Ranching Lite

Not everyone wants to cowboy 24/7. The Maytag Mountain Ranch in southern Colorado allows "homestead" owners to enjoy a 3,000-acre calf/cow/yearling operation—without doing all the work. For those who can afford the steep cost, it''s pretty darn ideal.
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Not everyone wants to cowboy 24/7. The Maytag Mountain Ranch in southern Colorado allows "homestead" owners to enjoy a 3,000-acre calf/cow/yearling operation—without doing all the work. For those who can afford the steep cost, it''s pretty darn ideal.
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Russ Maytag had a vision when he created the Maytag Mountain Ranch, a 27-tract, 3,000-acre property located 85 miles southwest of Colorado Springs, where the Wet Mountain Valley meets the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Each of his 100-acre “homesteads” is secluded, but owners don’t have to fret about the day-to-day chores of owning a ranch with 300 head of Angus grazing only on native grasses.

“We’ve taken the management out of it,” said Maytag about his three-member full-time staff (and additional summer help). “That way, people can come out and enjoy the cowboy lifestyle, as little or as much as they want.”

Maytag, 57, started ranching this land in 1978 on 2,000 acres and, with his wife Jeannie, sought out the best ways to operate a working ranch and doing so in a way that was in tune with nature— scientifically and ecologically. By attending ranching conferences and even studying the behavior of wild herbivores in Africa that grazed only on native grasses, Maytag came to embrace sustainable agriculture—no pesticides, herbicides, hormones and antibiotics. The success of the cow/calf/yearling operation allowed Maytag to grow the ranch to 3,000 acres and envision a time when others could partake in the lifestyle after he retired. So, in 2003, he started the project, adding ten miles of paved roads, water, and utilities.

Today, owners get to have their steak and eat it, too. “Shared-amenity ranches” are gaining in popularity from coast to coast, because ranchers-at-heart get enjoy the lifestyle with the comforts of modern living. The people willing to pay $899,000 and up for their homestead in which to build their dream house are generally not the types who want to labor daily as ranchers. But they are all the types who love the lifestyle.

Take Keith King, who looks way too relaxed the day I meet him at a the annual branding and vaccination of the ranch’s four-month-old calves. (It’s Colorado state law.) King’s Pascagoula, Mississippi, boat dealership business had fallen off by 80 percent since the Deep Water Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but on this glorious Saturday morning, all was well. In about a year when his house is slated for completion, King and Jamie Lindsey, his partner of five years, will permanently hang their hats at Maytag Mountain Ranch.

“I can’t wait for that date,” said King, also a Navy veteran. “We really like the temperate climate at 7,500 feet. Once you retire, you want to retire, and we won’t have to worry about any of the little stuff.” But a major part of the allure here is that the ranch still functions as a calf/cow/yearling operation. And King had flown out just for this event to help flank calves.

As Maytag himself neared retirement age, he shuddered at the idea of just selling to developers and wanted to keep living on the land he loves. He is one of 14 owners on the property, with only 13 homesteads remaining.

“Of course, soon I’d like to be sold out and see 27 families operating on a working ranch,” Maytag said. “We’ve worked hard at creating this kind of experience, where people can really enjoy life.”