Is it possible to become a rancher when you aren’t born into a land inheritance? Aimee Danch and Jeremiah Stent from Square Mile Ranch join us today to talk about their recent purchase of a 370-acre ranch in Wallowa, Oregon.
Like people buy a fixer-upper home for their first one. We’re buying a fixer-upper ranch for our first one and we feel really excited about (it). -Jeremiah Stent
Both Jeremiah and Aimee have experience managing ranches across and even outside the country. Originally their goal was to manage livestock and land rather than own their own. They planned on being able to “sell semi truckloads of finished animals and get a paycheck.” But the allure of ownership, autonomy, personally contributing to a local community and being able to manage at their own discretion led them to start looking at land for sale. By pursuing services from the Farm Service Agency Joint Financing Program they were able to gain access to operating loans. Pairing that with an individual investor allowed them to take their first steps into ranch ownership.
That’s what people think about farmers and ranchers buying land. They (think) they probably pay for it with what they’re going to grow there. But that's not very common anymore” - Aimee Danch
Despite working very long hours and needing to find supplemental income off the farm Aimee explains that their “quality of life is so high.” They enjoy the food they produce, the “amazing relations” with their neighbors, the “hands-on time with their daughter” and the control over their own schedule.
There is a huge amount of flexibility in this lifestyle and just the sheer beauty and satisfaction of what we’re doing seems to make up for the other parts.” - Aimee Danch
At this time they are raising grass-fed beef, pastured hogs, pastured chickens and grass-fed lambs. Their farming model relies on a small quantity of high-quality livestock focused on a customer base that is “looking to make a direct connection to where they’re sourcing their food and to know what their food is eating.” In this model, they are able to sit down and tell their customers their story and to have them ask questions. This has created a very loyal following in their customer base that by word of mouth continues to expand. I took a visit to one of their pork drop off sites in Boise and was struck by the ability of their product to be used as a powerful tool for building a real community.
Their main takeaway for would-be ranchers is to “find somebody to work for that's going to help pay for your education.” Work in the field and gain experience before jumping all in to avoid “a really steep learning curve getting into this.” They also suggest “seeking out people that are going to give you a really hard honest truth about what it looks like.” “Unless you can afford your mistakes” this experience and knowledge will save you from being overwhelmed.
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