Ranchers charge tourists for a dose of reality

  • The New West: Welded cowboy says howdy in Illiad, Montana

    Steve Collector
 

SALINA, Utah - Jeff Powell and Susan Rottman are schooling about 60 ranchers in the vocabulary of the New West: Family farms are destination vacations, chores are recreational activities and cattle drives are adventure tourism.

This is a crash course in "recreation ranching," a fledgling industry in the mountain states and, some say, the economic salvation of the rural West.

"This is for people like me who had to leave the farm and are hoping someday to find a way back," says Russ Cowley of the Six-County Association of Governments, at the first of three seminars around Utah this spring. "We're going to have to look at value-added agriculture to save our operations."

To that end, Wyoming ranchers Powell and Rottman teach Utah families how to market their farms to tourists. "If you've got a gully that keeps washing out, you can find people who will pay to come out and fix it," says Powell. "Ranch work can be exciting, at least for people who didn't grow up with it."

These aren't dude ranches, where the sole purpose is to entertain city slickers with faux cowboying. Recreational ranches are agricultural businesses run by people who earn most of their living through livestock or crops.

State Rep. Brad Johnson has been guiding and outfitting hunters on his ranch for 40 years and recently began letting tourists participate in cattle drives.

"I had 18 ladies, all liberal Democrats, and me a conservative Republican, on one of our cattle drives," says Johnson from beneath a black cowboy hat. "By the end, some of them were saying I had changed their minds about the image of ranchers."

But farm families may have to make some adjustments if they choose to open their homes to "greenies."

"You may not have to be friendly to your cows all the time, but with visitors you have to or they won't come back," Powell says.

"Travelers today do not want to rough it. They want a hot shower every morning and while they may sleep under the stars one night, they'll want a bed the rest of the weekend," adds Rottman.

And some traditional ranch chores may not be popular with all tourists. "A dude will love branding a cow, but she may not enjoy seeing the ears docked and the castration," Rottman says. "They want to see horses and pet them, but they may be afraid to get on and ride them."

There is one drawback to introducing outsiders to rural Western lifestyles: The visitors may like it too much.

"If they come, you want to make sure they go back home," says Rottman. "We still haven't figured out a way to convince them to stay at home and just send their money."

Christopher Smith reports for the Salt Lake Tribune.

High Country News Classifieds
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Western Slope Conservation Center in Paonia, CO, seeks a dynamic leader who is mission-driven, hardworking, and a creative problem-solver. WSCC is committed to creating...
  • PLANNED GIVING OFFICER
    National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the nation's oldest and largest national parks nonprofit advocacy organization seeks a Planned Giving Officer. Do you find energy in...
  • NORTHERN NEW MEXICO PROJECT MANAGER
    Seeking qualified Northern New Mexico Project Manager to provide expertise, leadership and support to the organization by planning, cultivating, implementing and managing land conservation activities,...
  • REGIONAL TRAIL STEWARDSHIP COORDINATOR
    Are you passionate about connecting people to the outdoors? The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) is looking for someone with trail maintenance and volunteer engagement...
  • TRAIL CREW MEMBER
    Position Title: Trail Crew Member Position Type: 6 month seasonal position, April 17-October 15, 2023 Location: Field-based; The RFOV office is in Carbondale, CO, and...
  • CEO BUFFALO NATIONS GRASSLANDS ALLIANCE
    Chief Executive Officer, Remote Exempt position for Buffalo Nations Grasslands Alliance is responsible for the planning and organization of BNGA's day-to-day operations
  • IDAHO DIRECTOR - WESTERN WATERSHEDS PROJECT
    Western Watersheds Project seeks an Idaho Director to continue and expand upon WWP's campaign to protect and restore public lands and wildlife in Idaho, with...
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT, NA'AH ILLAHEE FUND
    Na'ah Illahee Fund (NIF) is seeking a highly qualified Development Director to join our team in supporting and furthering our mission. This position will create...
  • DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, NA'AH ILLAHEE FUND
    Na'ah Illahee Fund (NIF) is seeking a highly qualified Operations Director to join our team. This position will provide critical organizational and systems support to...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) is seeking a leader to join our dynamic team in the long-term protection of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM). We...
  • GRASSLAND RESEARCH COORDINATOR
    The Grassland Research Coordinator is a cooperative position with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that performs and participates in and coordinates data collection for...
  • HYDROELECTRIC PLANT
    1.3 MW FERC licensed hydroelectric station near Taylorsville CA. Property is 184 deeded acres surrounded by National Forrest.
  • "PROFILES IN COURAGE: STANDING AGAINST THE WYOMING WIND"
    13 stories of extraordinary courage including HCN founder Tom Bell, PRBRC director Lynn Dickey, Liz Cheney, People of Heart Mountain, the Wind River Indian Reservation...
  • GRANT WRITER
    JOB DESCRIPTION: This Work involves the responsibility of conducting research in the procurement of Federal, State, County, and private grant funding. Additional responsibilities include identifying...
  • MATADOR RANCH STEWARD
    The Matador Ranch Steward conducts annual stewardship projects at the Matador Ranch Preserve and occasionally supports stewardship projects elsewhere in Montana's Northern Great Plains. The...
  • COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT ASSISTANT
    The Idaho Conservation League is seeking a motivated individual to help build public support for key strategic initiatives in northern Idaho through public outreach and...
  • ASPIRE COLORADO SUSTAINABLE BODY AND HOME CARE PRODUCTS
    Go Bulk! Go Natural! Our products are better for you and better for the environment. Say no to single-use plastic. Made in U.S.A., by a...
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Field seminars for adults in the natural and human history of the Colorado Plateau, with lodge and base camp options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • CORTEZ COLORADO LOT FOR SALE
    Historic tree-lined Montezuma Ave. Zoned Neighborhood Business. Build your dream house or business right in the heart of town. $74,000. Southwest Realty
  • ATTORNEY AD
    Criminal Defense, Code Enforcement, Water Rights, Mental Health Defense, Resentencing.