Ranch Investor Podcast

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Episode 13 | Revealing the Hidden Costs of Ranching in Montana


Montana, the unparalleled embodiment of Western beauty, is an oasis that defies comparison, even to the most well-crafted TV dramas. Should you harbor a desire to cast aside the familiar and embrace the wild allure of this frontier, you must take a moment to truly grasp the daily realities that await you.

In Montana, you’ll discover more of everything. More wind, sweeping landscapes that stretch to infinity, untamed wilderness, and, of course, more expenses, as you endeavor to keep pace with the cost of living in Eastern Montana.

In this captivating episode, we invite you to join us for an intimate conversation with Holly and Trent Stoltz, two souls who’ve bravely embarked on a journey to Eastern Montana, leaving behind their family’s 98-year legacy in the foothills. They’ll reveal the unfiltered truth about their new life, the highs, and the lows. If the notion of calling Montana home stirs within you, it’s imperative that you lend an ear to their story before making your own leap into the unknown.

Colter DeVries: 0:01
I’m Colter DeVries, owner of Ranch Investor Advisory and Brokerage Services. As a former commercial nag banker, my main reason for doing this podcast is to simply gauge the market’s appetite for crowdsourcing investment in a ranch real estate fund.

General Voice: 0:15
The Ranch Investor podcast, curated by subject matter experts to give you immense benefit, because we believe your time is valuable.

Colter DeVries: 0:26
Thanks everyone for joining the Ranch Investor podcast. Holly and Trent Stoltz lost a. Did you guys lose a tire on the semi hauling calves in here?

Trent Stoltz: 0:37
Blew a tire on the semi hauling earlings. Yeah.

Colter DeVries: 0:41
So just another day ranching, just ranching, just another day. Well, how has it been? Ranching in eastern Montana, kind of in the quintessential eastern Montana, ponderosa Pines, versus where you came from, which was quintessential mountain foothills. How’s the transition?

Trent Stoltz: 1:05
been. It’s been good. Big learning curves and we discussed water. We’re not used to pipeline. That’s been quite a learning curve. And just difference in country don’t have the wind down here, for sure.

Colter DeVries: 1:25
No, not compared to where you came from. So you came from north central Montana, kind of the Choteau area, right Valiar, valiar, west of Great Falls.

Trent Stoltz: 1:37
North of Great Falls.

Colter DeVries: 1:39
North okay.

Trent Stoltz: 1:40
It’s just about 40 miles west of.

Colter DeVries: 1:45
Conrad. So the Rocky Mountain Front, lots of grizzly bears. You don’t have those anymore in eastern Montana, but tell me more about this water. So what did you do for water on the last place?

Trent Stoltz: 2:01
We had seven warm water springs, a half mile of creek that was tributary between them, two and a half miles of birch creek and a half mile of two medicine. So our cows drank out of creeks, streams and warm water springs.

Colter DeVries: 2:20
All year long. So you get All year long.

Trent Stoltz: 2:22
Yeah, the springs were open year round.

Colter DeVries: 2:24
The creek was open year round unless we got cold snaps of 50 below for weeks on end, and now you’re dependent on wells and pipelines and frost free tanks for your grazing plans.

Trent Stoltz: 2:38
Yeah, that’s been a challenge.

Colter DeVries: 2:43
How about the climate? How’s that transition been, Holly?

Holly Stoltz: 2:48
Climate’s been awesome.

Colter DeVries: 2:50
Like I said no wind Not Okay.

Holly Stoltz: 2:53
So everybody down here says the wind blows a lot more than it used to, but it’s way better down here than it is up there. There wasn’t a day that went by, that the wind did not blow up there, and it does weigh on you for sure.

Colter DeVries: 3:07
Certainly so. I wonder if that’s part of the reason we see so many people moving to western Montana. Is those mountain valleys, the Gallatin, jefferson, madison, beaverhead, whatever it is, they don’t seem to be as windy as the Well. They’re not as windy as the East slope. Right East slope has the Chinooks and the wind.

Holly Stoltz: 3:31
No, and we had bought a store in Shoto like 10 years ago or 20 years ago and thinking everybody had said, oh, shoto’s going to be the new white fish on the east side of the mountains and I just don’t think it’ll ever be that because of the climate. It’s just too windy, too cold, it’s just not a white fish.

Colter DeVries: 3:52
Do you buy my aunts store in Shoto Connie Rogers? She had a.

Holly Stoltz: 3:57
Connie worked for us. Okay, are you?

Colter DeVries: 4:00
serious, that’s my dad’s sister. Oh my gosh, I love my aunt Connie.

Holly Stoltz: 4:05
So we thought that trading post in her store was right next door and so she had already sold it at the time and she was a bit tired and just wanted something to do. So she had a Working for us for like two days a week and, oh gosh, I love Connie.

Colter DeVries: 4:19
Yeah, the map you’re looking at right there, that’s where Connie grew up.

Holly Stoltz: 4:23
Really yeah, I’m excited.

Colter DeVries: 4:25
Wow, that’s cool. Yeah, that’s all we’re looking at, that’s all we’re looking at that’s cool, that’s all we’re looking at. I’m assuming, yes, you have more elk.

Holly Stoltz: 4:36
What you’re looking at is grizzlies to snakes.

Colter DeVries: 4:39
Grizzlies are rattlesnakes.

Holly Stoltz: 4:41
Yeah, because we’d rather have a grizzly than a rattlesnake, and I’m sure it’s just where you grew up, so we kind of miss our bears and not like the rattlesnakes.

Colter DeVries: 4:51
Well, I hope. I wonder if you guys can exemplify, if you can let the audience know how wonderful Eastern Montana is. I mean the ponderosa pines, the trophy ball, elk. No wind Sounds like a limiting factor, the threshold, especially. If you’re a stockman, we’ll get into your guys’ ranching here pretty quick. But groundwater, and how is the quality and quantity of groundwater on your new place?

Trent Stoltz: 5:19
The quantity. He did a good job. But the wells are most of them have well savers on, which tells you, according to the guys, the well expert that I talked to down here that you have a pretty poor producing well. We do have an RO system that he had put on his pipeline to the west. So there’s three wells, one’s four, one’s five and big to the one’s four. So the one four and one five dump into the RO system and it dumps in five gallons of clean and then the other one dumps in five gallons straight up, so you’re getting about a 50-50 mix. Coral water is not good. Both wells in the coral tapped out instantly, so we’re trying to fix that problem. And then we live on flank, which is toxic to cattle.

Colter DeVries: 6:12
Because of the salinity, yeah.

Trent Stoltz: 6:16
I think it’s the salinity, yeah.

Colter DeVries: 6:19
Yes, salinity is all for the minerals. So let’s talk about this. You guys are not habitual ranch traders. No, trent, the place that you guys sold recently in 1031 into something else, that was your family place, was it? Yeah, we were on that for 98 years. 98 years, yeah. What tell me about some of the feelings? I mean, there’s mixed feelings when you sell a family legacy land like that.

Trent Stoltz: 6:51

Colter DeVries: 6:52
I think it was hard to walk away.

Trent Stoltz: 7:01
We really liked where we were at. We were on a half mile wide creek. Bottom it was full of trees. Everything else was beautiful, grizzly, beautiful white tail. Yeah, trophy white tail it was.

Holly Stoltz: 7:18
We called it the animal interstate to the Rocky Mountain front, so the animals would come down in the spring and go right past our house. So there’s a lot of bloodline.

Colter DeVries: 7:28
The northern Rockies, I mean you guys are not far from Glacier National Park, so I mean you absolutely have an immense diversity of species, like I said moose, antelope, elk, white tail, mule, deer, pheasant I mean everything. The northern Rockies, I mean you are the picture perfect advertisement, that area, the Rocky Mountain, front your timing, though. Could you have done that if you guys weren’t about to be empty nesters? Yeah, I think so.

Holly Stoltz: 8:00
So it was three generations that moved with us, and it was his mom who he just lost, his dad the year before two years before and his dad and mom were totally on board, absolutely 100%. They were good with everybody moving, and so it was a three generational family decision and we looked at all the ranches together as a family and we decided on the two that we ended up buying as a family. I mean it had to be everybody was on board with it and it was a scramble and it was a scramble, because it was the middle of COVID.

Colter DeVries: 8:37
Well, and speaking of timing, what plays more into that in my mind is the market. You had ready liquidity. I mean yours was easily liquidable. It had never been worth more. So quick, so fast. So the market was doing well. That timing played into your favor. But how did you get three generations on board?

Trent Stoltz: 9:03
It was pretty simple. My dad had pancreatic cancer and I was on the way home and I went to him and I said, hey, I think we’d like to sell the ranch farm and try and move somewhere else. And we just said go for it.

Holly Stoltz: 9:28
But you also have to understand and I’ve always heard this statistic that North Central Montana farming and ranching in North Central Montana is by far the most expensive place in the whole United States. Your rail line is very limited. Your elevators- your inputs are still the same. Your weather is very harsh. Your growing season is shorter and so we farmed and ranched up there and we weren’t big enough farmers to warrant the updated machinery and we weren’t small enough to hire a lot of people to help and it was just way too labor intensive. We had 1,000 acres of irrigation and not all on pivots and wheel lines. We had how many acres of flood?

Trent Stoltz: 10:20
Well, 350 to 400 acres of flood ground and we had four pivots wheel lines and it was all on the project up there which is the Mariahs River Project.

Colter DeVries: 10:37
No, it’s.

Trent Stoltz: 10:38
Fort Horns, which is on the Blackfoot Indian Reservation.

Colter DeVries: 10:44
So controlled limited water.

Holly Stoltz: 10:47
We had all the water we ever wanted.

Trent Stoltz: 10:50
But most of the guys up there irrigate a quarter of what they pay water on. Just because the irrigation project is very rundown, A lot of the ditches are silted in. It’s hard to get water to.

Colter DeVries: 11:03
Deferred maintenance.

Trent Stoltz: 11:05
Yeah it’s been run, just hasn’t been done for a long time.

Holly Stoltz: 11:12
So that’s kind of why I think all three generations were on board, because his parents were tired and they were just worn out. Our kids looked and saw how hard they worked and how hard we worked and didn’t want that life. I mean, they wanted to have a life. They didn’t want to have to work seven days a week, 10 hours, 14 hour days, and there just wasn’t. That was never going to change up there.

Colter DeVries: 11:39
Now we’re irrigating with orange canvas dams. Yes, well, that’s easy to sell then. Yeah, it’s pretty easy to get everyone on board when you’re using orange canvas dams. I can relate, yeah that’s hard work. It is.

Trent Stoltz: 11:56
And I guess the other main reason. There was no room for expansion. It’s just the Rocky Mountain Front is priced at everyone’s range, and then the reservation is.

Colter DeVries: 12:12
It’s difficult to navigate. For a lot of people it is and it’s a travel preference first, and then enrolled member second.

Trent Stoltz: 12:22
So even if you want to buy a piece of ground, they both they have rights on it first, which is their prerogative, no complaining, it’s their country. But you weren’t going to be able to expand on their reservation very easily. And then across the river was, there was quite a few colonies. So, john Deere, the guy that owns the case, so there’s some.

Colter DeVries: 12:49
Well, in the north of you is, I want to say, or he might have sold it to Ricketts with the Bison Ranch I mean there must have had. Yeah, the Double T Bison. He must have had 1500, had a Bison Northview and he is. I might be confusing my wealthy ranch owners, but I’m pretty sure he is. He is of the TD Ameritrade. He created a trading platform, ricketts, I want to say All we knew was he was he owns the Cubs. Yep, yeah, and related to like the governor of Nebraska or something Same family, but that’s. It’s hard to Between the Hutterites and a tribal preference and players like him. It’s hard to compete in that market. Like you said, there’s no room for expansion.

Trent Stoltz: 13:41
Yeah. So I mean you definitely don’t see too many guys that have the pockets to get into that, those competitions.

Colter DeVries: 13:53
As a 90, a year at that time legacy. You guys are primarily producers. I mean, how many header you run in, what color?

Trent Stoltz: 14:04
At the time we had last year we were up there, we had 700 year-links and 250 mother cows, angus, angus, black Angus, and then we cropped about 1500 acres 1000 acres of irrigation.

Colter DeVries: 14:21
So I mean you’re in it to make a living. This isn’t. Yeah. You’re not doing strategic purchases of ranches every 98 years? Not at all.

Trent Stoltz: 14:36
Not at all.

Colter DeVries: 14:39
This is your family legacy and, Holly, actually your dad was a ranch broker, one of the legends. Legend in Montana he was one of the first. He was on the front end of the big movement into Paradise Valley.

Holly Stoltz: 14:54
Yes, he was.

Colter DeVries: 14:55
And he was of the good old boys who drank Coors original or Olympia beer, and pretty soon Paradise Valley started looking a little different, didn’t it A?

Holly Stoltz: 15:06
little different and he was able to sell like a few properties, like two or three times over the years you know, to even you know higher buyers. The millionaires became billionaires.

Colter DeVries: 15:23
That was probably one of the first areas of Montana where that happened Paradise Valley, north of Yellowstone National Park, south of Livingston, near Bozeman one of the most beautiful areas in the world, and your dad was on the front end of that. So actually trading ranches was no stranger to you, even though I’ve been on your family’s place. Your brother is there, correct? Yeah, and that’s another irrigated mountain foot hill. Yep, progressively managed.

Holly Stoltz: 15:53
Progressively managed.

Colter DeVries: 15:55
yes, and you have a little bit of off farm income though.

Holly Stoltz: 16:01

Colter DeVries: 16:03
Well, you, holly, because you work for WSE.

Holly Stoltz: 16:05
I work for Western Sustainability Exchange, which is a nonprofit that’s actually based out of Livingston but, I, don’t have to work there. I need to work out of my home.

Colter DeVries: 16:15
Right, and we’ve had Chris Mayhew’s on two or three times on this podcast to talk about the carbon program, carbon program.

Holly Stoltz: 16:23
Yep, we facilitate the only grassland carbon program in Montana actually in the United States and that’s going very well. And we also do a lot of education for ranchers that want to change their grazing over to more regenerative, intensive grazing practices. So we do that for them.

Colter DeVries: 16:45
Well, now we’re going to get into. This is this is why I brought you into my office and about to lock the doors, so that you have to answer before you can leave. Is Trent, your family, pretty old school, true blue, died in the wool. Montana ranchers I know the Stoltz name. There’s lots of Stoltz’s up there. Good people, salt of the earth people, my people. And now we have these carbon programs coming in. We have these outside interests. Holly, how do you navigate that as a and you know your dad was the same way they will. They’ll be drinking type Coors, original type the good old boy type, and ranching is changing. The face of the culture is changing and it’s changed very quick in the last three years in Montana. How do you navigate that, Because you’re part of the carbon program which a lot of generational ranchers are going to be very hesitant and skeptical of.

Holly Stoltz: 17:53
And they are. And even my dad, when my brother and sister a lot took the ranch over when they started changing their grazing and stopped hanging everything and ran with those pivots you don’t run pivots to graze. That’s just not in the thinking, and so it did take him a while to kind of get on board. I mean, it’s just old school, we’ve done it the same way for so long, and it’s not that it’s wrong, it’s just there’s maybe a better way, and we just were never taught that. And so I do think it’s very hard on a lot of these big places. But you know, there’s a lot of younger generations that are coming on and they kind of see the writing on the wall. I mean they want to have a good life for their families and they know they can’t do it with just livestock alone, and so the cool thing about the carbon is it allows people to get paid for really what? they’re already doing, because ranch, ranch managers, owners, we’re all stewards of the land. I mean, we care about our land and we want it to thrive and be the best that it can be, but without the knowledge and the tools it’s really hard. And so through the carbon program there’s a wealth of information that you get. On top of that you get, like Chris Mayhuse comes out and he can do that grazing plans and help you figure out your water lines, your water systems, and the cool thing about the carbon program is that they will give you the money upfront to put all this infrastructure in, and that that, to me, is probably the one big factor that stops people from doing this type of crazy, because it is more labor intensive, but it’s also. if you don’t have the infrastructure, it’s not going to work. You’ve got to have the water. And so I mean, I just really think that, as people are seeing other ranches getting this infrastructure, seeing how it’s changing, I think it’s slowly. I think people are coming around, but it is slow it is. And I think there is this you know, we have a person that’s. I think we walked in the door to their living room or their kitchen table and they called Chris a hippie. So yeah, I mean there’s definitely that.

Colter DeVries: 20:11
Well, trent, now that you’re the man in charge, you’ve got this family legacy in this asset. I’m sure it might feel like you can empathize with a lot of guys who might feel like they’re either limiting or compromising or risking the future of that asset by a lot of them see this as getting into making strange bedfellows. When you do a deal with, like, native energy out of Chicago, these are new relationships being created and it’s all. I think it’s all kind of confusing and strange and uncomfortable for a lot of people. I mean, how do you navigate that?

Trent Stoltz: 20:56
Well, I just get beat over the head with it until I do it.

Colter DeVries: 21:06
Pressure sales.

Trent Stoltz: 21:07
Pressure sales by the gals, am I right? But I think three that I know, like Nature’s Conservancy, WWF, World Wildlife Federation and Native, when we go to these things, I just I see the more and more they feel that farmers and ranchers are the guys that are on the front line doing what they want done Preserving, making a home for wildlife, preserving grass, being stewards of the land, and it seemed like everybody that’s in these conferences with us is seeing the same thing. It’s a really big rancher that I was talking to at the last one and said boy when. Holly and Chris told me that I needed to talk to WWF. I thought they were on their mind and here he was at the conference and he’s like this is great, they’re treating us wonderful. So, yeah, I think my maybe some ranchers ideas are shifting and their ideas are shifting just a little bit to. Maybe we don’t think they’re so evil and they don’t think we’re so evil.

Colter DeVries: 22:35
Sounds like some bridge building has been done and in these relationships are being improved through direct contact, through these conferences. Tell me about a conference you have coming up.

Holly Stoltz: 22:50
So most groups throughout the state do great jobs putting on conferences for like soil health and like grazing management. They’re great. But when I came on to WSC two years ago, I felt like there was one really important part missing in this whole scheme, and that was if we can’t make it profitable, why would anybody do it? I mean, it’s already hard enough to change people’s mindset, but if they can’t see that they’re going to make more money by changing their grazing putting? more carbon in the soil, increasing their capacity. Then what’s the point? And so I started, you know, doing some research and we hosted our first expanding markets livestock or active season expanding markets conference last year in Lewistown and we had some players from all over the United States, a guy from Timberlain Boot Company who, unbeknownst to anybody, they have a regenerative hide line and they do source some hides through Superior in Montana and they are looking for more hides to make better boots or, you know, just a different line of boot and so he came out and he was our keynote and we had some other great speakers. Westpaw, a pet food company in Bozeman, montana, has been dying to source Montana raised beef for a byproduct for dog treats, and so they have not been able to find any producers or way to scale it.

Colter DeVries: 24:31
And so what came out of?

Holly Stoltz: 24:32
that conference last year was a group of people who continue to meet and are trying to form some pilot programs. There’s a gal in Big Timberlain who’s going to put in a processing plant which is not just going to be a processing, it’s going to be you know, so our landfills get filled up with guts, basically all of the stuff that nobody wants to buy. The trim and awful the trim and the awful and the hides.

Colter DeVries: 25:02
In Montana because we’re so geographically isolated.

Holly Stoltz: 25:05
Because we don’t have the processing facilities to do it. And so we have companies from out of state who want to source this stuff, and so her plant is going to have all the tools to be able to, you know, package the organs and the fat and everything, and then we have a distributor who’s going to get it out of the state, and so that’s kind of what came from this conference. So this year we’re hosting it in Billings November 7th and 8th, and our we’ll have a little panel of those people there to kind of inform everybody, like what has happened since the last conference and what is going to be available, different opportunities. We have beef aggregators actually beef and sheep aggregators who are going to be there, one’s from Minnesota, one’s from Missouri, and they all want to source Montana products we have, like. The one thing that we learned from last year’s conference is nobody knows how to tell their story, and in the regenerative space, consumers are driving the demand, and what consumers are wanting is they want a story, they want to know that the beef and the sheep, or whatever, are humanely raised and that you know their meat is quality, but they also want to store it with it, and the one thing that ranchers have never had to be is marketers, and so we’re doing a panel on storytelling and then, like Land Trust, different options like that, the carbon program.

Colter DeVries: 26:34

Holly Stoltz: 26:36
Landtrustcom, so you know just different ways that ranchers can make more money on their land without having to have more work and more animals, and so we have Land Trust from Bozeman going to be there Ecosystem Services, which is a whole new market, like here’s carbon and there’s another one called Ecosystem Services, and they’re going to start paying for biodiversity, water, anything like that, not just putting soil in the carbon, and so this is a whole new market and we have the company from Vermont coming out and they’re going to explain this whole new marketplace to ranchers, and so we’re just trying to put on a conference where ranchers can come and they can take what they want from the conference, get some contacts, business cards and then go home and make a decision on what’s going to work best for their place.

Colter DeVries: 27:29
Well, someday in the future that ranch you sold, that owner will now be getting paid for the grizzly bears that are on it.

Holly Stoltz: 27:38

Colter DeVries: 27:39
That’s part of Ecosystem Services. Right Is that you’re providing this public good as a landowner or a private landowner. Shouldn’t you be compensated for that? Absolutely. If a grizzly bear is a public good, which I’m not, I’m not. You know I didn’t deal with we do have grizzly bears up here right there on the map and I can’t say for a fact that there’s been noticeable mortality predation from that. But I’m not in the camp that I that I like the cattlemen that hate grizzly bears Like. That’s our state animal. It’s a beautiful animal, it’s a, it’s a symbol of power and I do like grizzly bears. But I also think the public should probably compensate some people for those grizzly bears.

Holly Stoltz: 28:30
Well, ranchers have been compensating for grizzly bears to a point, but I mean because they do kill livestock. But yeah, there’s, there’s, just have to try to coexist. I mean because we need all those animals.

Colter DeVries: 28:43
Yeah, we bring up holistic a lot on this podcast and coexist holistic. It’s. It’s part of our values and I think, speaking of like real estate values, monetary, economic, financial values, that does improve a place, places market value. If it has species density, species diversity, that’s good for ranch investing.

Holly Stoltz: 29:10

Colter DeVries: 29:11
And so I would say that, yeah, this ecosystem services is exciting to a lot of ranch investors. How about for these conferences? So we have a lot of appraisers. You know they track consumer tastes and preferences or they’re trying to analyze it, looking backward and seeing why the changes in the markets, why someone is now more interested in Powder River County, montana, compared to years past. And then you talked about selling a story. I think that’s also part of the future of ranch sales. I sold a place almost based on the story and it was well. The market helped. It was 2020. But I was told that one of the direct reasons motivations was the story fit that person’s vision, that fit their ideals. And the Texans we have a lot of Texas listeners, they can speak to this more than I can but the four sixes and there’s another ranch down there, of course, the King Ranch, but in the wagon box or the wagon wagon or wagon or ranch those, those ranches, do have a story and so those are going to command a premium. I think we saw that with the beaver head ranch that Rupert Murdoch purchased. The story is on that one that it’s just a huge, beautiful ranch that the Koch brothers own forever. You know that’s that legacy is much different than the four sixes and the wagon are in Texas, but I do think that selling a story will help values, your marketability and your land values in the future.

Holly Stoltz: 31:04
Yeah, so really cool story. On that one, I was talking to a person with the storytelling and she’s like you know. We started to try to think well what’s our? Story. You know we’re a fifth generation Montana family ranch and you know, but everybody’s a fifth or fourth generation. What’s the big deal? And so they had a. I don’t even know how it came about, but they were driving through their ranch one day and they found his owl and they had an expert come in and they’ve never seen this owl before. Just so happens, it’s an endangered species of owl. So they ended up putting that owl as their story for their ranch and they never ever would have thought that that was their story. But I guess my point is is every ranch has a story. You just maybe don’t know exactly what that’s going to be, to set you aside or apart from everybody else, but every ranch has a story, so it is pretty cool.

Colter DeVries: 31:55
Absolutely so that this conference is coming up here in a couple months and we’ve got what were the remind me again the keynotes or the kind of the segments of specialty, topic of interest.

Holly Stoltz: 32:09
Okay, so I was thinking about my next question rather than listening.

Colter DeVries: 32:13
So we’re going to have a group of people.

Holly Stoltz: 32:16
So it’s not going to be the person from Timberland this year, but it’s going to be his business partner, gina, and I’m going to put your her name, but it’s Rachel or Nigel. Anyway, she used to be the sustainability marketing director at Hormel and Applegate and she actually like totally made the regenerative meat line because good dogs or something like that Applegate anyway, she’s going to be here and she’s going to I don’t really have a keynote because I feel like all of my speakers are just so. They’re just going to be so amazing. Maybe I’m biased, but I mean so she’s going to be. She’ll be a really good speaker and she’s going to talk to like what, what opportunities are coming in the future for Montana, and like the big timber plant, regenerative plant and Westpaw is going to be there, and then we’re going to have the ecosystem services, gentlemen, and the other markets other than livestock. So land trust, carbon is going to be here and then there’s just going to be a lot of ranchers to just tell them their stories, because I think that’s super important. It’s it’s okay to hear it from experts and people who are out in the public and stuff, but it’s also good to hear it from ranchers. It’s like, I think, most people are going to relate more to other ranchers than they are to companies, right? So we’ll have a lot of that too.

Colter DeVries: 33:40
Well, trent, is this? I mean, you guys are young. You guys, like, compared to the average age of the average landowner, the average rancher, you guys are young and you’re just recently empty nesters. Is I mean, you’ve? You’ve done what you’ve done for three or four decades now, and is it all this pretty exciting to you? Is this something that your kids are getting into, that they find exciting? Or or is there? Is there still kind of the pole towards? Well, damn it, I just want to be a cowboy and, left alone, let me farm. I don’t need your opinion, I don’t want your novelty green ideas, like, just let me do me.

Trent Stoltz: 34:27
So yeah, our youngest boy, we just took him to practice Texas, which is in the panhandle, and he was lovely place. He said you have a little bit of Texas listening, I know.

Colter DeVries: 34:41
I know I sit on California enough on this podcast.

Trent Stoltz: 34:47
Yeah, it’s, it’s gorgeous, and so we sold the farm out from underneath him. But the draw was we bought places with elk and he’s a big hunter. So we’re doing this for our boys. I don’t want them to work like I worked and my dad worked. My older boy is cowboy turn through shoes, horses, race Colts and there’s some great pain and complain and a lot of sometimes. But he does most of it with a pretty open mind. We had the collars this year of events virtual fencing colors events collars on 300 year loans this year, so there wasn’t nearly as much wire to be trying to string stuff like that to do. And I think he sees the benefits. We sent him to a weekend that wasn’t a ranching for profit. It was like the 40 four day ranching for profit which I think everyone you meet. That’s their eye opener Absolutely, it really is. The only thing I feel is that they need to temper it a little bit because everybody rushes home and jumps in with we did I did. We went home and said we’re going to fence off two pivots and we’re going to run pivots. We seeded a pivot to corn and grazed it all winter, which was awesome. We’re feed costs were 50 cents to feed our cattle throughout the winter and we did all that, sold our herd down and went into yearlings and we’re trying to plant cover crops. And it was one failure and we were after another. The workload was way too much in there, but we already had a massive workload and that just doubled it. So but in that we did see the successful stuff. I mean, I think they’re to a man. That’s almost the eye opening thing they they attended, which taught them about bouncing, bouncing their books and doing projections and overhead costs.

Colter DeVries: 37:04
Well, I think, I think it is a beautifully unique time when we can have cowboys in big old wild rags with big old jingle bobs on, who are also putting up electric fence and and checking their cell phone for the new pasture rotation with events called the virtual fencing ballers, and what a what a paradox, what a beautiful paradox we’re living in, absolutely Theoretically everyone of us would just as soon be out there riding a horse Absolutely yeah, and moving cows that way.

Holly Stoltz: 37:45
But you know, I do think, though generational, like we have to look at it because we’ve actually talked to our older side about this let’s get into the migratory grids, let’s see how we can do that, and you can just go out and move cows on your horse every day, you know, I mean, there’s different ways that you can adapt and still get the same result. So it doesn’t have to be polywire every day, twice a day or whatever you can. You can find ways to adapt to your personalities. So I think that’s the cool thing about it.

Colter DeVries: 38:15
Yeah, I mean, if you’re doing migratory grazing, you’re still going to be checking it on the app to have one caller, so you know where they’re at. Management still wants their KPIs. Okay, still want to report, and that was the nice thing about Vince is he actually.

Trent Stoltz: 38:32
We actually did more riding because we would move under the horseback, through the, you know.

Holly Stoltz: 38:38
Go out, push him into the next fence, past your stuff like that so and it still allowed you to go out every three days. Well, we check, probably every other day, our cows. That every every time you change the pan, you were still out there checking your cows, checking their water, walking through the grass, you know trying to get a feel on. Did you leave too much? Did you leave too little, you know. So it still is that mentality is still there with the vents, but it is pretty cool.

Trent Stoltz: 39:07
Yeah it was learning curve on that too.

Colter DeVries: 39:10
Well, the old school horseback cowboy type, I mean, he must really appreciate moving out of that windy area because cowboys hate having a chin strap under their cowboy hat. Losing that damn hat all the time in the wind, I don’t have to tie it on my head anymore.

Trent Stoltz: 39:32
Yeah, that’s definitely probably the top thing that none of us miss, the biggest question Trent.

Colter DeVries: 39:41
Is the wife happy? This would not have happened without. In my experience, ranches do not sell or be purchased without a happy wife behind the deal.

Trent Stoltz: 39:55
Yeah, I think the wife is happy. Sadly, you know this north central Montana and eastern Montana they’re dying. The towns are drying up. All these towns that used to be bees and seas are now trying to combine to make sports teams. And when we decided to make this move, we could have bought probably a lot more ground if we had been willing to go much further east. But our one main concern was, we said we wanted to be close to a town of substance so that the boys’ wives would have opportunities to have jobs to bring off ranching to come in. Because where we were at, holly always made her own job. She bought the local newspaper, built it, outsold it, started a silkscreening embroidery business, restored a 120-year-old building, sold that one, and that’s tough to do. So, yeah, I think she’s happy, I think we’re all pretty happy with it.

Colter DeVries: 41:01
You guys are within an hour of buildings.

Trent Stoltz: 41:04
Yeah, we’re about half hour, Half hour out.

Colter DeVries: 41:06
Yeah, so our family plays 45 minutes and 20 from the mountain, from the ski hill, 20 minutes. There we grew up we’d roll out hay in the morning to the cows and go ski in the winter time. Yeah, that’s tough. Yeah, my mom, she worked at the ticket office just so we could all ski for free.

Holly Stoltz: 41:26
It was like free daycare for boys yeah.

Trent Stoltz: 41:32
So yeah, and believe it or not, we bought a little piece of ground down by the road and we got a monstrous offer on it because it’s right off the interstate. We flipped that, bought another little place at Valentine for our son to live on and had a nice house.

Colter DeVries: 41:50
Which has not been easy to do in this market. Finding the opportunities to land with that 1031 has been horrible challenging.

Trent Stoltz: 41:59
It’s tough. That was mind-dream. Covid was an experience. When we sold the place, what was? The realtor said well, congratulations, two years ago you’d have been in King of Montana, good luck. And we said we’re not going to East Villains because we’d always been terrified to Eastern Montana. Everybody’s scared of Eastern Montana up in Western where all mountains are.

Colter DeVries: 42:30
There’s too much of a lifestyle difference. When you come from the Vista the horizon of mountains and you know the storms coming over, you know what the climate is like and you got that view of the snow-capped peaks. It’s daunting and scaring for people to move from west to east.

Trent Stoltz: 42:48
Well then you get on. It takes you one day on Google looking at places down the Rocky Mountain Front over at Lewistown and stuff to go. Well, I guess we’re buying an Eastern Montana, yeah, because a third of the price.

Holly Stoltz: 43:01
We feel like when we bought and what was available, we honestly feel like we got the cream in the crop.

General Voice: 43:08
I thought we did good, we’re happy I like.

Holly Stoltz: 43:11
Eastern Montana. We’re going to the Big Friity Ranch at South Paisum, which is. The ranches are 80 miles apart, so that is kind of a problem but nothing that we’re not used to, because we used to ship cows in the summer to bad. Montana, so it wasn’t like something new for us and I think we are very, very happy with the land that we got. Oh, absolutely, and we love.

Trent Stoltz: 43:34
Eastern Well, and now our neighbors, everybody’s, everybody’s nice good people.

Colter DeVries: 43:38
And now you’re you’re closer to the Montana’s biggest city. It’s a life, it’s a huge, I would imagine you guys, I mean you have so many benefits from this moving up. It’s a. It’s a huge lifestyle change, but an improvement too, and in many, many ways it’s a lifestyle improvement.

Holly Stoltz: 43:57
Well, the thing is is I think what we’re seeing with the next generation is they want to have that balance, that work-life balance and we didn’t grow up in that generation, but we see it in our children and they basically came out and told us if we stay up there they’re not coming back. Because they wanted a quality of life. And so we moved down here and we actually have a social life. We go golfing more than we’ve ever golfed, you know before, and you know you can go to a concert or out to dinner and it doesn’t take your whole day and they are really enjoying the move because they actually get to go and experience that that they would never would have been able to do up north.

Trent Stoltz: 44:36
Not to say I feel like it sounds like we’re bashing on North Central Montana and we’re not. No, I take a ton of pride in being in North Central Montana.

Colter DeVries: 44:45
Yeah, we got.

Trent Stoltz: 44:45
It’s my mom grew up in Highwood.

Colter DeVries: 44:47
My dad, grew up in Fleer. You guys are related to probably 70 other families that have long-standing legacy names in that area.

Trent Stoltz: 44:55
Yeah, and down here, yeah. It’s but, yeah, it was. It was a great place to grow up and a great place to raise your kids and maybe the excitement don’t wear off, but it’s kind of fun being close to you. Know, to go to a bobcat game used to be a three-day production. Now we drive down in the morning and we drive back at night and we’re sitting on our couch at nine.

Colter DeVries: 45:18
Yeah, the interstate’s kind of handy.

Holly Stoltz: 45:20
Yeah it’s interesting and maybe it will change, because when we came down here we’ve had two really phenomenal years of rain and we knew go into Eastern Montana that you know, maybe we wouldn’t be getting as much precipitation as we were up there, and so we kind of do that going in, and we’ve been really spoiled the last two years.

Colter DeVries: 45:40
But you guys have been doing courses and schooling around drought planning and management programs that make you more drought resilient. So I mean you’re setting yourself up for that. Maybe this, maybe this is not my monkey, not my circus for you, but so, as you, as you experience, like, okay, all this that we moved up into features, benefits, amenities of this lifestyle or ranch closer to town type deal, how do you take that to the rural parts like Petroleum County and BAP? How do you so that those areas can have families who are happy, healthy and successful? And it’s not just 40 years from now there will be only four big ranches in each county with one manager and 20 H2A workers.

Holly Stoltz: 46:39
That’s a question that I don’t know how you the all my only thing is is, if we can get the younger generations to come back, your communities will start to grow because they’re going to marry, they’re going to have spouses, they’re going to have kids, and I think the problem is, if you can’t make your ranch profitable, the next generation is not coming back. And so you know, like we’re trying to do with regenerative ag or whatever anybody’s plan is, I mean we’ve got to make the places profitable, get these next generations to want to come back and bring spouses and have children. Your school grow, your amenities in your town grow, because hopefully you know people who move in want to open a store, or I mean. So it really does start with the family rancher to bring these, these communities back really does?

Trent Stoltz: 47:31
I think regenerative is one of the keys because I would have got cousins, husband and wife about this whole time and ranches and farm used to be so much smaller. But boy did they have a that different life than we have right now. They, you know, they played on the softball teams and when the town played cards and darts or pool league or whatever and picnics and and my dad always told me about my grandpa, on a terrible year went into town and went around the Lincoln and I was like, what are you doing? And he goes, I want to make it next year. And you know that’s like we did, and now you don’t dare do that.

Holly Stoltz: 48:12
No, and you have to have more acres.

Trent Stoltz: 48:16
You have to.

Holly Stoltz: 48:16
Well fallacy.

Trent Stoltz: 48:18
Yeah, that’s, and maybe that is the thought.

Colter DeVries: 48:21
And the fallacy. You got to be specialized because you talked about the farms and ranches used to be smaller. They used to be more diverse as well, so more locally, yeah, so when you talk about, profitability is one way to keep these communities from being ghost towns, profitability is fun. What?

Holly Stoltz: 48:42
a novel idea.

Colter DeVries: 48:44
Yeah, and, and you know, you guys are in here smiling, laughing, having a good time. Well, right now, while we record this, there’s some miserable son of a bitch out there. Lesson is broken down, 1957 tractor trying to put up hay. Yep, hey, that he’s going to put two tons a year through his cow go and broke, dipping into his equity of appreciating land, and that’s not fun for his kid. No, and you know, your, your son, who’s the cowboy? He, for fun for him is, I’m sure it’s riding the Rocky Mountain front. But technology is, you know, if you try new things there’s all of us have it in us that I kind of want to try this, I kind of want to test something, I want to improve, I want to hone my skill.

Trent Stoltz: 49:35
Technology is fun, absolutely yeah, that’s a, I think, and I think the boys have gotten into the technology.

Holly Stoltz: 49:47
Well, I mean our younger son, who’s in Texas now. He’s our little farmer. So I was I’m always like, let’s, let’s just graze our pivots. Why are we putting a pay? But we can continue to make the hay operation profitable, and that is something that he really enjoys. And why would we keep that for him? Because he is a machine driving man. I mean, that’s what he wants to do. He’s got all the bells and whistles, the GPS, and he loves it and, and so, like I said, if we can make, continue to make that enterprise profitable, then that’s what we’ll do for him. Yeah, right, yeah.

Trent Stoltz: 50:30
Well, I mean, that’s probably why we don’t graze the pivots right now. Exactly, it’s is we have all the machinery and it’s all.

Colter DeVries: 50:39
Well, that’s thinking holistically. It’s not just about profit, because maybe the numbers do say you should be grazing the pivot, but you’re thinking holistically. People profit, planet and people it’s. You know, maybe grazing the pivot is five to 11% more profitable. Is it worth that 5% more profit if you know, if your son has no involvement, when you guys get to see your son every day and maybe he’ll bring a girlfriend around and start having some kids and they’re happy and you guys are happy. Like that is the holistically thinking. Yeah.

Trent Stoltz: 51:20
Yeah, absolutely, absolutely.

Holly Stoltz: 51:24
And that’s how we’re going to get our young people back. Is that, if we think like that and it’s just? Yeah, it’s just a just a different way of thinking? But?

Trent Stoltz: 51:34
you’re right to. Profitability is is it’s fun to be profitable? It is. We spent 50 years trading water, but we didn’t go back and we didn’t go forward and the bankers thought we were so successful.

Colter DeVries: 51:51
Because you’re balancing. The asset kept going up in value. Yeah, congratulations.

Trent Stoltz: 51:57
You never, ever owe any more than you have since 1970. But yeah, but it never, ever goes down.

Colter DeVries: 52:06
Yes, that is so true.

Trent Stoltz: 52:08
Yeah, but you’re doing a great job. You should see all the balance sheets we look at, but that’s not our goal here.

Colter DeVries: 52:17
Yeah, you’re loaned. The loan to value has stayed the same for 30 years, but I keep rolling operating losses into that loan, exactly.

General Voice: 52:27
Yes, yeah.

Trent Stoltz: 52:29
Every year it was we. Some years we turn a tidy profit. The next year we lose that tidy profit and then do it all over again.

Colter DeVries: 52:39
You talked about trading water. Well, you guys know being mountain foothills, so elevation change from Red Lodge to Roberts is 10 miles and it’s 1000 feet and that’s what we were flood irrigating on and you know, within there you have steeper slopes, up to 17% slope. So some of my sets were like two hours, so I call it chasing water. You’re always chasing water around with the orange canvas dam and a Honda foreman Our fields down here are always leveled. What is that? I don’t even know what that is Exactly.

Trent Stoltz: 53:20
We don’t either, but that’s really nice Gated pipes up there we had one field that was 110 acres of irrigation or 90, it was 110 total and you’d be setting your water in a spot you couldn’t throw. You could spit to the next ditch and then all of a sudden, bam, two sets later you couldn’t throw a baseball to the next ditch. You know, I mean it was.

Holly Stoltz: 53:44
But you had to live in the field too.

Trent Stoltz: 53:46

Holly Stoltz: 53:47
So you were there all day long and then you had to plan your night sets.

Trent Stoltz: 53:50
You had to plan your farm grounds, so your feet were as big as snowshoes, with mud sticking to them. Yeah, now we got a little. The guys showed us we got a little. We just have a golf club. We just walked down, tapping our gates open, tapping our gates shut. It’s pretty nice.

Holly Stoltz: 54:08
That’s how we irrigate.

Colter DeVries: 54:09
Yeah Well, this has been fun. I’m glad you came in. This has been a fun recording. I hope the listeners enjoy this as well and Holly get one more plug in for the.

Holly Stoltz: 54:23
Extending markets conference November 7th and 8th in Billings and you can register by getting our website. Western Sustainability Exchange.

Colter DeVries: 54:31
Well, thank you both. I don’t know if you have any asks of our audience, if you’d like them to reach out or get in contact with you some way.

Holly Stoltz: 54:41
For WSEC Carbon program.

Colter DeVries: 54:42
Well, carbon program. Bands, whatever is going on.

Holly Stoltz: 54:46
Everybody out of the state. This conference, too, we are offering it online, and even though you’re going to be listening to Montana Ranchers, the concepts and everything that we’re going to talk about is something that can be scaled anywhere. So I would encourage anybody from the neighboring states, texas form for Texas, anybody to tune in so that will be available online. And, yes, if you’re interested in Carbon or if you want to talk events, you know we can help you navigate that. That seems to have been a really popular topic at the last few conferences that we’ve attended. So, yeah, more than happy to talk to you.

Colter DeVries: 55:28
Well, thank you both and look forward to seeing you at the conference here in Billings Head on. Thanks, thanks, holder, listeners of the Rancher Investor Podcast who are receiving this immense value for free. Thanks for tuning in. I do have an ask in place of advertising. I do not monetize this on Spotify, apple, anywhere. I don’t click the monetize button, so I do have to get a plug in here and I ask what I’d like from you is to hear some feedback. So, on our social media, please share this episode. All I ask in return for not having promotions and advertising is that you share this, send a text, get it out there so more people can enjoy what we’re producing. Thanks for tuning in.

General Voice: 56:22
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