It’s only natural during the holidays to reflect on the past year. At Mirr Ranch Group we’ve been blessed in 2022 to learn so much about the West, which we’ve shared with you in livestreams, podcasts and The Guidebook Blog. And since everyone seems to be making a list this time of the year, I’ve decided to share my “Mirr Ranch Group Top 10 for 2022.”
MRG Top 10 for 2022
There’s no doubt that water availability is the biggest issue facing the West, which means the impact of water on ranch valuations keeps growing in the Intermountain West. That’s why we gathered experts to discuss water history, drought, anti-speculation legislation, the water rights market and more in a livestream (or podcast). Want more? We produced another livestream (How Do We Value Water?) and wrote about how western water law first evolved to drastically depart from traditional rights.
THE RANCH INVESTMENT
People buy ranches in part because of the region’s beauty and history, but also because ranches are historically a good investment. That’s something we have never forgotten, as witnessed by tutorials we’ve produced both general (How to Sell Your Ranch) and region-specific (Buying and Selling in Utah). This past year we took that a step farther in a conversation with MRG broker Jeff Hubbard about how we evaluate a property, strategically approach the sale, and what buyers of legacy and sporting ranches should consider in this market. (Enjoy as Livestream or Podcast.)
ESSENTIALS OF EASEMENTS
Conservation easements have proven to be an effective tool for ranchers and landowners to preserve precious land while producing a financial benefit. We dug deeper into the topic this year with Erik Glenn of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust. (Livestream and two-part Podcast: One, Two). And learn how in Colorado, after the halting early years of its conservation easement program, the 2021 passage of Colorado House Bill 1233 has successfully reversed that trend (Read more).
Every year presents hurdles that must be surmounted. As I’ve noted, water availability is the top priority for everyone in the West. Thankfully, the wildfires that have plagued much of the region for the past decade had a quiet season in 2022. Still, we hosted conversations (Livestream, Podcast) and wrote about wildfire mitigation. Even though Yellowstone National Park was battered by an enormous storm in June, the park and surrounding area continues to rebound. And we were reminded that while it’s great the outdoor recreation economy boomed in 2021, all those people enjoying wild lands create a conservation challenge.
Land is precious in the West, so we’re always exploring how to preserve it. Hence our interest in ‘Regenerative Agriculture,’ which rethinks the notion of getting the most out of the land in the short term at the long-term expense of soil health. We sat down with MRG broker Woody Beardsley, Lyme Timber’s Tom Morrow, and Louis Martin of Round River Resources to discuss the investment side of regenerative agriculture, including how the BX Ranch employs those practices. (Livestream, Podcast) Speaking of the fruit of the land, we also shared the fruits of the 2022 harvest.
INNOVATIVE TO WIN
As I noted, ranches traditionally have been a sound investment. But we’re constantly looking for new avenues to improve that equation. To learn the latest news, we sat down with Eric O’Keefe, Editor of The Land Report, who shared entrepreneurial monetization strategies of the nation’s leading landowners. (Livestream, Podcast). Speaking of innovation, check out my report on the growing viability of ‘virtual fencing’ for cattle ranching. The technology offers an economic advantage over traditional fencing and enables ranchers to manage their herds more precisely than ever.
DU’s MOUNTAIN CAMPUS
I’m always excited to share the magic of the West. So I was really pleased to see the first group of freshmen from the University of Denver visit the school’s brand new James C. Kennedy Mountain Campus, where they experienced a weekend of activities such as hiking, climbing, arts and crafts, and even meditation. As a DU grad myself, I was thrilled to be part of the process that saw MRG brokers Daniel Carter and Jared Souza helped the school purchase the site in Larimer County.
The real estate market in 2022 has faced challenges, just like other aspects of the economy. (That said, MRG had the top sale in Jackson Hole this year.) But it’s important to remember the long view at times like this. In our Spring Market Report, for example, we noted that most of the ground MRG sold in 2021 advanced as much as 12% over the previous year. And the USDA 2022 Land Value Survey released in August shared similarly positive news, including the fact that farm real estate value experienced its largest year-over-year increase since USDA launched the survey in 1997.
While we write this note, we are closing several end-of-the-year transactions and putting many more under contract. In a ranch market that is dominated by ultra-high-net-worth investors with historically low inventories, MRG’s activities have not slowed down.
Not only is western land different than the rest of the country, so is our culture. The continuing growth of Cowboy Poetry spearheaded by the late Baxter Black is an example of that. (Find a poetry event). Western art also is a distinct, significant genre that we explored in a conversation with Rose Fredrick, Curator of the Coors Western Art Exhibit and Sale. (Livestream, Podcast). And as you travel the West, consider visiting the likes of Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site in Colorado, the Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum in Montana, the Georgia O’Keefe Museum in New Mexico, and the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Wyoming.
HERE’S TO OLD FRIENDS
We’re blessed at MRG to have befriended so many marvelous people over the years and, in turn, shared their insights with you. In the past year, for example, we’ve connected with conservationist and podcaster Ed Roberson (Evolution of a Westerner), Western Landowners Alliance Executive Director Lesli Allison (Advocating for Western Landowners), General Manager of the famous High Lonesome Ranch, Kevin Watt (What is Regenerative Agriculture?), and leading architect Marc Gerritsen (When Design Meets Nature).
Of course, that’s just some of the people we’ve had the good luck to connect with in 2022. And I know how lucky we are to have them, and so many others, in our lives. So as we wind down the final days of the year, I want to send my best to all of you for a warm and wonderful conclusion to this year and all the best in 2023.