Building a Community-based Direct Marketing Model for Diverse Ranch Enterprises
• Communicate to rural and urban audiences the Chico Basin Ranch and other agricultural producers’ commitment to creating and maintaining healthy plant, animal and human communities
• Explore and document the interest of nearby urban populations to support a producer who produces healthy food, wildlife and a well functioning natural landscape
• Create a direct-marketing network and a working database of people interested in 1) contributing to conservation projects and 2) purchasing a diverse mix of ranch products including meat, vegetables, recreational opportunities and other products
Traditional ranching operations suffer from limited financial security because of volatile market cycles and intense industry competition. The natural resources of ranches are often undervalued and underutilized by traditional agriculture.
Box T. Partners, LLC, the management company of the Chico Basin Ranch, organized this project to find ways to market to people who would financially support a ranch that tried to conserve its natural resources. Because the ranch is large (87,000 acres) and close to an urban area (35 minutes from Colorado Springs), it has an opportunity to show how a ranch can survive economically by diversifying its operations. The ranch raises cattle, but it also grows alternative produce and offers recreational and educational opportunities for people who want to experience a working ranch.
“We believe that there is a strong desire for people living in nearby Front Range cities to become involved and support a real working ranch that has high conservation values,” the group says.
Chico Basin Ranch first identified groups with potential interest in its conservation and direct marketing. The ranch then tried to attract consumers by sending out its first copy of The Long View, a newsletter, to more 7,500 people.
The ranch also publishes a bi-monthly newsletter, The Saddlehouse, for those who showed interest in or had some type of membership at the ranch (through fishing, hunting or bird watching).
Most of the mailings went to members of the Nature Conservancy of Colorado, the rest to producers, family, friends and customers. Newsletters, also passed out to ranch visitors, included a survey of the reader’s perception of a modern ranch. Eighty-five people responded to the survey. The results had yet to be tabulated, but should help the ranch better market its resources.
Potential benefits from this project include increased profitability and stability for producers through diversification and the development of new markets. Chico Basin Ranch can also be a good model for other ranches that want to increase profits through diversification.
Diversification will benefit the land by making producers less reliant on forage production in times of drought. Without a diverse source of income, many producers cannot afford to lower stocking levels, and the land suffers accordingly. Diverse sources of income allow a producer to be more flexible and less reliant on livestock production.
Increasing the communication between urban consumers and rural producers will also benefit both groups by putting the consumers in touch with a source of healthy food. It brings a committed market to the producer, a market that is willing to pay a premium for knowing where and how their food is produced.
“The buyer knows the person raising the food, and the farmer or rancher knows exactly where his products are going,” the ranch contends.
FARMER ADOPTION AND DIRECT IMPACT
Chico Basin Ranch has received inquiries from ranches in Wyoming and Washington about building a direct market and managing recreational and guest services. These ranches are interested in the success of the fishing, hunting and guest services provided. These other services are possible ways of supplementing a rancher’s income, along with activities like rock climbing, horse packing, bird watching, steer roping, etc.
REACTIONS FROM FARMERS AND RANCHERS
The ranch has received many positive comments from ranchers who have seen the newsletter.
DISSEMINATION OF FINDINGS
Eighteen people attended workshops on diversification and range monitoring, and more than 100 people were expected to hear about it during a Holistic Management Whole Land, Healthy People Conference in July 2001.
The ranch plans to disseminate the results of the survey at workshops on the ranch to over 150 participants. Many of the people attending these workshops are producers from the United States, Canada and Mexico who are interested in diversifying their businesses. Many are also interested in better ways of managing their land.
Results of the newsletter’s survey will be posted on the farm’s Web site, www.chicobasinranch.com. The ranch also hopes to publish the results in several agricultural newsletters.
Chico Basin Ranch was the only producer involved in the project, but three neighboring ranches are interested in the outcome and are beginning to welcome people onto their ranches for various activities.