The Next Generation of Ranch Owners

The Next Generation of Ranch Owners

October 1, 2018 | Jim Taylor

Hall and Hall has been around for nearly 75 years and we operate day to day building relationships and helping our clients and their families with the concept in mind that we are going to be around for another 75 years, hopefully working with the children and grandchildren and friends of our current clients.

At age 72, I know that my contemporaries in most cases are sellers of land and not buyers. They sell because the next generation may not be able to carry on with the ranch for a variety of reasons ranging from a change of interest to other careers to a reprioritization of finances. Our concern for the future of our open lands is that we hope the next generation has some ties to the land, but the real issue is that, overwhelmingly, the children simply do not seem to have a deep understanding of the roots of ranch ownership and increasingly do not have strong ties to the land.

It is a common theme that the next generation does not like to own things; they rent them. Twenty years from now, no one will own a car for example. They seem to be investing in experiences. They do not have any time to make experiences happen organically, yet they want those experiences to be intense.

Professionals in industries like tourism and adventure travel have tapped into this desire and create experiences for them to have in 1-2 week holiday sound bites. They have become accustomed to instant gratification often as a result of their early exposure to digital media and the young getting medals for simply participating.

The bottom line is that ranch ownership has one underlying theme: Nothing is instant on a ranch. It takes years to improve habitat or to grow a marketable tree. You might sit out on the porch for days before you get that one magnificent sunset. You might have to hike for miles to see that herd of elk or find that spectacular secret meadow lush with wildflowers. It takes years to raise and break a horse. If the fish are not biting, it might be days or weeks before you catch that really big one. Finding that Boone and Crockett bull elk or deer is going to require a lot of work and possibly years of hunting.

One thing we do know is that the product we deal in – Investment Quality Rural Real Estate – is arguably the safest investment in the world. They are not making any more of it and people are pretty unlikely to stop eating the products from ranching. So how do we persuade this next generation that the experiences that they have to work for and wait for just might be deeper and more meaningful than the ones that are served up instantly?

The first thing we are doing at Hall and Hall is raising the level of our management services. We realize that we need to make ranch ownership as simple and seamless as possible. We are even considering making available a concierge expert for our management clients who will be able to access more arcane services like finding a chef for the season or engaging caterers or housekeeping services or even finding a trustworthy construction manager to oversee construction or remodeling.

We are working to sell the concept, appealing I think to this generation, that they can build and leave a legacy of thoughtfully managed land and wildlife that will endure beyond their lifetimes – possibly through the donation of a conservation easement or simply by inculcating these values in the next generation.

In addition, this generation seems to care about healthy living and quality food. They are able to implement these concepts on their land. Grass fed beef, free range chickens, wild game meat, a ranch garden all connect them to a healthy lifestyle.

We hope they will come to connect with and value the ranching lifestyle which features a strong work ethic–one thing that ranching does bring that is a short-term benefit. It allows one to work hard each day and see the immediate reward of what was accomplished that day. It could be a field cut, a fence built, a hay mow filled with bales of hay, a herd of cattle happy in a new pasture or nothing more than a young horse that has been broken to lead or it might even be simply the tired legs from completing a long hike to a treasured destination.

Most importantly we must try to reconnect this generation to the very important concept that anything truly worth having is worth working for and perhaps waiting for. From a meaningful conversation with one’s teenager that requires being present for many other conversations to building a legacy with a piece of land that requires years of dedication and many daily experiences that combine to create that legacy.