Cover Story: The Future of Our Farms

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Real Estate, Development, and the Fight for Our Farms

By Taryn King

We’re all feeling it— the rising costs of hay, finding and keeping good help, and boarding barns shuttering their doors. Our industry is in flux and we’re feeling the pressure. From inflation and the rising cost of labor to pressures like the encroaching developments up and down the Front Range, horse keeping at home and at boarding barns is changing quickly. In the last six years hay costs have more than tripled, and property values have almost doubled across the Front Range. At the same time, board prices and household incomes have been unable to keep pace.

Where does that leave our farms and our industry as a whole? At risk it seems. At risk of developments eating up many of our farms and tightening the supply/demand curve, and at risk of pricing the average horse person out of the industry. We are at risk of losing the very character that makes Colorado Colorado—the Colorado that so many grew up with or fell in love with when we made our way here.

As someone who grew up around Boston, it’s still hard to believe that my horses are kept just 15 minutes from downtown. I know what it’s like to have to drive at least an hour to see my horses or find a decent trainer. And as a Realtor specializing in equestrian properties, I’m having the same conversations daily with facility owners who are tired of footing the bill to keep the doors open, or equestrians who dream of bringing their horses home but fear it will always remain just a dream. The conversations are the same; we’re an industry at risk and it starts with our properties. We all know the old adage— no hoof, no horse. A similar phrase rings true when it comes to our industry—no farm, no barn. 

So, where do we go from here when developers are paying a premium for land? Where do we board our horses when barns become few and far between and the average horse person is priced out of the average horse property? First, we need to have more conversations around these concerns, and we need to come together as an industry outside of our individual disciplines. Our power is not to be underestimated when it comes to having our voices heard at a civic and planning level. Get involved at a local level and show up at your city planning meetings. It’s crucial our industry is represented and heard.

We need to protect equestrian properties by ensuring the “passing of the torch” is facilitated by horse property professionals who not only intimately understand the nuances of these properties, but also have the network, resources, and knowledge to help protect and preserve them, and therefore our industry. Hiring a Realtor who knows the difference between a wash stall and a foaling stall (at a minimum), and one who knows the difference between “use by right” and “use by special review” is imperative. And even more important, hire a Realtor who genuinely cares about what happens to the equestrian industry, starting with our farm properties. 

My first word was quite literally “horse”. I attended college for equine business management and built, renovated, and ran multiple facilities over the years, but I never anticipated selling horse properties as my dream career. But now there’s no doubt in my mind that this is what I’m supposed to do. I started Horse & Hearth five years ago as a blog to share pretty barns, and now it’s grown out of necessity.

Our Farms
Taryn King of Horse & Hearth. Photo Courtesy Horse & Hearth

Over the years we’ve created partnerships in the equine industry which have grown into our H&H Equine Industry Collective networking group. We’ve taken that offline network and put it on our website to create a fully vetted vendor directory so you can find trusted contractors you need. We’re actively creating an investor portfolio to help trainers gain access to properties they may not be able to afford otherwise. We’ve grown our Horse & Hearth team, brokered by eXp Realty, to serve your needs across Colorado. Over the next few years, we’ll expand nationally to network these properties to a larger audience, as well as help those equestrians migrating in and out of Colorado. We’re working diligently to ensure we have the network and connections you need to ensure these properties remain horse properties whenever possible. 

Luckily, we’re not the only ones doing this, and there are multiple top notch professionals when it comes to horse property specialists in Colorado. We all need to understand as an industry that it starts with our farms, and keeping our farms around starts with the Realtors you’re hiring to do the job effectively, efficiently, and as a true equestrian would—putting the horse first. As horse people, we all skip the house pictures in search of the barn—make sure your Realtor does too. 

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See this article in the September/October 2023 online edition:

Colorado Horse Source Magazine’s September/October 2023 Issue

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