Friday, Sept. 14 – Utah

The Osguthorpe family are the last ranchers left in Park City, Utah.  Their operation began here at this barn as a dairy.  The barn, a designated historic site,  is now owned by Park City with an easement that specifies that this acreage will be maintained as an agricultural land and not developed.

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The phenomenal growth of the tourist industry here has been responsible for growing the last ‘crop’ on the finite land base around Park City, which is houses.  The mountains, rising from 7,000 to 10,000 feet, the dry climate at 13 inches of precipitation per year and the annual snowfall of 500 inches, primarily of the fine powder variety have combined to make this a premium winter sport destination.  The increasing popularity of hiking, biking and horseback riding are turning it into a year-round playground and the beauty of the pine/aspen forests that blanket the slopes make the demand for property a high dollar figure.  Maintaining a ranching operation in this environment requires creative thinking, risk-taking and getting your priorities in order.  The Osguthorpes have done just that.

We visited a sheep camp that belonged to their sheep operation on a US Forest Service allotment high in the mountains. In our conversation with Brad we were able to get a more realistic picture of the cost of grazing in this high country which includes leasing a Forest Service allotment as a 10-year lease plus a cost per head per year for grazing,   hiring a herder to stay with the sheep year round, including all his food, housing, horses and dogs and their feed, mobile phones, plane fare back and forth to their home country every 3 years, and predator losses.  Depending on the year and the location there may be trucking costs involved for hauling water to livestock or livestock to feed.

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Diversity brings strength and resilience and it applies to the Osguthorpe family.  As the only rancher left in Park City, dad Steve owned some of the steep slopes in and around the city.  He leased some of his property to a ski resort, which has become the largest ski resort in North America.  However, the lease comes with some stipulations that were laid out with the future in mind.  The sheep are brought to graze on the ski slopes for a couple of months in the late summer.  Steve makes sure that the slopes are not left bare but are seeded and protected to ensure quality sheep feed AND erosion control.  Each of Steve’s 7 children are involved in some way with the larger Osguthorpe enterprise but they each have their own ventures that complement the larger operation and provide for their own risk management.  Among the diverse operations are cattle and an outdoor recreation / guiding service that takes people either on horseback, snowmobiles, snowshoes or hikes into the mountains.  We were privileged to be taken in UTV’s along some of the trails up to the top of the mountain where one of the ski lifts dead ended.  It provided a fabulous view of the surrounding area and a memorable end to a visit with this gracious and hospitable Utah ranching family.

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