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.

The Value of Having Wealth “Tied to the Land”

By: Tyler Jacobs

What does it mean to be “tied to the land”?

Once you have sold farms and ranches for 20 years and enjoyed much of the same lifestyle yourself, there are certain observations and conclusions that are easy to come by. Our past and current clients are all “tied to the land” in some way, whether it is by their hard work or by their investment in the land.

One of my favorite men of the past generation is Will Rogers, and I think he put it best when he said, “What the country needs is dirtier fingernails and cleaner minds.” The virtues of dirty fingernails generally apply to those that are responsible for the production or care of something else.

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For most people, owning farm and ranchland involves them as a steward and caretaker. Your tree fell on the neighbor’s fence, so someone needs to know how to run the chainsaw. When it’s time to ship the calves, somebody must be responsible for the cut gate. Somebody is prepared to help that first-calf heifer. Somebody will have to clean up the turn row and fill the planter. Sounds like pretty simple stuff, but the virtues of the knowledge, problem-solving skills, and appreciation from tending to farm or ranch land are in high demand.

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These skills can be exponentially leveraged in life decisions outside of land stewardship or agrarian economies. I have a friend and a client that was required by his parents to graduate with an agriculture production degree, further his education with an MBA, and do post-graduate work in ranch management before he could go to into the family business of investment banking. Firm handshakes, hard work, reaping what you sow, and living with failure are certainly virtues better taught on the family ranch than at Harvard.

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I am grateful to have my kids “tied to the land” and learn these valuable lessons, as I know they will serve them well, whether it is on the ranch or in the boardroom. Accordingly, one of the ideas we promote significantly within the partnership is the terminology of “Investment Quality Rural Real Estate”, or the simple idea that placing or leveraging wealth into farm and ranch land can serve as an investment vehicle.

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Will Rogers also used to say, “Don’t wait to buy land, buy land and wait.” Many of our clients are motivated to build a legacy for the next generation through the purchase of a farm or ranch that is less “liquid” of an asset than other investments. Patience, land improvement, long-term appreciation, and the cyclical nature of real estate all serve to educate the next generation’s investment principles. Having wealth “tied to the land” brings mature balance to a youthful worldview that is accustomed to instant gratification.

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IX Ranch Featured in December 2017 Issue of Western Horseman

We were thrilled with the feature story in the December 2017 issue of Western Horseman profiling IX Ranch.  The IX Ranch is a legacy ranch – it is huge, has a long history of stable ownership and a respected reputation in reputation ranch country.  Its central Montana location is 80 miles northeast of Great Falls and adjacent to the town of Big Sandy. The current owners are the second owners in the ranch’s 128-year history. To read the full story, click the image below.

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This professionally managed operation runs a cattle herd of 4,300. They currently winter around 3,375 bred females, 120 3-year-and-younger bulls and ranch horses, together with 4,000 tons of winter feed. In the spring, around 650 of the previous years’ heifer calves will return to the ranch for breeding from a grow-lot near Billings. The operation covers over 126,000± acres, of which 59,809± is deeded and the majority of the balance being State grazing leases. To view the official listing, click here.

Collaboration thrives at Rock Creek Ranch

Rock Creek Ranch embraces 10,400 acres of land in a series of succulent meadows surrounded by miles upon miles of good-quality rangeland below the shadow of the Smoky Mountains in Blaine County.

The ranch is home to sage grouse, a species of concern, as well as moose, elk, deer, antelope and other critters.

Because of its dual qualities as a working ranch with strong conservation values, Rock Creek Ranch was purchased recently from the Rinker Family by the Wood River Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy in a unique partnership with the University of Idaho. The deal was brokered by Trent Jones of Hall and Hall.  Read the full story here.

Where are all the Quail in Texas?

The Reversing the Quail Decline Initiative is a joint effort between Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department which provides resources for quail conservation in the state of Texas. Their monthly newsletter includes links to educational materials, news articles, information on upcoming events, and invitations to quail-relevant classes and programs. Here is a recent article.

As we head into 2018, it’s time to reflect on the 2017 Texas Quail Index monitoring efforts. Cooperators from counties all over Texas evaluate quail populations and resources in their area by conducting call counts, setting up dummy nests, catching images of predators using game cameras, scoring habitat, and counting quail along the roadsides. This new Wild Wonderings article summarizes the data we’ve collected.

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One question we’re suddenly hearing a lot over the past few months is: “Where did they all go?!” Many folks have commented that they saw plenty of quail over the summer, but the birds seem to have disappeared over the fall and winter. Hunting reports have been mixed as well, with some having decent luck and others feeling frustrated with this year’s crop compared to the exceptional seasons of 2016 and 2015. There are also a lot of hunters reporting suspiciously low juvenile to adult (J:A) ratios, which may indicate that chick production or survival were not as high this year as we might have hoped.

The J:A ratio is something you can monitor yourself if you go out during hunting season. By looking at a set of feathers called the primary coverts (pictured below), you can easily determine whether you have a juvenile or adult bird. See this helpful video for more information. As a general rule of thumb, the more juveniles you have, the better shape the population is in.

To answer the question of “where did they all go?,” we will have to wait and see. Weather may have been partially responsible for low numbers during roadside counts in the fall months, as several areas received rain that made getting around and observing birds difficult. On some properties, the birds might still be present but lying low (there are several TQI cooperators who consistently get skunked on their roadside counts, although other metrics indicate that there are quail there). There are also reports of high numbers of eye worm parasites this year which may be a contributing factor, especially in the Rolling Plains ecoregion where the worms are most prevalent. The low J:A ratios are also concerning, but it remains to be seen what impact all of this will ultimately have on quail in 2018.

It’s important to remember that quail populations follow a “boom and bust” pattern and that a dip in the numbers isn’t necessarily concerning. What we’re trying to address in the Reversing the Quail Decline Initiative is the long-term trend of declining quail numbers.

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Trent Jones Elected Trustee of The Duke Endowment

Trent Jones, a partner with Hall and Hall in Sun Valley, Idaho, has been elected a Trustee of The Duke Endowment.

“With Trent’s passion for the Endowment and its philanthropy, we are adding another wise voice and committed leader to our Board,” said Board Chair Minor Shaw. “He understands the challenges and opportunities that shape this region, especially its rural areas, and he is eager to help us support our grantees and their work.”

Jones joined Hall and Hall in 2003 and became a partner in 2004. He previously spent eight years with The Idaho Nature Conservancy where, as Lands Program Director, he was responsible for overseeing the chapter’s real estate activity. He also served as the Conservancy’s field representative for central Idaho, where he worked with communities and landowners to preserve working ranchlands and resolve natural resource conflict. He was a founding board member of the Blaine County Land, Water and Wildlife Program.

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He currently serves as a committee member of the Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation in Durham, N.C. He is also on the Board of Directors of the Wood River Land Trust in Hailey, Idaho, and is the board’s former president.

Raised in Abingdon, Va., Jones graduated from Woodberry Forest School and earned his Bachelor of Arts in history from Hampden-Sydney College and an M.Ed. in Secondary Education from Virginia Commonwealth University. He and his wife, Cecile, have served together as members of the Woodberry Forest School Advisory Council and various parents’ philanthropy committees at the school. The parents of two children, they have lived in Idaho since 1994.

On the Endowment’s Board, Jones replaces Russell M. Robinson II, who retired on June 30, 2017, and was elected a Trustee Emeritus.

Based in Charlotte and established in 1924 by industrialist and philanthropist James B. Duke, The Duke Endowment is a private foundation that strengthens communities in North Carolina and South Carolina by nurturing children, promoting health, educating minds and enriching spirits. Since its founding, it has distributed more than $3.4 billion in grants. The Endowment shares a name with Duke University and Duke Energy, but all are separate organizations.

A Resilient Affair

By J.T. Holt

Seventy-five years ago, the attitude of people in agriculture very much revolved around “beating” Mother Nature. As times have progressed, this attitude has softened as farmers and ranchers have discovered it is possible to work successfully with Mother Nature. Nevertheless, despite all our best efforts, Mother Nature does have a way of, as my father used to say, “making a Christian out of you.”

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The past twelve to eighteen months have proven this adage to be true.  The major natural disasters we have seen include hurricanes and earthquakes as well as the wildfires that swept across the southern plains and, subsequently, pretty much everywhere else west of the Mississippi. In addition, we have been affected by extreme weather that has caused everything from flooding and blizzards to extreme drought. As we battle this adversity, we hope that with each event we might gain knowledge to prepare for the next round. The following are not happy stories, but they describe how two families survived natural disasters and they are inspirational in many ways.

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The Holloway Cattle Story – Mooreland, Oklahoma

This operation has been impacted by fire three of the last four years.  Ranching 400± cows across more than 11,000± acres in northwest Oklahoma where conditions can be harsh is no easy task.  Mark Holloway stated, “In our operation, the goal is to add as much value to the cattle as we can.  Retaining ownership through the feedlot, in addition to selling bred heifers, is common practice.”  In 2017, fire impacted 4,500± acres causing Holloway to feed nearly 300 head of cattle for ninety days until the grass came on.  Mark indicated the NRCS had a program that would pay $8/acre for delaying grazing on these acres for 120 days, which helped to offset some of the feed cost.  In addition, neighboring ranches shipped in eight loads of hay.  “We did not apply for any further assistance as so many were impacted much more than we were,” Mark added.  The majority of the cattle were moved before the fires swept across their ranch and they lost just ten head. Some of the surviving cattle, however, have lasting issues and will have to be sold this fall. We should also point out that Holloways lost 9,000± acres of grass to fire in 2016 and 1,000± acres in 2015, so fire has been truly devastating to this family.  The positive in all of this is most of the western red cedar that has overtaken a large part of this country has been destroyed, springs have opened back up and begun to run again, and pastures look better than ever.  New practices are being implemented including maintaining a firebreak where the grass will be kept short and cedars kept out of the fence rows. In addition, they will utilize controlled burns as Mother Nature allows.

The Haakma Bros. Dairy Story – Farwell, Texas

“The dairy looked like a war zone after the blizzard conditions,” according to Eric Haakma.  Their 3,600± cow dairy and 1,000± acre irrigated farming operation was significantly impacted by these conditions.  The area was reported to have received 20 inches of snow, but with 50 mph winds for 40-hours straight, who knows how much they received!  They made the best preparations they could with all the cots, food, sleeping bags, and water that could be purchased before the storm hit.  By Saturday afternoon they still had seen no precipitation at all, but Eric asked the employees to stay through the night as he knew they would need help based on the forecast.  By 1:00 a.m. Sunday, it was nearly whiteout conditions. The payloader was stuck in the transfer alley and they could not get it out using another loader.  Through the weekend they fed and milked all that they could, which at the time was about 65 percent of their herd.  They were finally able to get a tunnel dug through the snow so they could get the cows to the parlor to get them milked.  By Monday, three payloaders were working to remove the snow, which took all day.  They have lost 400± head of excellent-quality dairy cows.  Eric stated, “You want to talk about something that makes a guy want to hit his knees and cry.” When asked what he would do differently in preparing, he mentioned they may have tried to move cattle around more, but they would have been guessing on where the snow would accumulate.  They had all seen good snow storms, but not with this kind of wind on top of it.  Some pens had six feet of snow, while others were as dry as if it had never snowed at all.  Eric recalled, “Without our employees, we would have never made it.  They stuck with us throughout and worked right alongside us when they could have easily called it quits.”

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These are just two examples out of so many. As we said before, Mother Nature does have a way of humbling us. Our collective hearts here at Hall and Hall go out to our many friends and clients throughout our region who have suffered through natural disasters of which there seem to be so many these days. These stories will pale in comparison to the stories that will come out after  Maria, Irma, and Harvey. We have nothing but admiration and respect for the manner in which people like the Haakmas and the Holloways have managed to persevere.