one of which can potentially get you in big trouble. “There’s the biological part, the range science that involves integration of land and animals and then there’s the all- important economic part – how you convert your assets into making a living.  You have to know what’s going on, be on your toes each and every day, know what the market is doing, what it’s likely to do and then there’s nature -unpredictable fires and floods and bad weather.”

Ranching can be a very trying, lonely life at times, Baxter says. “Sometimes when you’re out there in the winter on a tractor and you can’t even see the loader in front of you, you realize there’s nothing between you and the Arctic Circle but 4 strands of barbed wire.”

Owning and operating a big western ranch in this day and age – particularly a legacy ranch that goes back generations where ownership involves multiple family members – can present additional challenges. Jael Kampfe’s family, on her mother’s side, founded the Lazy EL Ranch in Roscoe in 1901. It is one of Montana’s great ranches. Although she was raised only 20 miles away in Red Lodge, MT, she spent considerable time at the Lazy EL and her paternal grandparent’s ranch, both of which were close by.  When an opportunity to become the next Lazy EL General Manager emerged, Kampfe threw her hat into the ring.

In addition to her familiarity with the ranch and its operation, she was also a Yale graduate and had years of business experience running a highly successful rural development foundation. But she had to earn her way into the job. Kampfe spent six months as “Operations Manager” and several years as “Interim General Manager” before becoming the first female General Manager of the Lazy EL Ranch.

Kampfe rolled up her sleeves and went to work, using her business experience to clean up systems and organization and clarifying decision making as best she could.  As a result, profits improved. After five years, she was able to negotiate a short term lease on the ranch enabling her to exercise greater control over its operation while strengthening the family’s focus on asset management.

Cowboy Photography from Lazy El Ranch in Roscoe, MT.

When an opportunity to become the next Lazy EL General Manager emerged, Kampfe threw her hat into the ring.

Kampfe’s business model included a successful custom grazing operation involving 2,300 yearlings and growing a “working cattle ranch” recreational business that introduced guests from all over the world to Western history, tradition, horsemanship, and the ethics of land management and conservation. “We even made sure the food reflected the place,” she notes. “What we didn’t grow ourselves, we bought locally and we brought in great chefs to cook it.”

The influential people she met in the recreational end of the business and their receptivity to her ideas about the importance of preserving this Western experience on a large scale for future generations has pushed Kampfe to move on to the next challenge, partnering with investors to innovate a more holistic approach to conservation impact investing. Based on her observation that there are a limited number of buyers for large multimillion-dollar legacy ranches, Kampfe came up with a business model to allow multiple, like-minded investors to share the resources and values of large intact ranch properties on the scale of the Lazy EL.

Kampfe’s model involves the incorporation of four key elements she considers essential to achieving this goal: conservation of the environment and landscape; a recreational and working agricultural component; and a traditional connection to and support of local communities. Thanks to the contacts she made through the “working cattle ranch” guest business, Kampfe is growing her investor pool to begin purchasing suitable ranch properties.

Making this vision a reality won’t be easy, but then nothing any of these modern women in the Western ranching community have done, or are doing, falls into that category. But these are not shy, retiring people and chances are they will succeed at what they set their minds to because, as Lynda Lanker’s portraits of ranch women in the American West demonstrates, they are, above all, “Tough By Nature.”

The Montana Stockgrowers Annual Convention & Trade Show

By: Mike McDonnell

The Montana Stockgrowers Annual Convention & Trade Show was held in Billings last week. Marking the 130th year, this annual event brings cattle producers from throughout the state to exchange ideas and network. While I am unaware of anyone from the first meeting making an appearance, the convention and trade show was well attended with a good mix of established cattlemen and young producers in attendance.

In addition to the numerous vendors, the convention offers producers the opportunity to attend a wide range of educational seminars ranging from farm & ranch estate planning to strategies for developing a successful breeding program.

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Every year the Montana Stockgrowers honors the individuals who have taken on leadership roles in the past and present through the “Leaders and Legends” dinner. Hall and Hall has had the honor to sponsor this event the past several years.

With the cattle market reaching historic highs, and many people perception of the cattle industry being developed through re-runs of Dallas, individuals outside of the industry often overlook the hard work and dedication of individuals like those honored at the dinner and attending the larger event. While the caption below thanks Hall and Hall for sponsoring the dinner, we would like to extend our thanks to the multiple generations of farmers and ranchers that have, in large part, made what we do possible.  With the end of the year rapidly approaching we would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, and a prosperous New Year!

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Great Plains Farmland Has Momentum

By: John Wildin

Production agriculture here in the middle of the country continues moving forward with most of the same momentum it has had over the last four or five years.  While most grain and cotton prices have receded at least 30% since the highs, cattle and dairies are enjoying record prices with little headwinds in the immediate future coming their way.

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The Rice 717 is an outstanding Sandhill pasture located in central Kansas.

As the groundwater tables continue their steady decline, land with good water-well yields or land located in 30” annual precipitation areas have not seen much of a decline, if any, from the lower commodity prices.  And as usual, land that has little or no slope and good soils are still in high demand.  There has been some noticeable weakness in recent sales where cropland dominates a particular area that is not generally suitable for cattle production.

Oklahoma farm for sale, Oklahoma ranch land for sale

Star Lake Ranch is a fantastic Oklahoma farm comprised of 3,290± all-contiguous acre.

The recent intense drop in energy prices could impact the world of agriculture via substantial decreases on certain primary input costs that could help offset the recent drop in commodity prices.  Farmers are beginning to see reduced prices for contracted diesel for the next crop year, plus with fertilizer being petroleum based, it seems to point to lower cost there also.  Cattlemen and dairy producers are very dependent on transportation and the lower diesel prices are indicating even more improved margins for them.

View our inventory of ranches and farms for sale.