Category Archives: Thoughts

Pig Science

Shabbat Shalom!

Check out this short, but informative video on eating pork.

test everything, hold onto what is good – 1 Thessalonians 5:21

Before science we had a Creator who told us what to eat and what not to. Today science is backing up His wisdom, such as when it comes to eating swine. This is a bit of pig science.

Source: Pig Science

https://www.119ministries.com/teachings/video-teachings/detail/pig-science/

Unclean pig image

 

Convictions of Honor and Good Sense

Another great blog by Paul Marchant

Irons in the fire: Convictions of honor and good sense

Paul Marchant for Progressive Cattle Published on 24 February 2020

His color was just ordinary old bay, but he was a real looker – big, stout hip; nice, neat, pretty head; solid, heavy bone; four black feet and built like a brick house.

I wasn’t a real virtuoso in the art of horse trading, but I figured a $1,200 investment was a surefire deal on one of the prettiest 3-year-old geldings I’d ever had a crack at. We weren’t exactly flush with cash, but I convinced my wife I knew what I was doing. In a couple years, and with a few wet saddle blankets, there was no doubt we’d get four or five times our money back. He was that kind of a horse.

Like the shiniest girl in the homecoming court, he seemed to have figured out that his looks could help him get away with quite a bit more than the average geek at the back of the class. From the first ride, he was a little goosey, but he was an honest bucker. He’d hog and snort pretty much the whole way across a 320, but he’d always buck in a straight line, so I got a counterfeit confidence in my super-punchiness. Every time I stepped aboard, I could count on some sort of action from him. But somehow, he never bucked me off, and I wasn’t going to give in.

It was mid-October. We were gathering off the mountain. It was nearly dark, and I’d been riding the prima donna bay since early that morning with nary a hint of mischief from him. I’d picked up half a dozen pairs and was following them down a steep trail out of a long canyon. To the right of the trail was a rough, rocky mass of brush and boulders. To the left was a steep 80-foot drop-off, with the creek running down the bottom of the canyon. It was at this particular juncture of space and time that the bay rascal decided to cut loose. I rode him through the first couple of jumps, but it quickly became apparent I was in a bad spot.

There was going to be a wreck. I bailed off on the uphill side and ended up with my feet in the air, in the middle of a big snowberry bush. By the time I’d gathered my senses and body parts and determined an ankle sprain and a bruised ego were the extent of my injuries, the noise and ruckus down the trail had stopped. I hobbled 75 yards down the trail where I found my erstwhile can’t-miss money maker in a scraped-up pile of horseflesh. He’d somehow managed to get his front leg through the breast collar, which sent him tail over tea kettle and brought his rampage to a halt. I got the mess of tack and horse untangled and got him resaddled. The horse didn’t really appear to be injured, but there was a trickle of blood coming from one nostril, and he seemed shrouded in a hazy humility.

I got to the trailer about an hour after dark and finally made it home, where I hobbled into the house to a wife and three young kids who’d long since learned to mask their worries when my return was hours later than it should have been. I cussed the horse as I told my tale, but I assured them I was pretty sure I’d finally “rode the rough off him.” And, indeed, I had. His little trickle of a nosebleed never really stopped, and a week later he died, a victim of his own foolishness and an apparent lung injury.

About 20 years later, I had another pretty bay horse, a mare. She had a colt my son named Winston, in honor of the late, great British prime minister, whom my son had often heard me praise. One of my favorite Churchill quotes was from his “never give in” speech, which he gave in October of 1941 at his alma mater, the all-boys Harrow School.

“…never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”

I’d always abridged the real power of the speech to simply mean that one should never give up in whatever pursuit he or she may be after. It’s always handy for a halftime speech when you’re down by 15. The real beauty and wisdom of the statement, however, is found in the last eight words of the message.

Sir Winston realized that unrelenting determination is for naught if the cause is not just or rational. The goals of imperial Japan and Nazi Germany would have been justified in the dogged pursuit of their maniacal leaders’ ambitions, if the goal were simply to never give up, no matter what. Such a quest is rather elementary. But to have the acumen to steadfastly fight on but give in only to convictions of honor and good sense takes genuine fortitude and wisdom.

There’s little sense in riding a crazy horse off a cliff while the wife and kids need you at home. end mark

Paul Marchant is a cowboy and part-time freelance writer based in southern Idaho. Follow him on Twitter, or email Paul Marchant.

Paul Marchant

Can a Desk Be A Legacy?

The answer, of course, is ‘it depends’.

Consider that the desk you remember your grandpa sitting at this recording transactions and sorting papers for his business was just a tool.  Ask yourself, was the desk something important to him as if ‘doing books’ was something he enjoyed?  If no, perhaps this desk is not a legacy.  What if the desk was worn out when it was purchased and has been patched, nailed, screwed, cracked, hinged, and all sorts of problems that barely keep it together?  Is it worth keeping?

Since my guys (son, Dallas, and my husband), with great effort, moved this awkward, bulky, heavy, desk across the basement, up the stairs and outside (we had to remove the door to get it through the doorway), around the house to the front door, which we had by then premeasured to see if it, too, needed removal (thankfully it didn’t – it was a close fit), then into the northwest bedroom we had long since abandoned  to a piano room (it was the only room the piano would go into except for the living room), these were questions i now ask myself. img_7981-1

As Dallas noted, ‘it’s too worn out to sell, but too nice to throw away.’  However, this is the last time, i plan to ask anyone to move it again.  If someone in the family wants it, of course, they could move it.  🙂

The reality is that the desk, though it did belong to Grandpa, was not important to him and it does not lend itself to a modern business.  Add that it is barely flying together in close formation and it no longer has value to me, sentimental or otherwise.

The important legacy he gave me is my love for the land and cattle I now care for.  He and my grandma put together a good deal more than a section of land and when i walk across the pastures and climb through ditches and enjoy watching cattle still grazing the hills he and i rode over together, and even when it’s time to fix fence and repair corrals- that is the more important memory.  My goals are to continue to improve and regenerate the land as did Grandpa and Grandma in their generation. IMGP4418 (2)IMG_488235388877_10211785511375645_7474410836518240256_nPurdin farm - October 2012 002imageimage12322953_954744721238761_6610717492246296215_otannachton farm 002Tannachton Farm - winter grazing 2013-small copywrited1780196_607145359354784_1901369761_o

 

Savory Institute

So what is this tour i’m on?  and why?  For one, Chile and Argentina have long been on my bucket list and what better time to go than with other travelers interested in livestock, soil, grass, water, and community improvement!

Several years ago, a short sample of holistic management resources was offered at FSRC and it made some good sense, but mostly we adopted the grazing management bits which Jim Gerrish  taught and left the rest.  Oh, well, i do use the testing decisions to some extent.  My questions, however, tend to be, will it pencil?  and can a child do it?

Short history is that Stan Parsons and Allan Savory teamed up to start Ranching for Profit.  For whatever reason, they split and Stan continued Ranching for Profit (now called Ranch Management Consultants) and Allan started Holistic Management Resources (now called Holistic Management International).  then a few years back, Allan left HMI and started Savory Institute which now answers to Savory Global.

Savory Global offers journeys and this is my second, the first being the trip to Kenya.

I enjoy the camaraderie , the networking, and learning from others.  After this morning, no internet until i get back to Santiago sometime Friday night.

Cheers!

Living the Dream

This was written by a friend from north Missouri in honor of her hard working husband (farmer and welder, Lone Oak Fabrication, LLC, Clarence, Missouri), though it is a testament to her hard work and sacrifice as well (i would consider Erin a modern day Proverbs 31 woman).  Sometimes we grumble about our employers and some may go on strike, but oftentimes, especially in small towns, with small start up businesses, the owners are paddling like crazy to keep the operation afloat.  If he or she has the opportunity to hire someone to come along, that is a bonus for everyone.  If you, as the employee, think you are mistreated or underpaid, then move on to your dream job with dream pay, don’t undermine the efforts of the small businessman by not giving your best each day.       (tauna’s comments)

 

  • This is what being self-employed looks like.It’s working 80 hours a week so you don’t have to work 40 hours for someone else.It’s getting up extra early to work before the rest of the day hits.

    It’s putting in a few more hours after you kiss your kids good night.

    It’s leaving the house before your spouse is awake and coming home after they are asleep. Sometimes only talking to each other via text for days at a time.

    It’s making sacrifices and pinching pennies.

    It’s throwing your whole heart into a dream, a vision, a goal for a better future.

    It’s the thrill of knowing you can manage your own time and the sickening feeling when you don’t manage it well.

    It’s making out invoices while your spouse addresses the envelopes because you’re working this dream together.

    It’s having the guts to take a risk and knowing if it doesn’t work out, you learn the lesson and try again.

    It’s all this and so much more. I’m so proud of you David.

Erin Spurgeon, wife, mother, educator, small business owner, Stitches & Staples

Katy Trail in Missouri

Just picked up our most recent copy of Missouri Life magazine (September 2019), and was amazed and thrilled that the landowner stories in regards to the Katy Trail were told and explained.  I know that articles written by people who were not intricately involved in the subject cannot convey the emotion and even facts sometimes of an issue, but this one, i suspect, comes close.  It is a long article, but one well worth reading.  This sort of land grab is not the first of its kind in US history.  In fact, this same issue has another story entitled: 210 Miles to Taum Sauk

The establishment of the Katy Trail through Missouri is a story of government land grab – not eminent domain – just a confiscation.  We have not been affected (yet) by the rail banking scheme, but it still makes me angry enough (on behalf of the landowners) that, even today, i have not visited any of the Katy Trail (at least i have not meant to).

One of Missouri’s little known treasures is the Missouri Life magazine.  Subscribe here.

Katy Trail Landowners:  Then and Now

When the Missouri River flooded in the spring of 1986, anyone standing in Maurice and Jayne Glosemeyer’s barn in rural Warren County would have been underwater. The damages to the the nearby Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (MKT), which divided their house from their hog operation, were so severe that the company pulled up its tracks.

The railroad’s decline was no surprise to the Glosemeyers or their neighbors. For years, service had been slowing anyway. And the farmers, many of whose families had owned land in the region since the 1800s, had witnessed plenty of change come and go in the valley.

A century earlier, the railroad’s arrival brought the welcome promise of wealth and supply lines for area farmers. Train corridors across the country formed in a variety of ways—by direct purchase, federal land grants, or via easements from individual landowners. When the railroad began assembling its path across Missouri in the 1890s, it paid affected property owners for the easement access, but the land beneath was never owned by the railroad. The specific terms of the easement granted the corridor “for a railroad, and for no other purposes.”

couple standing on the katy trail
Jayne and Maurice Glosemeyer pose on the Katy Trail where it crosses their property in Warren County. Photo by Rose Hansen.

“We felt it was written in stone that once the railroad company abandoned that, it was ours,” says Jayne.

So it came as a surprise when a neighbor shared a newspaper clipping that detailed the state’s planned conversion of the railroad into a public hiking and biking trail.

The Glosemeyers were stunned. It couldn’t be true. Could the government really do such a thing—just seize land—without first notifying the property owners, or even paying for it?

“This wasn’t even an eminent domain thing,” Jayne recalls. “Eminent domain at least makes sure you get compensated. When something like a highway comes through, they have to purchase [the land]. They can’t ignore that you exist and steal your property.”

Unbeknownst to them, three years earlier Congress had passed rail-banking amendments under the National Trails Systems Act to “preserve established railroad corridors for interim trail and future trail use.” Trail activists across the nation began using this new legislation to create recreational paths.

“The sad thing with this whole affair was that the majority of the landowners along the Katy Trail, had they been approached and asked, ‘Will you sell us your property?’ they probably would have done so,” Jayne says. “But to be treated so that you have to read about it first in the sports section? That’s low.”

They weren’t alone in their anger. Armed with a 97-year-old railroad easement contract and the backing of the Missouri Farm Bureau, the Glosemeyers led the legal fight in a decade-long class action lawsuit asserting the violation of Fifth Amendment rights that affected more than 1,100 fellow property owners. They received hate mail and anonymous phone calls. Maurice woke up one morning to find the tires on his tractor slashed. Though the Supreme Court eventually upheld the government’s stance on railbanking, in 2000 the Court of Federal Claims acknowledged that the taking of property for public use without compensation was illegal. For the landowners, it was a win.

But the verdict was ten years too late. In 1990, a crowd of more than 1,000 people celebrated the official opening of the first segment of the Katy Trail. At 240-miles long, the Katy Trail is the longest rail-trail path in the nation and beloved by thousands, much to the credit of public relations efforts to brand the trail and the surrounding Missouri River Valley region. It’s a narrative of success that has energized a push for the Rock Island Trail (MORIT), which proposes to rail-bank 144 miles of the Ameren line, connecting St. Louis, Kansas City, and the Katy in a 450-mile loop.

Despite overwhelming support from the general public and rural business owners who stand to gain from the trail, MORIT faces resistance from some rural landowners similar to that of the Katy. There are questions about compensation, potential effects on agricultural operations, and the taxpayer cost of the trail. MORIT activists point to the success of the Katy to alleviate those concerns. But that’s only half the story.

“You hear proponents saying that the trail has not been as onerous to the property owners as they feared it would be. But they ignore the legal aspect. They just say, ‘There’s a federal law that allowed us to do it,’ ” says Estil Fretwell, a former state legislator who was also the Director of Public Affairs for the Missouri Farm Bureau. “Landowners were so frustrated and so upset that the proponents never acknowledged their legal arguments. It’s interesting. They’re still emotional about it.”

The Katy Trail has been around for more than 30 years. What lessons, if any, can be gleaned by revisiting the past?

“I still have feelings. We should’ve had a different outcome than what it was,” says Gary Heldt, a landowner who owns 62-acres of farmland along the Katy Trail outside of Rhineland.

Edward D. “Ted” Jones appeared on the capitol steps at a rally for the Katy Trail. Photo by Jim Denney.
Gary Heldt was the major organizer involved in rallying farmers to sign onto the Glosemeyer suit. Photo by Rose Hansen.

The stretch between Rhineland and Marthasville formed the hotbed of dissent against the recreation trail. The Glosemeyers were named in the lawsuit, but Heldt was the person responsible for organizing affected landowners to take action. When the MKT first abandoned the corridor, he was running the grain elevator in Rhineland, and the railroad was a vital part of the business.

“I had a lot of concerned customers,” he recalls. “It was just a simple easement granted for railroad purposes only. They felt the ground should revert back to them. It was a different use, turning the property from a railroad bed to a hiking and biking trail. We weren’t against hikers or bicycles or what have you. Our emphasis was the fact that the property was going to be utilized in a different manner than it was originally deeded. The details of the easement specifically stipulate that it could not be used for anything other than a railroad.”

Legally, the purpose of the rail-banking claim used to create the Katy Trail is to preserve corridors for the potential reactivation of a future transportation line. Theoretically, a high-speed train could someday reclaim the Katy for its own use. However, the reactivation of these corridors has rarely, if ever, occurred.

Two decades before Congress amended the National Trails System Act to employ rail-banking, rail-trail conversions were already happening. The first rail-trail opened was the Elroy-Sparta State Trail in 1967 in Wisconsin. More followed in Iowa, Illinois, and again in Wisconsin. But after Congress amended the National Trails System Act to employ rail-banking, Missouri became the first state to formally test the new law with the proposal for the Katy Trail, backed by a powerful Missourian named Edward “Ted” Jones. His father had started a brokerage firm in downtown St. Louis, but Ted preferred working in small towns, offering financial guidance to citizens across rural Missouri. He liked country life so much, in fact, that he bought a 711-acre farm in Callaway County. (His widow, Pat Jones, eventually donated the land to the state in 1997, forming the Prairie Fork Conservation Area.)

“Ted wanted to provide a way for other people, who weren’t as fortunate as he was to have his own farm, to experience rural Missouri,” says Dan Burkhardt, a retired partner of Edward Jones. In 2010, he and his wife Connie founded the Katy Trail Land Trust. “Fortunately, the Katy Railroad was abandoning its right of way. They were going out of business. Ted said, ‘I’m going to take their right-of-way and turn it into a biking trail.’ This was a very radical idea. It had never been done in Missouri, never to this extent.”

press conference in missouri over the katy trail
Edward D. “Ted” Jones appeared on the capitol steps at a rally for the Katy Trail. Photo by Jim Denney.

Jones donated $200,000 to the Conservation Federation of Missouri Charitable Trust, and the money was used to acquire the easements from the railroad company under the Trails System Act. Later, he donated another $2 million to aid with trail construction between Sedalia and Machens.

“It was for the greater good. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity to create something that was never possible to replicate again. He took all the negative feedback, paid for all this out of his own pocket,” says Burkhardt. “It was extremely difficult and complicated. Landowners whose properties the right-of-way passed through did not want it turned into a trail. They vigorously objected to it. Ultimately, our governor, John Ashcroft, sided with Ted.”

The number of rail-trails has grown dramatically since 1986. According to the Rails to Trails Conservancy, which includes more than 160,000 members and supporters, some 23,000 miles of abandoned railroad corridors have been converted into recreational trails across the United States.

In the year 2013 alone, the government paid $49 million in compensation claims to property owners affected by rail-trail conversions. Landowners, of course, see themselves as pragmatic underdogs outnumbered by distant, powerful interests.

“The publicity they generated, they tried to paint us in a situation like we were a bunch of redneck farmers out here who didn’t know what we were doing or how to manage our own property,” Heldt recalls.

“The Katy Trail landowners who stood up for their property rights are heroes,” says Fretwell. “This was obviously something that had popularity with the public. Why not build a trail? Why not let the public come along and use this property? And yet the Katy landowners were saying, ‘Yes, but this is my property. You’re taking my property.’ ”

The protests did little to sway trail proponents, a dynamic that still persists today. When the railroad first negotiated easements with Missouri River Valley farmers, one third of the nation’s population lived on farms. Today, less than one percent does. Empathizing with property owners is difficult if you don’t own land, if that land hasn’t been in your family for generations, if you aren’t rural, if you live in an apartment, in a city, far, far away.

By Jayne’s calculations, the amount of her property traversed by the Katy Trail totaled 12 acres. The estimate includes the trail and the right of way on both sides for a combined width of 100 feet. “A lot of the people who use this trail, they don’t even own an acre. But they were perfectly happy for me to lose 12 so they could have a place to ride their bicycle,” Jayne says.

Her protests continue to fall on deaf ears. A more apt comparison might be to consider how trail proponents might feel if they’d rented a room out in their own houses on a month-by-month basis only to be told by the government that the room would be used for another purpose, seized without payment, and never returned. Oh, and by the way, you still have to pay taxes on the seized property.

The proposed Rock Island Trail would connect to the Katy to form a 450-mile loop through Missouri. The route would showcase the best of Missouri’s natural landscapes—not just pristine prairie and picturesque farmland, but the wrinkled terrain of the Ozark Mountains, too. At one end is St Louis. And in the west, these trails would meet in Windsor, where one portion of the Rock Island Trail is already open. Lifetime resident Mike Mothersbaugh owns 18 acres along the Katy Trail, and lives less than a mile from its intersection with the Rock Island Trail. “The people on the Katy took the black eye. At the time the Katy Trail started to become the trail, I was an opinion writer in the local newspaper and also a landowner along the trail. The process and the public relations surrounding the whole startup left me raw. I disagreed with it greatly. And that really hasn’t changed,” he says. “What has changed for me is acceptance. It needs to be utilized because it’s here. It has become part of our character, part of [Windsor’s] local economy. It’s very evident that it is prospering, growing. If it grows, we do, too.” Mothersbaugh was never compensated for the state’s use of his land. He chose not to join the lawsuit, and only the people who did participate were eligible for the payout.

His is the kind of change-of-heart testimony, however mild, that trail proponents want to hear and use whenever possible. As Dan Burkhardt puts it, “The more we act like things are getting behind us regarding the hurt feelings of 30 years ago, the more they will get behind us.”

The Peers Store, alongside the Katy Trail in Marthasville, is owned by Katy Land Trust founder Dan Burkhardt. Photo by Rose Hansen.

From a public relations perspective, it’s much easier to focus a trail’s concrete effects on agricultural operations or property management issues, which were at the heart of the secondary opposition to the Katy and also to Rock Island.

“I’ll walk into meetings with 200 or more disgruntled landowners and then just raise my hand and say, ‘Of course there was this feeling, too, when the Katy came through Windsor,’ ” says Kim Henderson, owner of Kim’s Cabins in Windsor. “But I can tell you for a fact now that most people are not there to camp in your barn and burn it down or pick your morel mushrooms or bother your cattle. They’re here to spend their dollars. They’re coming from all over the country and the world, and that all goes back to our communities and the state.”

For trail proponents, this seems like the perfect response. And yet resistance to Rock Island persists. Its making would also require crossing more than 1,000 agricultural operations. Landowners along the Rock Island Trail cite many of the same concerns Katy Trail landowners cited—agricultural biohazards, increased traffic around sensitive and volatile farm chemicals, crime.

To nonfarmers, the solutions seem simple. Put up signs. Build a fence. Relocate, or better yet, change your farming operation. But those things aren’t free. Someone has to pay for them. Agricultural fencing alone can cost up to $10,000 a mile. Who would pay for its installation? For its maintenance? The farmer? The taxpayers?

To Burkhardt, the making of the Katy Trail was the result of perfect timing and perfect, powerful interests. The times have changed. In this political climate, the landowners might win. But this time around, they probably won’t have to take their case to the Supreme Court. The precedent for payment was set by the Glosemeyers 30 years ago.

“If someone owns the land under the railroad easement and a rail-trail comes along, the owners are entitled to federal compensation. That’s a Fifth Amendment entitlement. The government can’t just take your land without compensating you,” says Greg Harris, executive director of MORIT. But because this transaction is not eminent domain, the compensation is not automatic. Landowners must file a claim against the federal government, like the one spearheaded by Meghan Largent of Lewis Rice legal council in St. Louis, which represents MORIT-affected landowners, to receive fair market value compensation.

In the Glosemeyer case, the court ruled that “recreational hiking, jogging, and cycling are not connected with railroad use in any meaningful way,” and that, given that the easement of the Glosemeyer’s property was exclusively for railroad purposes, “When the railroads ceased operations, [the Glosemeyers] would own the land free of any easements. Those expectations have been thwarted … solely because of the operation of the Rails-to-Trails Act.”

The Act wasn’t stripped from the books, but it was still satisfying for the Glosemeyers to have their principles validated by the same government who had wronged them. In the United States, property rights are protected by the Bill of Rights, and yet sometimes those rights don’t hold. At best, the government makes reparations. It’s a way of apologizing, of acknowledging that the ends don’t necessarily justify the means, even in the interests of the greater good.

Their day in court ended with a final admission from Justice Holmes: “A strong public desire to improve the public condition is not enough to warrant achieving the desire by a shorter cut than the constitutional way of paying for the change.”

Land battle narratives are as old as the United States. One only has to remember the displacement of American Indians. Later, as settlers journeyed westward and resources like timber, water, and minerals were snatched up and sometimes irreversibly depleted, national leaders began calling for limits—but not without criticism. The first national park in the world, Yellowstone, was created by Ulysses S. Grant in 1872, and the Helena Gazette called it “a great blow to the prosperity” of the region. When Teddy Roosevelt proposed protecting the Grand Canyon, opponents in nearby Williams, Arizona, described “a fiendish and diabolical scheme.”

It’s a heritage that makes Dan Burkhardt chuckle. Just like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, he says, the Katy Trail “was for the greater good.”

Trail proponents often point to the economic opportunities of the trail. One quick internet search reveals plenty of trail-centric businesses—bike tourism operators, trailside
cafes, and trailside bed and breakfasts. Sometimes, these businesses are on the same land previously disputed by trail opponents.

Carl Lensing of Bluffton, for example, was an outspoken opponent of the Katy Trail and likely remained bitter about the ordeal until his death. But that anger doesn’t stretch beyond the grave. His son and daughter-in-law, Brian and Melissa, inherited the property. They plan to build a bed and breakfast for trail-bound clients.

“We just accept that the trail is part of the story,” Melissa says. She already has the décor picked out—the living room will be train-themed. Outside, she wants the business to feel welcoming to cyclists. “The bikers are probably going to be our best customers because [the trail] is literally in our front yard.”

The miles of former MKT Railroad corridor between Rhineland and Marthasville formed the hotbed of dissent for the building of the Katy Trail. Photo by Rose Hansen.

Capturing economic opportunities that the Katy Trail offers is at the forefront of Melissa’s mind. She’s also the Executive Director of the Hermann Chamber of Commerce, and she wants to make the city more
bicycle-friendly. “I do know this: biking tourism is one of the fastest-growing tourism sources out there right now,” she says. “I think we’ve got to find ways to improve, to be a little bit more biker-friendly. We don’t even have bike stands.”

Across the river in Rhineland, lifetime resident Katie Muenks has added another business to her roster: The Corner. She also owns the iconic bed and breakfast, Shining Hope, housed in a pre-Civil War log cabin whose sprawling front lawn ends at the Katy Trail.

Trail-dependent businesses span the state from end to end. In Windsor, Kim Henderson credits the trail for launching her business. “The trails are why I put the cabins in,” she says, though she doesn’t track what percentage of clientele are trail-users. “I’m sure it’s over 50 percent. I get a lot of people. We could only sleep 17 people in Windsor when I first put a cabin in. We can now sleep over 75 people. Even on some weeknights, you can’t find a bed in Windsor.”

Perhaps no city along the Katy has seen as much economic revival as Rocheport. With its wineries, antique stores, and scenic perch on the Missouri River, the town often appears on Best Small Town lists in publications like Southern Living and The Kansas City Star. Conrad Yates, a longtime alderman who also runs a bed and breakfast, has actively aided the restoration of its historical downtown for the last 30 years. But to credit Rocheport’s recovery solely to the Katy Trail, he says, is an oversimplification.

“In the beginning, there was the general perception that every single town along the Katy Trail would be saved, that it would restore [the] economy to those small whistlestops and allow something to rise up and become successful commercially,” he says. “People assume most of Rocheport’s business comes from the Katy Trail, but it doesn’t. We have the great blessing of being on, possibly, the most beautiful section of the Katy Trail, and we’re close to Interstate 70. So that gives us quick access from a whole lot of different populations of people. And Rocheport was named by the Kansas City Star as a favorite day trip.” Yates says. “The town of Rocheport itself is primarily based on tourism. The Katy Trail was at the root. It played a role, but there wasn’t any single thing which would be entirely responsible for that rebirth. It was the fortunate intersection of many contributing factors.”

The stretch of the Katy Trail near Rocheport is throught to be among the most scenic, in part because of features such as limestone bluffs and the railroad tunnel pictured here. Photo by Rose Hansen.

In Missouri, public lands compose less than 10 percent of the state. But acre-by-acre, it’s increasing. Rural areas suffer steady population decline, and urban centers continue to grow. Can the people of Missouri accept a new culture that, for better and for worse, chips away the old one? So many of the farmers involved in the original battle against the Katy Trail have passed away, and with them, their stories and all those hard feelings. The feelings may be forgotten in a matter of generations. Perhaps sooner.

Whenever a cyclist knocks on Jayne Glosemeyer’s front door to ask for a ride into town or for tools to make repairs, she politely complies. In the country, people help each other. That’s just how she was raised, but she also uses the opportunity to share her side of the story. “A lot of them say, ‘We didn’t know that!’ But they’re so happy to have a trail.” Even now, all these years later, her voice still trembles when she talks about it.

To Jayne, the persistent problem with the Katy Trail isn’t the trail or its users, but in the predominant narrative of its triumph and the willful ignorance of its costs. There were political, intellectual, and Constitutional compromises made in order for the Katy Trail to exist as it’s known today. These are inconvenient truths for the pro-trail sects and their blissful beneficiaries. To the Glosemeyers, it’s just proof that we live in a nation shaped by theft and half-hearted reparations. They aren’t the first to feel this way. Certainly, the Native Americans of the Missouri River Valley would agree with that sentiment, too.

Maurice swears that their children have been instilled with a proper sense of history about what their parents fought for along the Katy Trail. Will the generation after that inherit those same resentments and values? It’s hard to say.

The Katy Trail is among Missouri’s most popular state parks. The Department of Natural Resources estimates that over 400,000 visitors use it every year, generating some $18.5 million in revenue. With any luck, the Lensing’s bed and breakfast will be open in time to earn a share of that business. Katie Muenks hopes cyclists will stop at The Corner for a Reuben and a piece of pie. The Glosemeyers can see the Katy Trail from their house; it still divides their property. It’s a good vantage point for keeping an eye on their grandchildren, who set up a stand and sell lemonade to passersby on the Katy during the summer.

Ranching in the Future

Here’s an excellent article explaining the impossibility of entry level ranchers and farmers.  Unless land and agriculture prices come to a reckoning, land will be owned by the wealthy and worked by those with a passion for land management.  We are headed that way culturally rapidly given the advanced age of current land owners.  With few heirs waiting to farm or ranch, the land will sell to the highest bidder far above its production value.

Shalom!

tauna

Ranching in the Future – What Should Young Ranchers Expect?

By   /  January 7, 2019  /  4 Comments

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I recently received a note from a young friend (let’s call her Peggy Sue) who desperately wants to be a rancher. Since her childhood she has dreamed of working with animals. She has learned about marketing and economics. She’s studied hard and become a competent grazier. She’s done some hard work. But she’s getting a little impatient.

“So, I’ve been looking at real estate ads all over the country, studying up on productivity of land in different places, trying to look up how many acres per cow it takes and how much each acre costs, and I just can’t figure this thing out. How are people doing it? I mean, how are people able to buy a ranch and pay for it by raising cattle?”

My immediate answer was not what she had been hoping for:

“I don’t know of anyone in America who is buying a ranch and paying for it by running cattle. This doesn’t mean you can never be a rancher—you can be. But going forward, you will only be successful as a rancher if you accept the realities of the current world. You must be able to adopt a definition of ranch and rancher that fits in the economic universe in which you currently live. And guess what? This is true for every other new rancher, too.”

Sorry, Peggy Sue.

Past, Present and Future Ranching Models

Both my wife’s and my own family trees are well stocked with hopeful people who put together ranching operations 100 or more years ago. First was homesteading, and later on there was picking up the pieces from other folks whose homesteads had failed. There was hard work and sacrifice. Fundamentally, the ranches of 100 years ago were founded on using land to grow grass and cattle. Land values were tied intimately to productive value of the land and the then-current values of the cattle market. And so, our ancestors built successful ranches.

Those days are over. The conditions under which our ancestors operated no longer exist.

Today, properties do not become available through homesteading or abandonment, and in general, ranch land prices have very little relationship to productive value. Other influences such as hunting and fishing, scenic view, and privacy are the determining factors in land price. The model described above: working hard to build functional ranches by acquiring and paying for land with cattle, is apparently not possible in today’s world.

In our own little valley, even though there is virtually no influence by hunting or fishing values or high mountain views, the value of land has now risen to the point where pastureland prices are clearly irrational. Turns out, there are plenty of people with plenty of money who just want to live in the country, and they will pay whatever it takes. In the 1980s, I told Ranching for Profit guru Stan Parsons that my chief concern with becoming a rancher was that land in my area was selling for $5,000 per cow unit. Currently, that value is more like $20,000. At $20,000, the land overhead PITI (Principle, Interest, Taxes, Insurance) is something like $2,000 per cow per year.

It should be mathematically obvious that the current land value situation absolutely precludes the possibility of becoming a rancher, if you think ranching has to look like it did 100 years ago.

So, is it possible for my young friend to become a rancher? Absolutely. But that will require her to accept a different definition of what ranching looks like and of what being a rancher means.

Going Forward: Ranchers of the Future

A principle of motion discovered by Sir Isaac Newton over 300 years ago applies directly here, I think:

I believe the trends that we have witnessed in ranching over the past 100 years or so will likely continue. These trends will determine what ranching will look like going forward, and the possibilities for present and future ranchers.

Here are some current trends to consider:

Land Prices

I believe the price of land will continue to escalate and will have less and less relationship to productive value. This means new ranchers will need to seek models that do not include “buying a ranch and paying for it with cattle.”

Other Input Costs

The cost of oil, iron, processed feed, and other inputs will continue to advance relative to the value of traditional ranch products. Future ranchers need to design models that place less emphasis on these things.

Technology

Our industry has become highly dependent upon technology. Whether this is a good thing or not is hard for me to tease out. That said, ranches of the future will surely include more technology. Ranchers of the future should build business models that take advantage of new technologies. This is certainly critical for businesses that involve direct marketing.

Societal/Political Change

There has been sweeping change in the relationship between urban and rural populations. Our urban neighbors are ever more interested in ecological issues, animal welfare, food safety, transportation, and on and on. Going forward, this trend will result in a higher degree of regulation of ranching activities on all fronts. Young ranchers should plan accordingly.

Diversity of Products and Services

Increasingly, ranches have become more and more involved in producing things beyond just meat on the hoof. Young ranchers of the future should consider business models that include providing even more diverse products and services. Growing hamburger is a low margin enterprise. Providing sites for weddings, hunting, vacations, etc. can be very high-margin enterprises. Like it or not, this may be what opportunity looks like in the future.

The Decline of the Rugged Individual

It seems to me that image of the rancher as a rugged, independent operator has always been a bit overblown. My great grandparents (and every generation since) were highly dependent on cooperation for survival. Going forward, I believe ranching will look more and more like other industries, with intensely complicated, inter-dependent systems of producers, suppliers, marketers and customers. Ranches will offer a wider and wider range of services, and they will serve a wider range of customers. No ranch will be an island unto itself.

(The exception to this will be the ranches that are owned outright by folks who have un-limited assets, and so, can do anything they want. These may be ranches, but I question whether they are Ranch Businesses.)

The Big Question: To Own, or Not to Own

Oregon author William Kittredge wrote a fine biography called “Owning it All”, a story about growing up in the big ranch country of the American West. I think young ranchers should consider exactly the opposite course: Owning almost nothing. And here’s some of what that might look like:

Owning portable fencing, corrals, and water equipment. Renting or leasing grass that land owners don’t want or don’t know how to manage. Same goes for livestock. Selling your expertise and skills as a grass and property manager. Becoming expert in managing the accessory enterprises that ranches will contain in the future: tourism, education, entertainment, recreation, sport, etc. Note: be sure to make enough profit to fund your own retirement, as you will not be accumulating any real estate.

Decisions, Decisions.

I could be wrong about all of the predictions above. Maybe land costs will magically revert to align with productive value. Maybe young ranchers will be able to enter the industry, buy some land and livestock and make out just fine. Maybe. But I doubt it. I think young ranchers would be well advised to conjure up a business plan that includes the parameters and limitations we now operate under, and think carefully about what the future might look like.

Best wishes to Peggy Sue in the coming year. Oh, and to the ranchers of the next 100 years, too!

Happy Grazing, Happy New Year, and a Happy Future

John Marble

Stay tuned for future articles with examples of how young farmers and ranchers are building their businesses.

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  • Published: 2 weeks ago on January 7, 2019
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  • Last Modified: January 7, 2019 @ 8:40 am
  • Filed Under: Money Matters

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Marble grew up on a terribly conventional ranch with a large family where each kid had their own tractor. Surviving that, he now owns a small grazing and marketing operation that focuses on producing value through managed grazing. He oversees a diverse ranching operation, renting and owning cattle and grasslands while managing timber, wildlife habitat and human relationships. His multi-species approach includes meat goats, pointing dogs and barn cats. He has a life-long interest in ecology, trying to understand how plants, animals, soils and humans fit together. John spends his late-night hours working on fiction, writing about worlds much less strange than this one.

Faith, Family, Farm

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