In The News

New York Times
March 5, 2006

Ranches Without The Work
By Florence Williams

There are some people who define a vacation house by the number of yards from the beach or the proximity to decent lattes. Then there are those who harbor a secret hankering to rope calves or shovel the rocks out of an irrigation ditch on their days off. For them, shared-ranch properties offer a way to have your ranch and leave it too. For around a million dollars and upward, it is now possible to buy into any of the West’s several new “integrated ranch developments.” Among the many amenities: wide-open spaces, horses on demand, cows masticating by the house, huge trout leaping out of private streams, fences to fix when and if homeowners feel like it. They can play in the mud in their Carhartts, or not.

“Our slogan is this is a working ranch without the work,” says Russ Maytag, the developer of the Maytag Mountain Ranch in south central Colorado, near the town of Westcliffe. Buyers of the Maytag’s 27 home sites of more than 3,000 acres each will share ownership of a 250-head herd of red angus cattle. Annual homeowners’-association fees of about $8,000 not only cover salaries for two professional ranch managers and pay to maintain 1.5 miles of reconstructed trout stream; they also get each shareholder a quarter side of beef.

Maytag, a great-grandson of the appliance magnate, has ranched the scenic property with his wife for 25 years. He wanted to sell some of the valuable land, but he also wanted it to stay in production. (Typically when ranches are subdivided, they are split into 35-acre fenced parcels, knocking off cows and wildlife.)

Now the Maytags own one parcel, they have sold 10 others (so far, buyers tend to be successful urban professionals on the younger end of the baby-boom curve) and 16 more are still for sale, ranging in price from $895,000 to $1.5 million.

The Pitchfork Ranch, near Meeteetse, Wyo., offers even vaster views and more river miles. At 100,000 acres, including leased federal and state grazing allotments, it’s a size Ted Turner might feel comfortable in, but seven owners will share the costs and the trout. It’s not a subdivision: each owner will enjoy perpetual recreational-use rights over the entire place, as if it were all his alone.

“Here, it’s almost the opportunity of what the zillionaires have,” says Rob Rogers, the architect and site planner, “but it’s all available to you at a fraction of the cost.” The parcels are priced from $1.25 million to $5 million.

Meanwhile, the Marabou ranch, which is being built just outside Steamboat Springs, Colo., will offer 62 home sites and open space for grazing, haying, dry-land crops, a sharptail-grouse breeding ground , a winter elk range, riding trails and horse facilities. It will also have two Olympians on staff to improve residents’ skiing if they don’t feel like riding the herd.

After all, ranching is hard work. As one Maytag buyer, Jim Johnson of Colorado Springs, puts it, “I see myself pitching in to mend fences, but I don’t want to get a call at midnight that a cow has broken through.”