ranching in pandemic

ranching in pandemic

Almost overnight the Coronavirus pandemic upended daily life throughout the United States and across the world. In response people from all walks of life have embraced wholesale cultural changes, creating a new normalcy that is likely to persist long after the disease itself. From Wall Street to Main Street, the impact has reshaped industries and behaviors.

Ranching, a way of life celebrated for its traditions and independence, has adapted to the circumstances with equal solemnity. The impact has been at turns pronounced and nuanced. Perhaps not surprising, it has created a return to the heritage that has long defined the American West.

Like many sectors of the economy, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a significant toll on the country’s ranchers. Outbreaks at meat processing facilities, like the JBS USA plant in Greeley, Colorado, drew attention to the fragility of the nation’s food supply chain. For ranchers, that often meant bottlenecks that prevented livestock from getting to consumer markets. Which, at its worst, forced hard decisions about herd euthanasia.

“The thought of euthanizing animals and those animals going to waste goes against every grain of our being,” one rancher told ABC News in May. Cattle ranchers stand to lose more than $13 billion because of disruptions, the article notes.

At the height of the pandemic as much as 40 percent of the nation’s meat processing capacity was shut down. That reality reignited a dormant debate over regulation and decentralizing the food supply chain. About 80 percent of U.S. processing plants are owned by four corporations, all of which experienced closures and labor shortages because of the pandemic.

As a result, smaller processing plants that often specialize in local, grass-fed beef, quickly backed up. Many are now booked four years in advance, which has pushed the bottleneck problem down to local ranchers.

“All these custom slaughter facilities, those are the organizations that we should be propping up and giving them the tools and opportunities to be able to supply directly to their little local communities,” says Tyler Lindholm, a Wyoming state representative and rancher.

The pandemic has forced changes closer to home, too, not just down the supply chain. Like nearly every industry, ranchers are embracing preventative measures—social distancing, face masks and sanitation practices. Livestock auctions have gone virtual. County fairs, once community-wide celebrations, have pared down their programs to only those that can operate within new health guidelines.

“We are paying close attention to our industry associations regionally, nationally, and internationally to learn what they are doing,” Teton County Fair manager Rachel Grimes said ahead of our area’s 64th annual county fair. “All we can do right now is plan for the worst and hope for the best.”

Ultimately, the event was trimmed down to the 4-H livestock shows, open horse classes and exhibit hall. Which welcomed community arts and crafts projects. While the week-long event looked different than years past, turnout remained strong. The livestock sale saw a 25 percent increase in total volume.

“If these young people are going to put in the work, I’m going to support it,” said Zia Yasrobi, a buyer at the sale.

The westward movement phenomenon accelerated, if not brought about, by the COVID-19 pandemic. In growing numbers, discerning real estate buyers have begun seeking properties that provide, in a word, space. And it seems none combine the considerations of privacy, solitude and conversation more than ranch properties.

In the immediate wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, real estate markets cratered nationally by and large. But as panics subsided, markets quickly rebounded. The spring and summer have recorded many record transactions, both across the country and here in Wyoming.

“The situation has lit a fire under buyers,” says Chopper Grassell. “Even before the pandemic, there was a growing demand from people looking to escape the cities in favor of properties that offer greater space and privacy. COVID didn’t start that trend, but it has accelerated it. And it’s likely to continue, especially as remote working becomes the new normal and people are putting a higher value on quality of life.”

Here in Teton County, the luxury market (above $3 million) saw a 164 percent increase year-over-year through the mid-year point, while the average days-on-market fell seven percent. Vacant land prices increased more than 50 percent, helping to drive up the average sale price above $2.5 million. That was compelled largely by a flurry of activity through June, which continued to through the third quarter.

Across the country, the Coronavirus pandemic has reshaped daily life. It is no different on the country’s ranches. Yet, in this new era, the beckon of the West that has long captivated society’s hearts and minds is alive and well and as strong as ever.

To find your own Western paradise, contact Richard and Chopper.

*Article brought you by Western Ranches.

wsj ranch feature

wsj ranch feature

Meet The Brokers Who Wrangle Luxury Ranch Sales
These brokers face grizzlies and avalanches to sell multi-million dollar Western properties

Live Jackson Hole’s Chopper Grassell and Richard Lewis were recently featured in Wall Street Journal article, Meet The Brokers Who Wrangle Luxury Ranch Sales.


“Routinely spending years with clients before they buy, ranch brokers must be equal parts tour guide, park ranger, financial adviser and agriculture expert, adept at representing both lifelong cattle ranchers and urban billionaires, and discussing heli-skiing in the same breath as complex water and mineral rights. “You can be sitting around the kitchen of a third-generation rancher having coffee in the morning, and then in the afternoon you’re in the truck with a very well-known, successful business person from Palo Alto or New York,” said Greg Fay, the founder of Fay Ranches who last year sold newscaster Tom Brokaw ’s Montana ranch, which had been listed at $17.9 million. He added: “We joke that it’s like being bilingual.

Ranch brokerage in its current form is relatively new. It was only a few decades ago that moneyed, big-city elites like Ted Turner, Charles Schwab and Malcolm Forbes started buying up Rocky Mountain ranchland primarily for recreational rather than agricultural purposes.”

“In the early 2000s, money was so easy, it was just pouring in,” recalled David Halgerson, a ranch broker in southwestern Idaho. In 2007, Mr. Forbes’s heirs sold his Colorado ranch for $175 million—more than 20 times the estimated $50 an acre the patriarch had paid in the 1960s.”

richard lewis chopper grassel wsj

The article goes on to quote Richard Lewis, “but since the 2008 financial crisis, ranch buyers have become much more cautious, and are more likely to scrutinize a property’s agricultural production (or “ag,” as ranch brokers call it) as well as the views, said Wyoming ranch broker Richard Lewis. Mr. Lewis said he once worked with a client for eight years before he finally bought a ranch for $48 million.”

“Brokers have to sell not just a property, but the ranching lifestyle and romance of the Old West. Often—and this is the fun part for brokers—that means behaving like a glorified tour guide, taking clients hunting, horseback riding and fly-fishing. The job tends to attract people who embody the lifestyle buyers are looking to emulate,” the article goes on to talk about.

Chopper Grassell also says in the article, “Nobody’s getting rich doing this—you’ve got to love the land.”


Article by Candace Taylor on August 22, 2019 and photography by Greg Von Doersten for the Wall Street Journal.

Jackson Hole Real Estate Associates, the region’s largest and most dynamic real estate company, is proud to present our comprehensive Market Report for the year end of 2018. Assembled from Jackson Hole Real Estate Associates’ proprietary database, the most extensive source of information about the region’s real estate market, and insight from our dedicated team of professionals, the report provides valuable insight into the market segments that make up the Jackson Hole area.


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Jackson Hole Market Report

We are pleased to present our comprehensive market report for the mid-year 2018. In this detailed report, you will find information on the market segments making up the Jackson Hole area. As the market leader in Jackson Hole, we have developed a more dynamic report that sheds fresh light on the insights and trends that are shaping our real estate market.

Jackson Hole’s real estate market started very strong in the first half of 2018 with number of transactions up 11% and average sale price up 10%. Even more important to note was the increase in median sale price, a more accurate indicator, up 22% from a year ago. The majority of transactions were in the $500,000 – $1 million price segment, however, there was a sharp increase in transactions over $5 million, up 77%. This sharp increase drove total dollar volume up by 33% compared to a year ago. The single family home segment was the most popular among buyers achieving 41% of the mid-year market share. Inventory continued to decrease as did well-priced new inventory, which was a contributor to the 23% decrease in active listings and 13% decrease in average days on market. CLICK TO VIEW FULL REPORT.

As a member of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, we are privy to global economic insights from LeadingRE’s Chief Economist, Marci Rossell, who takes complex economic issues and makes them relevant to buying and selling real estate. In this edition, we are covering Rising Home Prices and Affordability.

Home prices have skyrocketed causing an affordable housing crisis in many parts of the globe, particularly with first time home buyers. To help make housing more affordable, some governments are taking action by placing restrictions on the purchase of real estate. In addition, market-based solutions are occurring


  • Restrictions may keep some foreign buyers from purchasing homes.
  • To control home prices, some countries are purchasing property.


  • New companies have emerged with creative solutions and programs to help homebuyers with a down payment or make monthly mortgage payments. In return, when a buyers sells the property, the appreciation is split.
  • Another example is a start-up in Seattle, Washington, USA, helping homebuyers come up with a down payment in exchange for a share of Airbnb revenues that the property generates.

Expect to see more innovative market-based solutions occurring, providing a better answer to affordable housing without causing home values to decrease or be suffocated in the long run.