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How to Choose Where to Build Your Custom Home

Kevin Brunk lives in a pretty perfect pocket of California. Born and raised in the north central part of the state, he’s within striking distance of world-class skiing and recreation, the Pacific’s beautiful coastline, and some of the most renowned vineyards on the planet. In his words, “I grew up on the toe of the slope of the west side of the Sierra Nevada. I’ve always been of the land and a great appreciator of what’s provided for us in the outdoor space.” 

Maybe it’s a lifetime spent exploring outside, noticing all of nature’s aspects, that set Kevin up so well for his career. Or possibly it’s his background as a land use planner and architect that was part of his previous career path. His passion sits at the center of an architecture-construction-design Venn diagram. From this unique vantage point, he can look at raw land and quickly establish a vision for it with input from and on behalf of his clients. “I help clients understand the possibilities of properties they’re looking to buy.” Kevin has been with Hayden Outdoors for a handful of years now, capitalizing on his background to help buyers and sellers establish their own vision for vacant land, maximizing light, space, materials, and resources to create a home or facility that fulfills whatever the end goal might be. 

Recently, Kevin offered his insights into the benefits of custom home building, and working with someone who can make the most of your property.

Benefits of Building a “Custom Property”

The biggest benefit of building a custom property is just that – customizing it to fit your needs and lifestyle. As Kevin puts it, “Custom building allows you to master plan everything from beginning to end, and that includes phases over time. A master plan can span five, 10, 15 years, or longer. It doesn’t need to be all or nothing in one day.” This 30,000-foot view of your project lets you establish milestones over the course of the buildout, including exterior spaces, outbuildings, and landscaping. 

It’s important to consider your timeframe when designing a custom build. Doing so will help you establish long-term equity on untouched property. Whether your vision is to build a generational legacy property for family members to enjoy for decades or a shorter-term home you plan to sell in five years or less, designing for the end goal helps you save time and money and maximize the overall value of the home and the land. 

 

Sun set over distant fog bank casts golden glow over beautiful landscape in the Marin Headlands

 

Researching Potential Locations

When it’s time to take your dreams from simply scrolling through online listings to making an offer on the ideal piece of vacant land, Kevin encourages buyers to take the following key steps:

Explore different zoning uses.

“Get to know your local zoning [laws]. Learn about what the zoning and allowed uses are on your property, as well as… other things you can do on your property [that] can require a conditional use permit.” Understanding the zoning laws in your area helps ensure you don’t run into any surprises after you’ve purchased your property. Keep in mind that building something in the grey area of what is allowed might require a longer approval process. Also, zoning codes and regulations will stipulate how many structures, homes, ADUs, and outbuildings you can build. Finally, the zoning laws apply to your property and to your neighbors, so make sure to consider what landowners bordering your property are able to do with theirs. 

Evaluate amenities and facilities.

Before you put pen to paper on those closing documents, spend some time looking at any current improvements, amenities and facilities. These can include structures currently on the land, or amenities offered by a community HOA or other organization, such as walking trails, pools and fitness facilities, equine barns and pens, golf features, and more. 

Assess accessibility and commute.

While that picturesque piece of land miles from town might seem like the ideal spot to build your dream custom home, make sure you’re comfortable with accessing the property and any required commute to and from the closest resources and facilities, such as hospitals, grocery stores, shopping, and entertainment. If you’re looking to build a life-long home, consider how these property characteristics might impact your lifestyle and security over time. 

 

Assessing the Natural Environment

Another notable benefit of working with a custom home designer and builder? Consideration for how your home will interact with the natural environment. Kevin’s decades of experience immediately shine through when speaking to this point. “You want to consider topography, weather patterns, and wildlife. I like to look at the benefits and challenges the sun can provide, including shade, natural light, and solar [impact and] energy. How do you want your rooms, entryways, and windows to be oriented? Regarding your region’s climate and weather patterns, where does the snow [or rain] blow in? Are you going to be able to get into your home or out of the barn during a blizzard? Prevailing winds and existing tree cover and how those trees shade the house from the sun and other natural elements are also important.” 

These are some of the types of considerations a designer like Kevin can immediately see when looking at raw land – an invaluable resource when it comes to building in a place and in a way that will make the most of the natural surroundings. 

 

 

Factor in Budget and Cost of Living

When Kevin is consulting with clients on the most important considerations of designing and building a custom home, he doesn’t hesitate to highlight the two key driving forces behind any project: “Budget and timeline (and then I say it again!).” Analyzing construction costs is essential to a successful custom home build project. Establishing a realistic and attainable budget and timeline prior to breaking ground helps keep you on track and avoid major pitfalls or overages. And it’s not just the house you need to consider. “The overall budget is not just the home. It goes well beyond that, extending to the furnishings, exterior space, landscape design, and everything that goes into preparing for the build.” 

Utility expenses are another big – but frequently overlooked – home building expense, especially if you’re building in a more rural area. This is where Kevin’s experience as a builder, recreational real estate professional, and architect comes in. “If you’re working with a quality and knowledgeable real estate professional, they should be familiar with the process of assessing utilities.” Similar to working with the county on your zoning regulations, reach out to your local utility companies to make sure everything is where it needs to be. Kevin continues, “I don’t recommend assuming that just because you’re buying a piece of property that fronts a roadway or right of way, you already have utilities [in place and ready].” 

 

Understanding Local Regulations and Zoning Laws

Again, investing some time with your local county planning department can save you massive headaches after you’ve begun building. “I’ve done quite a bit of work with county planning departments, not only in my current role as a custom home builder and real estate agent, but also when I was practicing architecture. Just about every planner out there would much rather have you come spend some time with them up front and really understand… your vision for the project.” 

Some things county planning and building departments can help you navigate as you design your custom home build include:

  • Local building codes
  • Square footage allowances and restrictions
  • Zone restrictions
  • Permitting processes

“Not everybody thinks working with the county is fun, but it’s a part of the overall process. I consider them a part of the team when I’m working on a custom [project]. I recommend getting to know them and spending time with them up front, because it’s going to pay off in the end.”

 

A new construction home being framed on a hillside with a view

 

Understanding Your Needs and Lifestyle

Transferring your daydream custom home to the reality of construction plans and architectural renderings can be overwhelming. Again, this is where a design professional can really help you bring your vision to life. Here are a few examples of custom home design essentials Kevin recommends discussing with your architect, builder, or designer: 

  • How much space do you want to dedicate to living spaces versus bedroom spaces or entertainment areas?
  • The proximity of the kitchen to different indoor and outdoor spaces around the house.
  • Light exposure, sun exposure, and orientation to weather and views
  • The flow of interior spaces to exterior spaces
  • Natural and custom landscaping
  • Exterior recreational features, such as outbuildings, hunting facilities, gun ranges, ponds, pools, walkways, paths and courts

Additionally, it’s important to think about how the design choices you make now will affect your home’s equity over time and how you’ll be able to use the house in years to come. If the home is a short-term investment, these considerations are less personal (but certainly no less important to potential buyers). However, a long-term custom home should account for lifestyle changes as the years come and go, such as expanding families and accessibility. 

 

Understanding Infrastructure and Utilities

Unless you aim to live off the grid, utilities and necessary infrastructure are key elements of your custom home build. Talk with your design and real estate professional about water, sewer, and electricity access. The farther from an established community you build, the harder – and more expensive – it will be to get these utilities to your property. 

While not as necessary as water, sewer, and electrical, internet and telecommunications access are also important. As technology changes, there are more and more opportunities for telecommunications access, including satellite internet. Whatever you decide, just make sure your property is within reach of the utilities you need to be comfortable and successful. This has become increasingly critical in recent years as more and more people work from home or work remotely. 

Finally, consider transportation infrastructure as part of your overall custom home build. If you need to put in roads, widen an existing driveway, or extend established transportation access, you need to make sure to include this in your overall building budget. 

 

 

Assessing Resale Value and Market Trends

Custom home builds are just that – highly customized to your needs and style. But when it comes to the latest social media home building fads and design crazes, Kevin waves a flag of caution. “Trends are, by definition, trendy. Within five years, you can almost pinpoint when a home was built if the designer, client, and builder chose to incorporate the latest trend.” He recommends steering clear of anything that feels a little too of-the-moment and instead opting for timelessness and quality. “Flavor-of-the-month designs can become dated very quickly and look tired, so my own perspective is to look at quality design and finishes that have withstood the test of time.” Not sure where to look? Kevin recommends going back decades and identifying design elements we still turn to today. Custom home architects and designers can help you identify timelessness over trends.

Opting for longer-term design elements can help your home retain its resale value over time. “Sellers typically don’t want to have to tear out a kitchen or completely redo a homesite 10 years after the home was built.” 

 

Consulting with Real Estate Professionals

Like his dedicated team members at Hayden Outdoors, Kevin approaches his work as a custom home designer, builder, and real estate professional as a partnership. To him, real estate isn’t just transactional; it’s an investment in his clients’ personal, homeownership and property goals, many of which span hundreds of acres and multiple generations. “A highly trained and experienced real estate professional has an understanding of end land use and development. This can really make a difference in choosing a partner in this process. I discourage people from going with a brokerage on brand name alone. When choosing a real estate professional, turn to a person or an agency with a proven track record of locating and purchasing land for a custom home.”

It’s an important point. “Just like I don’t recommend going to a quickie oil change place to get a transmission rebuilt, I also don’t recommend going with the status quo to help you locate, negotiate, and purchase [farm, ranch or] recreational real estate.”  

 

Conclusion

To wrap up, Kevin reiterates one of his key points when bringing your dream home to life, “Managing expectations is a huge part of building custom. I’m a big fan of having a complete project. I believe in the design principle of trying to keep everything at the same level of quality and completion.” 

His clients come to know Kevin as a visionary – someone who can combine custom home design with the beauty and potential of raw land to create timeless, comfortable, long-lasting properties. They also know him as a partner, a trusted resource as they navigate the ins and outs of the custom build process. He would probably tell you he’s both things, the product of a lifetime wandering forests, fields, mesas, mountains, meadows, and cliff sides to find the perfect view…and help clients achieve their dreams.

 

 

How (and Why!) You Should Finance Your Next Land Purchase

slash broken box ranch at sunset - how to finance land purchase

You might call Caleb Kjergaard, Director of Client Services – Rec Land at Outdoor Bank, atypical in today’s modern banking world. Born and raised in Eastern Kansas, Caleb understands land. He’s spent many mornings watching the world from a duck blind or tree stand. After working as a CPA for four years, he swapped that life for this one – one in which he gets to walk property with his clients, and work with agents across the country to find the best possible rates and options. Caleb’s style of lending evokes the friendly, lockstep approach of generations past. He believes in working with clients to find the best financing option, “Whether that’s with our bank or another finance organization.” With an understanding of finance that rivals his love of the land, Caleb offers up his tips on how – and just as importantly, why – you should finance your next land purchase. 

 

Ducks Flying over Sunset

 

The Benefits of Financing Your Land Purchase

Caleb highlights three main benefits of financing your land purchase:

  1. Liquidity – “This is the main reason I recommend financing land purchases. A lot of people think they’ll be saving money by paying cash and avoiding interest, but putting all of their cash into land might mean they might miss out on another opportunity that requires cash, like improvements to the land later. Keeping some dry powder in your bag for other opportunities that pop up is always a good idea.” 
  2. Tax Benefits – For this point, Caleb puts his CPA hat on. “With financing, your interest payments are tax deductible. Property tax is deductible. If you put improvements on the property, those will be depreciable. And if you’re a farmer, there are loads of deductions you can take advantage of.” 
  3. LeverageWhen it comes to weighing the odds (and historical data), Caleb points out that using leverage has the potential to amplify the returns, especially in a bull market, when the rate of appreciation on the land exceeds the cost of borrowing. Smaller monthly payments can also be much more manageable than a huge cash windfall at the get-go, both of which can afford you more financial flexibility and leverage down the line. Also, financing can allow greater buying power. “You can finance a larger, more expensive property than one you would be buying if you just bought it with straight-up cash.” 

When getting ready to buy land, Caleb always recommends buyers talk to their tax professional first. 

 

Exploring Financing Options

There are typically three types of financing when it comes to buying land: traditional mortgage loans, land loans, and seller financing. According to Caleb, mortgages and land loans are pretty similar, but not every bank understands land. “Many lenders look at land and think of development, when in reality, many of our buyers are buying land for the sake of owning land, not to develop it.” 

There are a few key factors to consider when thinking about your financing options.

Down Payment 

This is where traditional mortgages and straight land loans can vary slightly. Sometimes a land loan will require a bigger down payment. Traditional mortgages usually require a minimum 20% down payment whereas raw land loans can require up to 35%. Talk with your lender about your options.

Interest Rate

Interest rates can be intimidating, but again, Caleb encourages an open line of communication between buyer and lender to find the best rate for you. “Don’t let today’s prices or interest rates push you out of the market if you’re thinking about financing. Interest rates aren’t forever, but that property you’re looking at can be.” 

Length of the Loan

This can also vary depending on the type of loan you secure, fixed-rate or adjustable-rate (ARM). Talk with your lender about the difference and which is a better option for you. 

Credit Score

Credit score is an important factor in a land purchase, even more so than when securing a traditional home loan. It’s important to make sure yours is at an acceptable threshold for your borrower. 

Seller financing, also known as a land contract, is a third option, although a less structured one. There are a variety of reasons buyers and sellers might choose this route, including the buyer having a lower credit score, wanting to avoid using a bank or lender, or a lower interest rate. However, it’s important to fully understand the terms of seller financing, including whether or not the seller owns the land and all outbuildings outright. 

 

Combine,Harvester,Cutting,Wheat,,Summer,Landscape,Of,Endless,Field

 

Factors to Consider Before Financing

When you’re getting ready to finance a land purchase, there are some important considerations. In short, Caleb notes this step is similar to making any large purchase. “Get prequalified, look over your current financial situation to see what you can afford, find the right sized property, and make sure you feel comfortable making the payments.” In short, make sure you’ve checked these three boxes before you buy:

  • Assess your financial readiness
      1. Credit score
      2. Current personal balance sheet
      3. Debt-to-income ratio
  • Understand the market dynamics and property valuation
      1. Current interest rates
      2. Market trends
      3. End use for the land relative to the region
      4. Mineral and water rights
  • Evaluate the potential risks and rewards

 

Navigating the Application Process

If you’re serious about buying land, or a piece of ground has become available that you can’t live without, it’s important to be ready to go. This is where the type of relationship-first banking and lending Caleb talks about comes in very handy. He’s a big believer in open communication with your lender, and working hand-in-hand with buyers to secure the best possible outcome. “Relationship banking leads to relationship pricing. We don’t have a set rate for everyone; a lot of it is based on relationships. This can start as a checking account or car loan, just so the bank knows you when it comes to getting a larger land loan.”

Having that established relationship with your lender can greatly expedite a land sale. In addition, it’s important to gather all of the necessary documentation and information. Most lenders can provide a checklist of required items to secure a land loan. These can include, but are not limited to:

  • Driver’s license
  • Legal name and contact information
  • Federal income tax returns from previous years, typically up to three years back
  • Total assets and liabilities, both personal and business
  • Current employment status
  • Legal proof of any assets you’ll be using as collateral

Mind Your Credit Score

As mentioned, credit scores and financial history play an important role in securing a land loan, because land loans are sometimes viewed as riskier for the lender or bank. Strong credit and a transparent, traceable financial history can help you get a lower interest rate and better loan terms. 

Getting pre-approved for a loan is a great way to stay one step ahead, even in non-competitive markets. As Caleb points out, land can be different from buying a car or a home in that the right piece of property might not be readily available. “A lot of times, these farms only pop up every 20, 30, even 100 years.” It’s important to be pre-approved and have your financial ducks in a row when it does. 

 

 

Selecting the Right Financing Partner

Back to Caleb and Outdoor Bank being the type of lenders that want the best for everyone involved. “At Outdoor Bank, we’ve built relationships with banks throughout the country so we can find the right fit for the loan, whether it’s with us or someone else.” It’s a refreshing and important perspective. “The relationship is a lot more important to us than what the client is actually buying.” 

Even if you can’t meet with Caleb and his team about your land purchase, it’s worth keeping his philosophy in mind when you’re looking for the right financing partner. Make sure to research and compare lenders. Talking with friends, industry professionals, and other landowners in the area is a great place to start. Look at recommendations and reviews from trusted sources. 

And definitely don’t forget to read the fine print. Some lenders will bury hidden fees, interest rates, and terms. Talk with lenders and finance partners at the beginning of the process about the exact fees you can expect throughout the process and at closing. 

 

Tips for Negotiating Favorable Terms

It’s important not to forget your power as a borrower, and highlight it when you talk with your lender. Again, this is where your financial history, credit score, and current assets come into play. 

You can also leverage market conditions and competition. In a hot market, talk with your finance partner – and even the seller – about why you’re the best person for the land. As Caleb puts it, “If you want the land at that price, there’s a good chance someone else wants it at that price, too.” But don’t let market competition scare you either. Advocating for your strengths as a buyer can include what you intend to do with the land, conservation efforts, improvements you want to make, and more. 

Talk with your lender about flexibility and repayment options. “A lot of our lending practices are based on the strength of the borrower. Other lenders are focussed on the collateral and cash flow of that property, and a lot of those programs are tailored toward profitable farmers and profitable ground. Our niche is people who are looking for the right piece of land and dreaming of what they want to do with it now and for generations to come.” 

 

Avoiding Common Pitfalls

Buying a big swath of land is something fun to dream about, but the reality can be trickier and more involved. Make sure you’re prepared and that you avoid the following pitfalls when buying land:

  • DON’T fall for predatory lending practices
  • DON’T overextend your financial capabilities
  • DON’T fail to conduct due diligence on the property and financing terms

Make sure you do your homework, talking with your recreational real estate agent, finance partner, and any relevant farming, ranching, or resource oversight organizations in your area. 

 

harvested timber

 

Securing Your Investment for the Future

There are some straightforward and obvious steps you can take to protect your land investment. Then there are less obvious ones. Let’s start with the simple. 

  1. Title Insurance – This is an important step for landowners because it protects both you and your financing partner in the event the previous owner didn’t own the property free and clear. Title insurance protects against the losses that might occur when the property is not free and clear of defects. 
  2. Property Insurance – If you intend to use your property for events, large gatherings, or something else that might require risk management, talk with your finance partner or insurance agent about securing adequate property insurance.
  3. Financial Planning – Creating a long-term financial plan for your property, including farming- and ranching-related costs, out buildings, improvements, maintenance, employees, and conservation is important in ensuring it retains and grows its value. 

Look for Unusual Opportunities

Caleb chimes in on some of the less obvious ways you should consider securing your land investment for the future. “My thoughts are, if someone has purchased some ground, specifically raw land, and wanted to ensure they do not hurt the valuation of the property over time, one of the best things they can do is leave the land undisturbed.  Adding some improvements such as fencing and outbuildings can help boost the value to the owner, however if they intend on selling the ground in the future, the upcoming buyer might not see the same value in those improvements.”

In the case of recreational properties, Caleb adds, “A good land investment strategy can (and often should) involve some improvements, but one of the best things, other than leaving the property as raw as possible, is to create healthy animal habitat. Whether that’s clearing out timber and other invasive plants, creating good cover for upland birds, adding food plots, and clearing game-trails, there are a lot of ways to improve the value of your property without adding too many invasive man-made structures. Enhancing wildlife habitat on your property not only increases your opportunities to see and interact with local wildlife, it can also bolster your future sales price if you were to sell it, and it very seldom, if ever, hurts the value.” 

 

 

Conclusion

Buying your dream piece of ground, be it row crop farmland or expansive equine property, can be fun and exciting, laying way to a lifetime of recreational, farming, and ranching opportunities. But back to Caleb’s point, not every bank understands land. If you’re in the market, it’s important to find both a recreational real estate agent and trusted lender to work with as you navigate your purchase, someone who gets the ins, outs, nooks, and crannies of large land deals; organizations that focus more on who they’re lending money to than what they’re lending money for; someone who believes in the kind of relationships that make a farm successful, or a piece of land thrive year after year. 

A Professional Butcher’s Guide to Buying Beef

guide to buying beef shot of a cut of beef on a professional slab from frank's

Frank’s Butcher Shop was born from a simple idea – bring Wyoming-raised beef, cut straight from the personal butcher, fresh to your table. Founder and owner Billy Brenton named the shop for his dad, Frank. It’s a hard-working generational business. As Billy’s son Brice puts it, “All of our beef is born, raised, and processed in Wyoming.” Why Wyoming? Well, that’s an easy one. “There are more cattle than people here, so folks know a thing or two about raising cattle.” From learning the basics to brushing up on popular cuts of beef, the friendly team at Frank’s shared their guide to buying beef with us.

Take a Tour of Frank’s Butcher Shop with Life on the Land from Hayden Outdoors.

 

Understanding Beef Grades

The Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines three retail levels of USDA-graded beef: prime, choice, and select. There are lower grades, including standard, commercial, utility, cutter, and canner, but like their names, those are mostly reserved for processed meat products. 

  • Prime: Prime beef comes from young, healthy beef cattle. It’s typically known for lots of marbling (evenly distributed fat). Venture into any high-end steakhouse and you’re sure to see prime cuts featured on the menu. 
  • Choice: Similar to prime, choice cuts are also very high quality but with less marbling.
  • Select: If you’re looking for a lower-fat option, select is a good choice. This grade of beef is good quality, uniform, and traditionally leaner than higher grades. It can also be very tender, but doesn’t have the same juicy flavor as prime and choice cuts. 

 

Selecting the Right Cut

There are 8 primal cuts of beef. Each can be broken down further into subprimal cuts. 

  • Chuck: Chuck comes from a cow’s shoulder. It is known for its flavor and versatility.  
    • Chuck Subprimal Cuts: chuck tender, chuck roll, shoulder clod, square-cut chuck
    • Chuck Portion Cuts: arm roast, arm steak, blade roast, blade steak, chuck eye roast, mock tender roast, mock tender steak, shoulder steak
  • Rib: If you don’t mind mess, ribs cooked the right way can be a total treat. 
    • Rib Subprimal Cuts: rib primal, primal cut
    • Rib Portion Cuts: back ribs, bone-in rib steak, cowboy steak, rib fingers, prime rib steak, short ribs, tomahawk steak
  • Loin: Probably some of the best prime cuts, loins are tender and flavorful. 
    • Loin Subprimal Cuts: short loin, strip loin, tenderloin
    • Loin Portion Cuts: chateaubriand tenderloin roast, New York strip, porterhouse, sirloin steak, t-bone, tenderloin steak (filet mignon), tenderloin tips, tenderloin tails
  • Round: Sourced from the buttocks/upper thigh, rounds often end up as ground beef. 
    • Round Subprimal Cuts: bottom round, eye of round, sirloin strip, top round
    • Round Portion Cuts: ball tip steak, beef steak, bottom round steak, rump steak, tip steak, Swiss steak, Western griller
  • Flank: This cut can become a tasty meal for many when prepared correctly.
    • Flank Subprimal Cuts: London Broil, ground beef
  • Short Plate: From underneath the ribs, it’s a good option for sautees or marbled short ribs. 
    • Plate Subprimal Cuts: flank-style short ribs, hanger steak, inside skirt steak, plate short ribs
  • Brisket: The brisket comes from the breast of the cow beneath the chuck. Cook it on low with your favorite sauce for a juicy meal. 
    • Brisket Subprimal Cuts: flat half, point half
  • Shank: Shank is the leg meat of the cattle. It is typically quite tough, best reserved for ground beef. 
    • Shank Subprimal Cut: shank cross-cut

 

Black angus cows in rural farm pasture - what to look for when buying beef

 

Assessing Marbling in Steak

While juicy, well-marbled cuts of beef might be what you crave, there are many who opt for leaner cuts, allowing them to still enjoy a succulent cut of steak without additional fat. If you want to explore some of the leaner cuts of beef, opt for pieces that come from the round and the flank. Treat yourself to a tenderloin – known for being very tender and lean, although you might need to dress up the flavor a little bit. 

Beef offers a variety of health benefits, including being a good source of vitamin B12 and iron, zinc and selenium. Choosing lean cuts of beef helps avoid saturated fats, which can raise blood cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease. If you’re concerned about your heart health but still love a juicy steak, talk with your local butcher about the best choices for you. You can also trim obvious fat from cuts of meat by holding a tag of the fat and slicing downward at an angle (make sure to use a sharp knife!) while you pull it away from the red meat. Go slowly and work in smooth strokes. Don’t worry about removing all of the fat at the same time; you can slice away in strips if you need to. 

Beef hanging and aging at Frank’s Butcher Shop beef

 

Understanding Beef Aging

There are two ways to age beef – wet and dry aging. Wet aging involves storing the meat in airtight bags in a cooler for up to three weeks. This renders a traditional beef flavor. When dry aging beef, instead of packaging the meat, the animals are harvested and then the meat is stored uncovered in a large refrigeration room with controlled temperature (32° – 34°F) and humidity. This method results in a richer, more robust beef flavor. 

Whether or not meat is better aged or fresh is probably a matter of personal preference, but aging the meat does provide some benefits to the tastebuds:

  1. Less moisture. By dry aging beef, it loses up to 30% of its initial volume as it loses water content. This can result in more concentrated flavor. 
  2. More tenderized. As a piece of beef ages, enzymes that naturally occur in the meat start to break down fibers and connective tissues, which leads to a more tender slice of meat. 
  3. Changes in flavor. Enzymes, bacteria, and oxygen all work their magic during an aging process to enhance beef’s natural flavors. 

It is important to note that dry-aged beef is typically more expensive than other options. The process is both time consuming and it also results in moisture loss from the meat. That said, it is proven to give your choice cut of beef a richer, more intense flavor. 

 

Final Tips for Buying Beef

If you’re someone who is frequently in the market for quality cuts of beef, it’s important to develop a good relationship with a reputable butcher or meat supplier. These experts know their grades, cuts, optimum cook temperatures, rubs, spices, and more. Local farmers’ markets are another good place to source high-quality meat. Don’t be afraid to ask about the beef’s origin, harvesting practices, and aging processes. 

Don’t hesitate to try new cuts and cooking methods. Frank’s offers up a few key tips for cooking your steak, including taking your meat out of the refrigerator for 30 minutes prior to cooking and letting it rest after you pull it off the grill or out of the oven. If you like to buy beef in bulk, consider getting your own airtight storage system to help preserve flavor and freshness, and always clean your cooking surface well before and after you handle raw meat. 

With barbecue season just around the corner, now is a great time to source some quality beef, and brush up on your steak preparation skills.

 

Thanks to our partners at Frank’s Butcher Shop.

Tips for How to Build a Roping Arena on Your Property

Men on horseback lassoing a running calf as a team in the calf roping sporting event at a country rodeo How to Build a Roping Arena on Your Property featured image

Lance Harvey and Sandy Ballou know roping. They were both born into the life – generational ranchers who grew up roping calves and wrestling steers. Lance rodeoed professionally until he was 24, while Sandy spent plenty of time ranch roping as his family made its way in the horse business, owning boarding and training facilities. 

Today, both men put their ranch life to work. Lance owns Western Fence Construction, based in California. Western Fence creates state-of-the-art equine and livestock facilities. His work includes everything from barns and buildings to professional quality riding arenas, fencing, and solar water systems. 

Sandy is also a child of the West. Born and raised in California, he moved with his family to Cody, Wyoming about six years ago. While he was never a professional rodeo cowboy, he knows his way around ranches and arenas plenty well. He has received gubernatorial appointments from both Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gog. Edmond G. Brown to serve on the 17th District Agricultural Association fair board. He was also a member of the Nevada County Farm Bureau board of directors and these days, you’ll find him on the rodeo committee for the Cody Stampede. 

Lance and Sandy recently combined forces to offer up some of their tips for how to build a roping arena on your ranch, recreational, or equine property. 

 

Western rodeo lifestyle shows rider on bay horse with rope for team roping practice in outdoor arena

 

Benefits of Having a Roping Arena on Your Property

For the true horse lover or professional rider, the benefits of having a roping arena on your property are obvious. Being able to work with your stock without having to drive to another facility is a nice luxury – a dream come true for many recreational real estate owners. It saves time and provides a consistent environment for you and your animals, reducing the need to trailer your horses.  

But that’s not all. The size and structure of roping arenas lend a certain amount of versatility that can apply to a variety of circumstances, benefits, and income opportunities. If you’re looking for ways to leverage your roping arena, consider renting it to other horse owners in the area. Disciplines don’t have to be restricted to roping specifically. You can reach out to local equine clubs that include a variety of riding styles and needs, such as show jumping and dressage. Equine therapists can also make use of your roping arena, providing a safe space for treatment of animals. 

Additionally, roping arenas can make for fun and unique event venues, which in turn raises awareness of your property for future rental or sale opportunities. Weddings, celebrations, fundraisers, local rodeos and roping competitions, and other special events are excellent revenue generating opportunities. 

 

Assessing Your Property

Once you’ve decided it’s time to build a roping arena on your property, there are some key factors to consider. Sandy makes the first one easy to remember, “Room! Make sure you have plenty of room.” And he doesn’t mean just enough square footage or acreage for the arena itself. “People don’t always have an understanding of how big an arena you need or should have. It doesn’t take just the space of the arena. You’ve gotta have some buffer as well; you need room for barns and turn outs and so forth.” 

Lance emphasizes the importance of proper drainage, putting it at the top of his consideration list. “If you don’t have good drainage, you’ve got the biggest mess you’ve ever seen. You can have the nicest, most well-built arena known to mankind, but if the drainage isn’t right, nothing else matters. Everything goes from the bottom up, just like a house foundation. Once you start off with your grade and your drainage, then you can move onto your footing and go up from there.” 

When it comes to topography, the flatter the better. Sandy advises looking for a flat area that doesn’t require too much grading while Lance points to these initial considerations being the focal point of any conversation he has with new clients who want to build a roping arena on their property. “We put everything on a 3D CAD and lay it all out so the client can actually see what their place is gonna look like and what they need for space, barns, tack rooms, and turn out.” To break it down, Lance has three main points of consideration – your drainage, your dirt work, and your grade and percentage of fall of your arena. 

 

Empty spacious indoor arena interior view. Sunlight through windows.

 

Indoor Versus Outdoor Considerations

When you’re thinking about the kind of arena you will build, one big question is whether to install an indoor or an outdoor structure. Indoor arenas might seem more valuable to someone who lives in, say, Minnesota or North Dakota, but these types of arenas are becoming just as important to property owners in hot climates as they provide a way to get you and your animals out of the heat. 

As a rule of thumb, an indoor arena is a luxury unless you’re going to use it as an event center. Professional horse trainers often build them to provide consistent cover over time. But of course, weather and the elements do play a factor. Sandy adds, “Where you are in the country makes a big difference for what kind of arena you put up. In a lot of places, a simple covered arena is satisfactory, but in super cold country, those won’t do you any good. You’re gonna need to go fully enclosed.”

 

Designing Your Roping Arena

Once you’ve assessed your property and chosen a location that will allow for your roping arena and all supporting structures and turn outs, it’s time to decide on the ideal size. “The number one thing is finding your width,” Lance says. “The standard size ropery is 150’ x 300’.” From there, it’s best to work with experts like Lance and Sandy to design proper roping chutes, catch pins, and boxes, always keeping in mind your end use.

When it comes to roping arena design, Lance offers this wisdom, “We try to create an arena that is user friendly. One where you don’t have to get off your horse; you can bring up your cattle. You don’t have to worry about when the chute is being loaded. Everything is right there. We can even put as much as cup holders on the fence if you need them. You could go really serious, or you could have a party there!” 

Make sure to consider the following elements when designing your roping arena:

  • Arena size
  • Roping chutes
  • Catch pins
  • Roping boxes
  • Return alley
  • Entry and exit points

 

A sample CAD drawing by Western Fence, used for mapping out your roping arena.
A sample CAD drawing by Western Fence, used for mapping out your roping arena.

 

Materials and Equipment

As Lance said, a well built roping arena/horse facility starts from the ground up. It’s important to think about the following when building a roping arena on your property:

  • Choose a well-built box with guard rails where ropes can’t accidentally get hooked on posts or other objects.
  • Work with a builder who’s been around roping for a long time, and has plenty of livestock handling experience. 
  • Install solid, strong materials. 
  • Lead-ups should come up and then straight down to cattle height so stock can walk comfortably without panicking. 
  • Work with your builder to choose the right roping chutes and panels for your needs. 

One of the most important choices you’ll make when installing a roping arena is the footing, which varies a lot by geography. Sandy says, “If you’ve got footing that’s way too deep and doesn’t properly work, you’re going to have animals going down. So maintaining footing is a primary component of any arena. The fencing has to be good, but the footing has to be excellent.” 

There are quite a few footing additives available, including crumb rubber, shredded felt, and poly microfibers. For roping, you want about two to four inches of footing material that is nice, loose and soft (avoid clay!). There should be a packed base beneath the initial footing materials. Providing a well-packed base means you don’t need to replace or maintain footings as frequently. Ensure your footing remains healthy and supportive by installing the proper drainage. No one likes a flooded arena. 

 

Lance with Western Fence works with an electrical box alongside an example of a chute with pipe and rail fence at one of their installations.
Lance with Western Fence works with an electrical box alongside an example of a chute with pipe and rail fence at one of their installations.

 

Maintaining Your Roping Arena

Once you’ve built your roping arena, it’s important to make sure you maintain it properly, both for the value of your property and the safety of riders and animals, always making sure your footing isn’t too deep or too hard. Work to keep your ground and footing maintained – a tractor with a drag or a groomer such as Black Widow is a good way to go about this. Pack your arena before a rain. If it drains properly, there shouldn’t be any standing water. On the flip side of that, it is important to keep some moisture in the arena with a water wagon, water truck, or sprinklers depending on how much water you need and how frequently you need it. 

 

Two Cowboys Roping A Calf At A Rodeo

 

Tips for Hosting Successful Events

If you want to open your arena for special events and your local roping community, it’s important to take the proper steps. “If you’re going to start holding events, you probably have to look at your permitting and your zoning,” says Sandy. “There are a lot of places in the country where you can build something for personal use, but if you start holding public events, then you need to secure a conditional use permit or some sort of zoning change.” You’ll also want to talk with your insurance provider to make sure you have the right insurance coverage for special events on your property. 

Make sure your roping arena and surrounding area are well equipped to host a large number of guests, including bathrooms, shade and shelter, and water sources. If you’re hosting a roping event, consider bringing in bleachers or additional seating and make sure there’s a safe amount of space between spectators and animals. Finally, find ways to creatively market your event to help ensure it’s well attended. Talk with local equine and 4H organizations. Reach out to friends and fellow horse enthusiasts who can help you spread the word. Share event details on social media and on posters at relevant businesses throughout town. 

 

Conclusion

Whether it’s a quaint and small outdoor roping arena, just big enough for you and your stock, or an expansive indoor facility that can accommodate people and horses from miles around, building a roping arena on your property is an excellent way to increase value – both the value of your land and the value of your lifestyle. 

Some say the traditional life of the cowboy is fading away, being replaced by modern technology, fewer large ranches, and not as many young people who want to pursue the saddle. Maybe they’re right, but that doesn’t mean ranch life is something to abandon. In fact, as Sandy and Lance point out, it’s a special type of person and community that collects under the lights of a roping arena on a Friday night. “Look at these guys rodeoing and competing against each other; you see them helping each other constantly,” says Lance. “What other sport does that?”

Sandy follows that up with a similar sentiment, “Regardless of how you come to ranching, rodeos, or roping, it’s important to maintain the Western way of life. It just makes better people.” 

Indeed.

 

Winter Wisdom for Summer Success: 10 Landowner Essentials

Farm with Grain Bins in the Snow

When Dan Brunk started as the Director of Marketing for Hayden Outdoors back in 2010, the marketing department was a one-man show. These days, the team is now 15 people large, focusing on a variety of real estate marketing strategies on behalf of Hayden Outdoors’ clients. One of the categories they market properties through is trade shows and special events. Dan and his team spend a good part of the year at different regional and national trade shows, talking to all sorts of people about all types of land ownership. One subject that comes up this time of year – essential winter prep for landowners.

“I like to attend a dozen or trade shows a year to stay in touch with landowners to see what they’re seeing and what’s important to them when it comes to marketing their properties. When it comes to various channels of marketing, it can be easy to get stuck in the office, but I grew up in the outdoors and out on the land; I’m a hunter and a fisherman. I like to get back onto the farms and ranches to stay in touch with my roots.” Dan recently offered some insight and wisdom regarding winter prep for landowners, including attending trade shows. While winter might render much of your property dormant for weeks or months, Dan outlines why it’s a great time to put in some work preparing for summer and checking common landowner boxes. 

 

Winter planning matters!

According to Dan, “Winter planning is important for land owners in most of the country. Shorter days give you time to get your homework done.” To Dan’s point, many folks across the country are probably not actively working their land during the winter. The obvious exception here is cattle ranchers, as Dan is quick to point out, “Their work a never-ending job, and they don’t get enough credit for the amount of work they put in.” But even cattle ranchers need to spend some time focusing on the future. So, what are some of the landowner homework assignments Dan recommends tackling in the long evenings of winter? Here are a few to add to your to-do list:

  • Winter is a great time to get farm, cattle, or recreational equipment serviced!
  • The doldrums of winter are an excellent time to figure out what you’re going to do with your real estate investments in the coming 12 – 18 months, e.g. deciding whether or not to sell if that is part of your long-term real estate plan.
  • If you’re operating your recreational land as a business for sporting, hunting, or fishing, winter is a good time to assess if you need to relocate, add land, gain permits and hire for the summer months.
  • Farmers considering selling their land should make that decision in the winter before spring arrives and resources are used for spring planting.
  • Cattle ranchers and recreational property owners can use the winter months to review new strategies for cattle management as well as new products for the hunting and sporting industries. 

 

Rural house with a fence in winter landowner essential winter prep

 

 

Common Strategies for Land Management in the Winter

Dan’s number one piece of advice when it comes to your best strategy for land management in the winter? “Bring in someone who specializes in the category.” The team at Hayden Outdoors leads the industry in recreational real estate agents who specialize in large land real estate sales, but their expertise is not purely transactional. 

“At Hayden Outdoors, our agents are available to walk landowners through issues that are specific to both their property type and their state and region.” Cattle ranchers might want to reach out to a cattle ranching property specialist, such as Jim Digby, to learn more about how they can manage their herd better. Farmers could contact John Herrity or Gene Bock about USDA planning and any new regulations. John Tate is happy to provide his two cents when it comes to food plots in the Southeast and Shad Sheldon can talk Midwest mineral mixture for maximizing wildlife health on your hunting property. Chase Higgs is a fishery biologist on staff at Hayden Outdoors. He’s an excellent resource for those looking to optimize fishery management and work with biologists during the winter to maximize your fishing property during the summer. 

 

Other strategies for winter land management

In addition to the common things cited above, you may need to add to your to-do list:

  • Exploring new cattle management strategies and rotational grazing trends
  • Establishing goals for the next four months for sporting properties
  • Working on habitat management for both recreational and hunting properties
  • Writing grant requests for funding to help with habitat improvement projects
  • Finding a local or regional trade show in your area to learn more about new products, current industry issues, and international guidelines 

 

Common Pitfalls Landowners Succumb to During the Winter

When it comes to doing the most with your winter months, it can be easy to bite off more than you can chew. Dan cautions against this, instead focussing on realistic, attainable, affordable goals. Avoid the following when performing essential winter prep for landowners:

  • If you’re a new buyer, try not to do it all at once. This can lead to overblown budgets and unfinished projects. As Dan puts it, “You might want to focus on finishing that brand new entry way, when the thing that really needs to get done before summer is finishing your property’s fencing.” 
  • Don’t procrastinate annual budgeting, and don’t limit your budgeting to dollars and cents. Make sure to account for time and intangible resources as well. 
  • Don’t be afraid to call in the experts. Work with a professional biologist or agronomist to develop a good plan.
  • Start with what’s most important and ensure you’ve budgeted appropriately and set realistic timelines. 
  • Look at priorities for value rather than flash or aesthetics. 

 

Break Down the Summer Preparation Process by Climate, Type, and Region

Calendars are a large landowners best friend. Dan examines the different cycles by land type and area.

  • Farming: “On the farming side of things, once harvest is done in late fall, most farmers can enjoy some downtime. It’s a great time to get budgets and planning done, and take a look at any properties they want to invest in.” This is also an important time for farmers to establish leasing agreements for the following year, if applicable to their property. 
  • Cattle Ranching: Calving typically takes place January – April, which is when cattle ranchers are all-hands-on-deck to make sure calves are healthy, the feed is good, and animals aren’t sick or stuck in blizzards. Summertime can be a big budgeting time for cattle ranchers, after calving has happened, they’ve prepared to audit their herd population, and they can see what hay looks like based on summer months of rainfall. 
  • Hunting: For most of North America, hunting seasons will be in the fall through January, with the exception of spring turkey season. This means the steps hunting property owners take in the winter, spring and summer months will directly affect what happens in the fall. Dan offers these additional timelines and tips for specific hunting regions:
    • In the South East, it’s common to plan to burn understory for weeds and fallen limbs in the spring to allow native grasses to grow. 
    • For whitetail deer hunting, use the winter to budget for food plots and minerals, and then start placing them from February thru May.
    • Set trail cams in the spring to gain trail cam surveys for deer population and herd health.

 

Lone angus Cow near Sheridan, Wyoming in winter landowner essential winter prep

 

Managing Water Levels in Winter

Water is an elemental part of all land management. How you get water, where you store it, and whether or not you can modify your property to capture more of it are all very specific to state and region. Make sure to check with local planning authorities and commissions before making any changes to your property that directly affect water sources. With that in mind, here are some guidelines to follow when it comes to managing the water on your property:

  • Private land owners who own river bottom properties will need to secure proper flood insurance if available.
  • Examine bordering properties or improvements that might be affected by large flooding.
  • Work with a professional to ensure you’re following proper regulations. 
  • In arid states, make sure your wildlife, cattle, and livestock have enough water, food, and shelter. Keep in mind that water can be the hardest thing to acquire. 
  • Establish plenty of stock tanks throughout your property and ensure they’re properly equipped to not freeze during the winter.
  • In states with less strict water regulations, consider putting in additional water sources, keeping in mind that legalities and costs vary. 
  • Look at water catch systems and purchasable water rights for your property. 
  • Make sure you can keep water open during the winter for waterfowl when applicable. 
  • Use the winter months to apply for any relevant water permits or grants. 

 

Winter Prep Budget Considerations

Again, budget considerations will vary by property type, property size, and state. Generally, make sure to include the following line items in your landowner budget:

  • Any public land use fees, BLM leases etc.
  • Fertilizer
  • Fuel
  • Hay / Feed / Food Plots / Minerals
  • Infrastructure, such as out buildings and fencing
  • Labor
  • Licensing fees
  • Machinery and equipment
  • Maintenance
  • Net project returns if applicable
  • Propane
  • Property insurance
  • Property taxes
  • Supplies
  • Utilities
  • Veterinary expenses and animal vaccinations
  • Water rights fees

 

Regional-Specific Considerations

Perhaps the biggest regional consideration when it comes to winter property management is water, including how much of it you have access to, how much of it you might need to capture, water use rights and fees, and keeping water accessible to wintering wildlife. Additionally, you might want to consider the following when it comes to regional-specific winter tasks:

  • Any applicable burning your property requires
  • Fire mitigation around property boundaries and building envelopes
  • Setting food plots and minerals
  • Setting trail cams
  • Managing for winter wildlife migrations, shelter, food, and water

Tractor plowing a field in winter landowner essential winter prep

Considerations to Prepare Equipment for the Summer

Winter is a great time to make sure all of your recreational, farming, ranching, and hunting property is properly maintained, oiled, and ready to go come spring. Here are some things to consider when it comes to preparing your equipment for the summer:

  • Budgeting – Make sure to set aside enough of your annual budget for this essential task.
  • Repairs – Does any equipment need fixing, new tires, a new battery, etc.?
  • New equipment – Take stock of your current equipment and assess whether or not you need to add anything for the upcoming season.
  • Regular maintenance – Take your equipment into the local shop or dealer for annual maintenance. 
  • Selling equipment – Winter is a good time to sell or auction equipment you no longer need. 

 

Winter Events to Help Landowners Prepare for Summer

Dan encourages landowners to visit local, regional, and even national trade shows and events to learn more about industry trends. Hayden Outdoors provides a running list of upcoming farming, ranching, and recreational trade shows, updated four months in advance. Here are a few Dan recommends considering if you’re in the area:

  • Sporting and Hunting
    • Safari Club International Convention
    • Dallas Safari Club Convention
    • Southeast Wildlife Expo (SEWE)
    • International Sportsman’s Expos
    • Great Alaska Sportsman Show
    • Hunt & Fish Expo
    • Pheasant Fest
    • Nebraska Deer & Game Expo
    • Dixie Deer Classic
    • Look for your local trade show!
  • Cattle and Ranching
    • National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
    • Black Hills Stock Show
    • Red Bluff Bull & Gelding Trade Show
    • National Western Stock Show
  • Farming
    • World Ag Expo in California
    • Colorado Farm Show
    • Husker Harvest Days
    • 3i Show
    • Cattle U
    • Soil Health U
  • Equine
    • National Finals Rodeo (NFR)
    • NCHA Futurity
    • NRHA Futurity
    • NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity
    • Arabian Horse Show

 

Experts and Agency Resources for Landowners Preparing for Summer

Turning to your local agencies and chapters – and even attending a banquet or two! – can substantially add to your knowledge of large land ownership and management. Dan points out that regional trade shows will promote relevant local groups and non-profit organizations while local chapters host banquets to promote funding habitat management. Make sure to know when these events pop up in your area or region. Here are a few key resources to keep in mind:

  • Regional trade shows
  • Local chapter banquet and fundraisers
  • Hunting organizations and resources:
  • Farming
  • Ranching
    • National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
    • Your State-level Beef Associations
  • Equine
    • American Quarter Horse Association
    • American Paint Horse Association
    • Arabian Horse Association
    • American Horse Council
    • NCHA
    • NRHA
    • NRCHA
  • Magazines and Online Resources
    • High Plains Journal
    • Western Livestock Journal
    • American Cattlemen
    • Gray’s Sporting Journal
    • Other niche magazines and websites

 

a cornfield dusted with snow in winter landowner essential winter prep

 

Conclusion

“We’ve seen a lot of people become first-time rural landowners in recent years,” concludes Dan. “Whether you’re a new landowner, or your property has been in your family for generations and you simply want to improve it for sale, I recommend working with one of our Hayden Outdoors agents. Most of them own land – farms, cattle ranches, hunting properties – and they can offer a lot of support on how to be a successful rural land owner.” 

Unlike most real estate agencies, the rural real estate professionals at Hayden Outdoors speak the language and walk the walk. They can discuss vaccines and help you find a local farrier. They know soil types, seasons, rotation grazing, and crop cycles. If you’re buying the kind of land that requires a tractor (and all of the tractor implements) rather than a lawn mower, they’re your guys and gals. As Dan puts it, when it comes to staying on top of owning and managing your land year-round, education is key!

Talk with a Hayden Outdoors real estate agent in your state today to learn more.

Experts Share What You Should Know Before Buying An Equine Property

Some come to know the land or the farm or the ranch by way of being raised on one. It’s the same story for most of the agents at Hayden Outdoors, including Casey Stayman and Tracy Heckert. Both became lifelong experts on equine properties by trotting, galloping, or wandering their way through life on horseback. Today, they’re two of Hayden Outdoors’ leading specialists on buying and selling horse property, with extensive experience with what to know before buying equine property.

 

The Benefits of Owning Equine Property

 

Tracy and Casey are no strangers to the benefits of owning horse property; they don’t hesitate to talk about how horses have shaped their lives, and the power of being in such close contact with the impressive animals.

Casey Stayman Fell in Love with Horses at a Young Age

Casey was born and raised in Colorado. Her early days were spent picking up riding the old fashioned way.  “We’d buy horses for $50 to $200, and learn to ride on a trial basis. If you fell off, you got back on.” The grit and tenacity served her well, and she embarked on a proper equine education at 15 when one of her neighbors was training reining horses and took her under his wing. Later, after her son was born, horses helped her find her way through a severe case of postpartum depression. Fall off, get back on.

Today, she lives with her family in Wyoming, but still manages the Hokey Pokey Ranch Company in Livermore, Colorado. She rides mostly Western, working with roping horses and her new cutting horse and is actively involved with her local 4 H program. She’s been a real estate agent for over 15 years, and has proudly been with Hayden for eight of those, representing farm, ranch, and horse properties in Wyoming and Colorado.

 

Tracey Heckert had an Equine Upbringing

Tracy’s mom was an assistant to a trainer at a successful Arabian horse farm in Southern California. She was on horseback not long after she learned to walk and enrolled in 4-H when she was nine years old. She attributes most of her equine education to the organization, became a 4-H leader at one point and then briefly bred paint horses before moving to Colorado in 2004.

After settling in the Centennial State, Tracy founded a non-profit sanctuary for kids and horses – the Charis Youth Ranch. She partners rescued horses with at-risk youth, giving the horses a second chance and the kids an opportunity to build confidence and self esteem. She’s now based out of Fort Collins, Colorado, and rides mostly English, but, “I like an old Western saddle every once in a while.” Tracy has specialized in brokering farm, ranch, and equine property in Colorado since 2004.

While they’re horse lovers at heart, both agents are quick to point out the benefits must be weighed against a variety of other factors when you’re considering buying land that can accommodate horses. They walked through the important things to look for before you do.

 

Understanding Your Needs

 

Before you invest in real estate with the intention of putting horses on it, it’s important to take a close look at what you hope to accomplish. Casey often asks these questions to potential clients to get a sense of what they need:

  • What kind of horses do you have? Or are you looking to purchase your first one?
  • Do you ride in a certain discipline?
  • Are you looking for a basic or sophisticated property?
  • Will you need to set up a tack room?
  • Are you looking for pasture?
  • What are the zoning, covenants, and infrastructure requirements?

Tracy continues, “You have to cover the bases from two perspectives – what the horse will need, and what the client wants.”

Horse Property Features

 

Both agents outline the minimal requirements for a horse to live on a piece of land:

  • Fencing
  • Turn out
  • Feed
  • Water
  • Shelter

From there, the conditions get more specific to each client’s – and each horse’s – needs. Says Tracy, “I really try to educate my clients on the different types of fencing. If you buy some beautiful acreage, but it’s peppered with old barbed wire, you’re going to need to pull it out and definitely put in a new fence.”

 

a palomino horse grazing in spring with gentle mountains visible behind - know before buying equine property

 

Property size is an obvious but very important consideration. The agents have seen a trend in people wanting to downsize their equine property while still maintaining some of the key aspects of a larger horse property. For these buyers, Tracy and Casey look at equine-specific developments with shared facilities and infrastructure. If you want to purchase a large parcel of land for your horses, you might need to consider the cost of hiring a live-in caretaker to help with maintenance.

Pay attention to topography, grasses, and soil type. Horses need plenty of grass but typically don’t fare well on rocky soil. Talk with your agent about the rain cycles and how those cycles might affect the grass and hay seasons. Make sure your horses will have sufficient access to a water source, or consider installing one.

And if your goal is to ride, consider whether there are already trails on the property or access to nearby trail systems and riding areas.

Working with a Real Estate Agent to Buy Equine Property

 

Horse properties in the United States can require additional knowledge of the land and a particular attention to detail on your agent’s part, so it’s important to ensure you’re working with someone who has a deep understanding of horses and land.

Some important questions to ask your recreational real estate agent when looking for land for your horses are:

  • Do you ride or own horses?
  • What are the current zoning requirements for owning horses in this area?
  • How many animals am I allowed to have on my property?
  • What is the topography of the region?
  • Are there any poisonous plants or predators to be aware of?
  • If I want to build infrastructure on my horse property, what are the expected building costs and what is the builders’ expected timeline?
  • What are the neighboring properties like and do they pose any risks?
  • Are there any nearby potential traffic hazards to my horse land?
  • Can I access the property towing a horse trailer?
  • Are there nearby equine facilities or training centers?

Tracy, Casey and other Hayden Outdoors agents offer an innate understanding of horse properties for sale in the West, or how best to prepare yours if you’re looking to sell. They know what to look for, what to avoid, and how to work with local and regional agencies to ensure you and your horses will be happy.

 

Financing Your Horse Farm

 

Another important reason to find the right recreational real estate agent when buying horse property? Financing it. A seasoned agent can help you navigate and understand your financing options and considerations, including:

  • What kind of loan you need and/or qualify for
  • Factors to consider when financing, such as:
    • Your overall budget and how much money you can put down
    • Adding additional structures, such as barns, arenas, fencing, or round pens the property will require
  • The role of the lender in the purchasing process
    • Inquire about whether or not lenders in the area offer loan products specifically designed for horse properties
  • Understand property easements, access, and right of ways

 

3 chestnut horses peeking their head over the door of its stall at golden hour

 

Maintaining and Inspecting Horse Property

 

Your horse property is home to you, and it’s home to your horses, so it’s particularly important to maintain the land and do a thorough property inspection before purchasing. A good horse property agent will walk the land with you, looking for key traits like out buildings, round pens, stables, and water, as well as potential pitfalls like poisonous plants, gopher holes or prairie dog towns, and old fencing.

Once you own the land, it’s imperative to maintain it and to understand the costs of doing so. Casey emphasizes sourcing your horse’s hay. “It’s essential to keep hay local to avoid getting the horses sick.” Beyond that, you’ll need to maintain all outbuildings and fencing.

When it comes to grazing, here are some best practices for managing pastures:

Take an inventory of your pasture to learn about the species of grass, where it’s growing, water sources, and fencing.

Establish an area where horses can graze while the rest of the pasture recovers during wet or winter months.

Learn more about your county’s grazing requirement per animal per acre.

Rotate grazing to give sections a chance to regenerate.

Once animals have moved on from a grazing zone, mowing down the grasses in that area can help promote more productive and more nutritional new growth.

Test your soil and apply the appropriate fertilizer at the appropriate time.

Put together a master plan for your pastures to help avoid overgrazing.

 

Additional Considerations to Know Before Buying Equine Property

 

Owning horses and horse property requires extensive consideration. Some additional things to think about before purchasing horse property include:

  • The legal considerations of owning horse property, including its proximity to neighboring homes, land, or animals
  • The liability and insurance requirements for owning your equine land
  • Local laws and regulations related to horse ownership
  • Nearby professional support, including:
    • Large animal veterinarians in your area
    • Horse trainers
    • Property managers or live-in caretakers (if you have a large operation)
    • Farriers

 

Conclusion

 

Riding out from your own stable onto trails that wind through your land can be incredibly rewarding. Watching the sun sink beyond the red rims of Colorado’s canyons on horseback, taking the family on a trail ride up into the hills of Wyoming, or trailering your stock to the nearby show jumping competition – it really doesn’t get any better. Understanding what to look for when buying a horse property makes owning one all the better. The Hayden Outdoors agents that specialize in equestrian properties know these benefits as well as anyone, and they’re here to help you find your ideal equine property and understand the future of horse property ownership and management.

Casey wraps up by noting, “There are so many facets based on where people are on their journey with their horse.” Tracy adds, “But we come by our work naturally by way of being horse people ourselves.” Indeed, people who own horses, or want to, are Tracy’s and Casey’s people, and just like finding the perfect horse, they’re experienced in finding horse people the ideal horse property.

View our team of horse property agents today!

Rural Property Forest Fire Prevention & Protection Tips

The Threat of Forest Fires Is a Very Real One for Rural Property Owners.


Whether it’s timberland, farmland, grassland or a cabin in the woods, protecting your property from the ravages of an out-of-control blaze is essential. The team at Hayden Outdoors represents land purchases across the country – many of which are in the forest, country or grassland areas. Our expert team will suggest fire prevention strategies, and use our experiences to communicate the best methods of keeping your buildings and livestock safe. 

 

Tips to Help Protect Your Rural Property and Home from Wildland Forest Fires

 

Make Sure You Have Adequate Fire Insurance Coverage on Your Home and Other Buildings on Your Property.

Regularly review this policy to make sure it covers all potential risks associated with wildfires. Take a moment to review this policy with an agent – ensuring that all the necessary coverages are in place to safeguard you from the potential risks that wildfires present.

Hayden Outdoors’ Evan Anderson offers insurance programs for landowners throughout the country, as a service to our clients. “Fire insurance can offer much more than coverage on buildings. We have policies through providers across the country that protect your investments beyond homes and personal property, including loss of income, loss of feed for livestock and loss of livestock itself.” Hayden Outdoors offers a full line of insurance for rural landowners, including fire protection, crop insurance, drought insurance and more.

 

Clear Away Dead Leaves, Limbs and Brush That May Accumulate Near Your Home or Other Structures on The Property.

This will reduce the amount of fuel available to a fire should it reach your property. Also consider cutting down or clearing away trees or lower limbs from within 50 feet of your primary home on the property.

Christopher Licata, a Hayden Outdoors agent and forester, sites some pretty interesting statistics on fire control.The Washington State DNR studies show that as much as 80 percent of homes lost to wildland fire may have been saved if brush around the homes were cleared and defensible space created around structures,” says Licata. California remains one of the most fire ridden states in the country. In a 2022 post-fire analysis by CALFIRE, homes with an effective D-Space had a 6 times better chance of remaining intact.” Landowners need to put in the effort now to protect their investments in the future.

 

 

Create a Buffer Zone Around the Perimeter of Your Home and Property  Improvements

 

Start by removing flammable vegetation and trees and replacing them with fire-resistant landscaping features such as mulch or stone pathways, gravel beds, or rock walls. Colorado State University’s Forest Service division has a nice diagram above called the “Home Ignition Zone” to show the effective range of fire control in relation to your home. Defensible Zones are broken into three zones in relation to how far the fuel resides near your home.

Licata coaches landowners when buying and maintaining their property in forested areas. It is important to think of your defensible space efforts in annual terms. The initial treatment is just that and keeping your property safe will be an ongoing project. You can do a lot of the work yourself. It is a great chance to get outdoors with your family, working on and learning about your property. You would be spending time together while protecting your home, so it is a win-win situation.”

 

Clear a Buffer Zone Along Your Property Boundary

Keep this path disced and clear of weeds throughout the spring thru the fall. Work with your neighbors to cooperate on fire mitigation efforts so that you are all working together to reduce risk.

 

Install Fire Resistant Roofing Material on Buildings That May be At-Risk From Burning Embers in a Wildfire.

This will give added protection against flying sparks and ash that can ignite nearby structures even when there is no direct flame contact.

 

Make Sure You Have Adequate Water Sources for Fighting Fires

Consider your property’s accessible water sources including nearby reservoirs filled with non-potable water like rainwater and large tanks that can store thousands of gallons of water. Wells on site, rivers or creeks onsite could also be used with a pump. Additionally, there are options for on-site water sources such as this ranch fire control tank!

 


Install a Sprinkler System Around Your Home and Other Structures

You can install a system that will automatically turn on in the event of a fire to help protect against flames, smoke, and ash. Research has shown sprinkler systems to be effective at structure protection during wildfire passage (Walksinshaw and Ault 2009).

Some landowners that live in the mountains place sprinklers around their home that tie into a main well or water source with a pump for emergency use. Ranchers often have trailers with water tanks and hose ready to drive to spot fires to assist in small fires. 

 

Have a Plan for Evacuating People & Animals From Your Property

Having an emergency plan can help save lives or a property if a wildfire occurs. Make sure everyone is familiar with the plan and designate an evacuation route away from any potential danger should you need to leave quickly. Stock trailers should always be empty and ready to roll in case animals need to be transported quickly.

 

Always Have Your Volunteer Fire Department Contact Info Accessible

Keep your local station’s phone number saved on your cell phone, posted in your home or barns in case you spot a fire nearby. Consult your local rural fire department on their suggestions to protect your property. Many times they will come out to tour your property and give you tips on how to reduce the risk associated with rural fires.

 

Install a Trail Camera, or Game Camera, with Cellular Technology.

These wireless tools offer three main benefits to landowners. Security, game management and risk detection. With solar battery supply and cellular technology, you can have videos and photos sent to your phone from your property instantly using these motion-sensored cameras. Hayden Outdoors agents usually install trail cameras on their listings for security of showings and for wildlife surveys. But having one for yourself can really provide many benefits. Pick up a Reveal Camera from our online store to protect your property today!

By following these tips, you can take proactive steps to ensure that your rural property or home are as safe as possible from the threat of forest fires. Remember, it’s always better to be prepared than sorry when it comes to protecting what matters most – your safety and your home!

 

What to Know Before Building a Gun Range on Your Property

For the past 35 years, Clay Owens has been among the top names in big game hunting in the U.S. He was an outfitter in Western Colorado, managing three of the largest operations in the state for 20 years. Today, he still actively guides hunts near Steamboat Springs, and in 2018, he applied his deep knowledge of rangelands and Midwest hunting properties to a different endeavor – recreational real estate agent for Hayden Outdoors. Neatly put, Clay knows a lot about building a gun range on your property.

As a guide on some of the country’s most notable hunting lands, Clay became an expert in setting up long-range shooting courses. Now he puts that knowledge to good use, helping his clients find property that can accommodate a personal gun range, and he’ll be quick to note that when you’re building a gun range on your property, there are several considerations you should keep in mind. It’s also important to note these considerations are general guidelines, and the specific requirements vary depending on your location. 

Clay stresses, “It’s crucial to consult with local authorities, legal professionals, and shooting range experts who can provide guidance based on your jurisdiction’s laws and regulations.” With that in mind, he also provided these key factors to consider when setting up a personal gun range.

 

Building a shooting range on your property to practice for hunting - Clay Owens guides Allen Treadwell on a predator hunt filmed for Life on the Land TV Show.

Building a shooting range on your property to practice for hunting – Hayden Outdoors agent Clay Owens guides Allen Treadwell on a predator hunt filmed for Life on the Land TV Show.

Assessing the Suitability of Your Property for a Gun Range

 

There are a variety of property considerations for home gun ranges, starting with size and a proper backdrop for the target area. 

“The biggest safety factor is your backdrop; it needs to be big enough to prevent ricochet and bullets from flying past the target, typically 20 – 60 feet high.” Clay explains this backdrop can be an established natural feature, such as a cliff wall, or something you build, like a large dirt bank. If you’re looking to buy land that’s well suited for a home gun range or build one on land you already own, Clay recommends utilizing heavy topography, such as canyons and hills, for a backdrop. The parcel should also be a minimum of 40 acres, although simple home handgun ranges require less acreage. If your goal is long-range shooting, the number goes up, with 500 acres being the minimum land you should look for to ensure success and safety. 

To put this into real world context, Clay is currently overseeing the build and installment of a long range at the Hayden Outdoors Ranch in Nebraska. About as complex and involved as a personal gun range can get, this impressive amenity will feature a five-stand shot range for sporting clays, a hand gun range with a cliff wall backdrop to prevent any escaped projectiles, and a 1,550-yard long range with steel plate targets every 100 yards. All of this is located in a canyon where shooters can practice out of the wind. 

 

Understanding Legal and Regulatory Requirements

 

Once you have established a workable piece of land for building a gun range on your property, it’s important to check in with relevant county officials to ensure you’re complying with any permitting, insurance requirements, private gun range laws, and noise ordinances. 

Clay suggests starting by visiting your county website to determine who the best person to talk to might be. Typically this is the county commissioner or sheriff’s office. And while it’s not necessary on private land, he also suggests putting up proper signage around the gun range so visitors know it’s an active shooting zone. 

“Generally speaking, most rural areas are not going to have any kind of regulation for that type of activity. The closer you get to an urban or neighborhood setting, the more you’ll need to take noise and compliance into account.” 

 

Safety Considerations for Your Home Gun Range

 

Again, Clay emphasizes the importance of implementing proper backdrops, bulletproof barriers, and safety berms to mitigate ricochet or stray bullets. It’s also key to establish clear safety protocols and range rules. “It’s important to let people know when you are having active fire on the range. For dude ranches, hunting properties, or family plots where people are doing other activities, put up a sign that designates the range is active.”

Dan Brunk, Marketing Director at Hayden Outdoors, sights in his rifle before his elk hunt.

Insurance and Liability

 

Clay points out that building a gun range on your property typically doesn’t require insurance riders, but it’s important to check with your insurance agent to make sure. “If you have gun range courses or start charging for use, then you’ll need to explore liability insurance and waivers.” 

Whether private or part of your property’s larger revenue generation activities, understanding the risks associated with operating a gun range is imperative to its success and the safety of its users. If you’re not sure what these risks might be, talk with a gun range expert to learn more or reach out to Evan Anderson, the Hayden Outdoors’ Insurance Representative. 

 

Private Gun Range Noise Management

 

If you’re lucky enough to shoot on a 1,500-acre gun range like the one Clay is building at the Hayden Outdoors Ranch, noise is most likely not an issue. The sound of shots fired will ultimately be swallowed up by the surrounding landscape or fade into the vastness of such immense acreage. But if you’re building a private gun range on less acreage and closer to neighbors, it’s important to understand – and mitigate – the impact of shooting range noise. 

Start by understanding the potential noise impact on neighbors, and communicating with them your intent for the range, your frequency and hours of use, and then address any concerns they might have. Taking a few minutes to talk with your neighbors now can save you countless angry phone calls and complaints later. Also research sound-dampening techniques and materials and acoustical barriers.

 

Environmental Impact

 

The environmental impact of a home gun range is something to consider from the very beginning of the process. It can influence the design of target retrieval roads and trails, and all ranges should consider soil contamination from lead but especially those built near natural water sources, such as streams and creeks flowing through the property. 

“In regards to lead, there are companies that will come and retrieve the lead out of banks and shooting ranges,” says Clay. “For folks who are really concerned about lead contamination, you can shoot copper bullets exclusively.” 

Additionally, be mindful of target retrieval roads and trails, making sure they don’t disrupt wildlife habitat such as bedding, roosting, and resting areas. This is particularly important if the land doubles as a hunting property

Dr. Peddicord of Environmental Range Protection has years of experience consulting private land owners and public entities on proper range environmental practices. “A fundamental objective is to keep bullets and shot off neighboring properties. For rifle/pistol ranges this requires appropriate space and terrain to place adequate backstops far enough from property boundaries that bullets ricocheted or flipped off the backstop will not reach the property boundary.” For shotgun clay target venues, recognize that shot deposits much farther downrange than often expected, especially when shooting downslope. As an initial generalization, recognize that shot may fall 300 yards and perhaps more from the shooting position, depending on terrain and site conditions.

 “It is important that shot and target debris do not reach adjoining property and that they do not fall into waters or wetlands on your property. If siting a range for a business or more frequent use, the most fundamental management consideration is periodic reclaiming and recycling of bullets and shot on ranges. Keep in mind this is much more efficient on moderately slopping un-forested areas without boulder fields where the necessary equipment can operate effectively.”

For further gun range consultation please reach out to Dr. Peddicord at http://environmentalrangeprotection.com.


Designing Your Home Gun Range

 

As discussed, your personal shooting range is going to be specific to your property and its allowances. Before you begin, determine the layout of the range (indoor or outdoor) and the appropriate shooting lanes and target distances. This is an excellent time to consult with a shooting range expert on best practices to ensure you get the most out of yours. 

It’s also important to think about orientation if you have the flexibility to do so. For example, a south-to-north range will maximize natural light on the targets while minimizing glare from natural light in the shooter’s eyes. 

Select appropriate materials for construction, targets, and safe backdrops. This will vary if you’re building an indoor or outdoor range. Earth berms, log walls, and railroad ties walls work well for outdoor backdrops as do swinging steel targets that can absorb a bullet’s velocity without shattering. They also allow the shooter to hear the hit, versus having to walk long distances to confirm impact. 

 

Equipment and Maintenance

 

The size and location of your home gun range will determine the equipment required to maintain it. Targets, shooting lanes, and shooting benches all require upkeep, so it’s important to keep this in mind when budgeting for your range. 

Setting up a maintenance schedule can help. Consider the work required to maintain the backdrop – be it a natural one or something you’ve built. Additionally, map out what you think will be required to keep your shooting range in proper working order, including trail maintenance, materials reviews, target replacements, etc. 

Clay points out, “If you’re having to construct a backdrop, you’re going to always need to add dirt. For active ranges, you’ll be replacing targets constantly.”

Safety Training and Education

 

Personal shooting ranges provide a lot of opportunity. There’s the thrill of shooting, the possibility to improve, and camaraderie of target practice with friends. But there’s also the benefit of learning about the sport in a safe environment, one that can promote responsible gun ownership and firearm handling. 

For those looking to incorporate gun safety training and education into their home gun range, Clay recommends a few things. First, the NRA offers an abundance of gun safety and gun education resources, especially for those who are new to the sport like young children and women – the fastest growing segment of gun owners. 

“I also always recommend people go to their local gun shop. Talk to them about training or people in the area who offer it locally. It’s a great way to learn the basics of gun safety as well as any local rules and regulations that might be relevant to your gun range.”

 

Conclusion

 

Adding a home gun range to your recreational property is a great way to increase the land’s versatility while also adding value. Clay concludes, “Adding a gun range to your property can absolutely increase its worth. It’ll enhance the value to a certain segment of buyers – people looking for hunting land with a range set up.”

To this point, he recommends getting in touch with a recreational real estate agent as soon as you decide you’re interested in a gun range property. Clay uses his expertise to identify and purchase legacy properties for his clients – the kind that speak to personal passions and generational family involvement. 

The avid outdoorsman drives the point home. “My family loves to go out and clink at different things. My wife, daughter, and son are all shooters. It becomes a fun competition with our kids, and it’s a lifelong activity for our family. There are a lot of people buying firearms for recreational shooting, now more than ever before.” 

Clay is quick to reiterate the need for encouraging responsible and safe firearm use, while also pointing out how building a gun range on your property offers an excellent opportunity to accomplish both. If you’re interested in learning more about selling property you feel is ideal for a home gun range, or you’re in the market to buy recreational land that can become the future home of one, talk with Clay Owens or a Hayden Outdoors real estate professional today. They’re the outdoor experts in the type of hunting or personal gun range property you’re looking for. 

 

Expert Recommendations for Buying Row Crop Farmland

A century farm is one that’s been in a family for over one hundred years. It’s an obvious enough fact, but one you probably wouldn’t come across unless you were talking to a farmer who owns one, like John Herrity.

To clarify, he’s not the sole owner of his family’s ground – he and his siblings all claim a stake – but his family has been working the soil since 1888. Today, John mostly focuses on real estate as a recreational and large-land real estate specialist at Hayden Outdoors. But he didn’t get there by way of the city. John knows row crop farming as well as anyone can, because he’s been a part of it since he was born – a generational learner of loving and working corn and soybeans in rotation as constant as calendar years. 

On a recent afternoon, John talked through some of the most important things to consider when buying row crop farmland providing a glimpse into the life-long expertise that sets Hayden Outdoors real estate agents apart from the rest. 

 

Wheat outlined by golden afternoon sunlight Expert Recommendations for Buying Row Crop Farmland

What is “Row Crop Farming?”

 

In its simplest terms, row crop farming, or row cropping, is production agriculture. Plants are grown in rows and then harvested by the farmer. John adds, “It has its benefits, like tractors being able to move through fields without harming the plants, allowing for easier cultivation, watering, and maintenance. Row crop farming also facilitates the optimal number of plants per acre of ground.” 

 

What are some of the best crops for row crop practices in the Midwest and/or as an investment?

 

The Midwest is row crop country. South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, and Iowa all offer premium farm land and growing conditions. Farmers can cultivate a variety of crops, including corn, soy, wheat, alfalfa, and organic vegetables. In the Dakotas, Iowa, and Illinois, corn and soybeans rotate because corn typically takes a lot of nutrients out of the soil while soybeans allow the land to replenish. In some parts of the region, and with the right fertilizers, it’s corn on corn combined with some no till practices. 

 

How can farmers optimize yield and productivity in row crop farming?

 

The short answer is a few words – good crop rotation, herbicides, fertilizers, and watering. To elaborate on that, optimizing crop yield and productivity involves using a combination of sustainable farming practices such as precision agriculture, soil health management, and crop rotation. Farmers can collect and analyze data and then make informed decisions about when and where to modify practices resulting in more efficient resource use and increased crop yield. 

 

What should a buyer consider when looking at farmland in the Midwest for row crops?

 

It depends on what type of buyer it is. According to John, “There are generally two types of row crop buyers – producers and investors. Producers should look at the land for what they can grow. These days, the typical ag land buyer is very savvy. They know what they’re buying, the crops, numbers, and yields. Investors are interested in the income of the land and will want to invest in property that provides a viable return.” 

 

Harvesters working in the soybean harvest Expert Recommendations for Buying Row Crop Farmland

 

Why is soil health important in row crop farming?

 

Soil health is important in any kind of farming, but particularly in row crop farming. It directly affects crop health and yields and the sustainability of the land. There are a variety of things farmers can do to improve soil health such as cover crops, composting, reduced tillage, and using fertilizers. John points out, “It’s important for row crop farmers to work with an agronomist who can take soil samples and determine which nutrients need to be supplemented.” Corn and soy rotation is considered best practice to help preserve soil health. 

 

What is precision agriculture and what are the benefits in row crop farming?

 

Precision ag turns the field into a grid and farmers can take soil samples within that grid, pinpointing areas within the field that need less or different fertilizer. It reduces waste and input costs as well as minimizes environmental impact. “A lot is happening in the farm world that is making farming easier and more precise. There are GPS tractors that don’t require steering. In Brazil, they’re testing autonomous tractors. Pivot systems that have GPS functions are another technological breakthrough in farming. You can be sitting on your boat on the lake and water your fields from afar.”

 

What are some of the technologies used in sustainable agriculture for row crop farming?

 

There are a variety of row crop farming practices that prioritize environmental sustainability while optimizing crop yield, including reduced tillage, cover crops, composting, and organic farming. Reducing tillage can improve soil health and mitigate erosion while also increasing carbon sequestration. Cover crops aims to retain soil moisture, reduce weeds, and provide habitat for beneficial insects. Composting contributes to soil health and fertility, which reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers and organic farming eliminates the use of harmful pesticides and fertilizers. 

 

What are some of the best practice irrigation techniques being used in row crop farming to conserve water?

 

As water and irrigation become increasingly relevant issues throughout the U.S., finding ways to conserve has also become important to a farm’s sustainability. While there are a variety of new technologies out there, such as drop irrigation, soil moisture sensors, and remote monitoring systems, John notes the most effective water saving technologies are actually within the seed selection itself. “Seed companies are researching genetically modified seeds that require less water or rainfall. It starts with knowing your regional seed salesman. Seed companies help educate farmers on what works best for that region and grow zone. It’s key to establish a relationship with a local agronomist for precise soil testing and amendment requirements.” 

 

What future opportunities do you see coming up in row crops?

 

If you’re looking to get into row crop farming, it’s best to find a farmer who is looking to pass the farm along to a younger generation. Farming used to be very generational – changing hands from parents to children and so-on. But these days, some kids don’t want to take over the family farm. They think the life is too remote or too difficult. In some of these cases, farmers can find someone who is looking to get into row crop farming. Other times, older generations don’t want to burden the younger family members with the estate, so they’ll sell the farm. We are seeing farms being sold to investors or real estate investment trusts (REITs).”

There are also government programs that can subsidize farm ownership if your land is enrolled. Farm Credit Services provides great lending opportunities for both investors and producers, and the Farm Service Agency offers first-time farmer financing up to $600,000. 

 

In all, what makes the Midwest such great farm country?

 

In thinking about what makes the Midwest such optimal farm country – as it has been for hundreds of years – John replies, “Great climate, good rainfall. Farmers can increase their yields without additional irrigation. And of course, back in the day, pasture was important, too. Farmers found a good place to raise cattle, hogs, and families. And they settled and stayed.” Much like John’s family did in Elk Point, South Dakota in 1888. 

These days, farms must meet an ever-growing demand, and families don’t always settle in for generations like they once did. But row crop farmland remains a very valuable commodity, and finding the right real estate agent to help you buy or sell it is essential to success.

The land experts at Hayden Outdoors know soil types and how to put a value on them. They understand regional rainfall, how much water it takes to grow corn, and what type of irrigation a particular crop requires. They’re an effective go-between for investors and producers. These aren’t your typical real estate agent qualifications, but it is the type of skill set you’ll find in your Hayden Outdoors professional – someone who knows how to buy and sell row crop farmland because it isn’t just a job or a hobby; it’s a lifestyle.