By Gary Cutrer
Sometimes an idea is as good as gold. At least, if the idea is feasible, there is always the potential to make a little gold. That’s why new ideas and new ways of doing things continue to hold our interest. New income streams make it possible for us to keep our ranch and farm operations or even our small acreage homesteads profitable and give us the means to preserve and improve the land, its wildlife and natural features. In other words, a healthy income from the land supports good land stewardship.
It amazes me that remote places and ranching pasttimes that I take for granted could be so attractive to some folks that they would pay a lot of money to view the same vistas or take part in the same endeavors. But, people will pay for a ticket to the wilderness, so to speak. Thus was born nature tourism. Sometimes it works for the entrepreneur, sometimes it doesn’t.
Successful nature tourism enterprises include Dan and Cathy Brown’s Hummer House hummingbird sanctuary and observatory near Christoval, Texas, where for a small fee visitors can view rare hummingbirds as they flit from flower to flower.
Another is the Meador family’s Xbar Ranch, 15 miles south of Eldorado, Texas, where visitors can stay in a rock “Roundhouse” and experience a working ranch while enjoying the natural world.
Hand in hand with nature tourism is the desire of some urban dwellers to live the cowboy or country life. Dude ranches like those in the Bandera area or the Prude Ranch near Fort Davis allow would-be cowboys to rise early, saddle up and ride horseback to their heart’s content.
One “new” idea that’s been around a few years is stocking your ranch with exotic hoofstock and inviting hunting enthusiasts to pay to hunt them. We take a brief look at the exotics industry in an article in this issue. Because exotics species like gemsbok, sika deer and blackbuck antelope are now economically important to U.S. landowners, their future survival is ensured regardless of how endangered their existence becomes in their habitat of origin.
Following are the puddles left from a recent brainstorm. The ideas are provided free with no warranty or guarantee of success. You agree to hold me free of liability if you choose to use one of my ideas and have problems. Here they are:
- Raise an additional livestock. For example: poultry, quail, pheasant, fish, shrimp.
- Capture and market live feral hogs to abattoirs that ship to Europe where the beasts are served as “wild boar” in restaurants. One such facility is Frontier Meats in Fort Worth.
- Raise grasshoppers for food or worms for bait. Yep, I said it.
- Take an agricultural product that is abundant and inexpensive locally and produce an end product with it. Examples: wool into sweaters, mohair into fashions, hides into shearling jackets, pecans into cookies pies and candies, mesquite wood into furniture or saddle trees, prickly pear fruit into jams and candies, goat meat into Internet marketed cuts.
- Grow a specialty crop in addition to your livestock operation or other crops. Examples, depending on climate: grapes, olives, jojoba, herbs, garlic, figs, dates.
- Invent a use for ripe mesquite beans, caliche dust or coyotes.
- Quarry/gather rock by hand or machine and sell as building material.
- Produce and sell adobe or rammed earth building blocks.
- Collect rainwater and UV treat it, bottle it and sell as drinking water.
- Offer the use of your ranch, for a fee, for movie production. See how at Texas Film Commission website, http://www.governor.state.tx.us/film.
- Turn your ranch into a fat farm, beauty spa or celebrity retreat.
- Convert 20 acres into an outdoor music venue and hold monthly concerts.
- Use a home HD video camera to produce how-to videos on whatever subject you know or skill you have. Examples: train horses, grow specialty crops, construct adobe barns, talk about history.
- Host European, Japanese or Chinese tourists who are dying to live the Western Life. Did you know country music is huge in Europe?
- Construct a micro brewery and sell beer or a winery and offer wine tasting of your own stock.
I hope one or two of these ideas will help you spark an idea of your own, a successful one. And remember, in the words of one of my dear departed grandparents, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”