Creating Financial Sustainability on Horse Properties: A Paradigm Shift for Eco-Friendly Horse Properties
Have you heard the old joke about how to make a small fortune with horses? The response: by starting out with a large fortune. Does making money on horse acreage need to be this way? A Snoqualmie, Washington workshop I held this past March in conjunction with the King Conservation District explored this idea of looking at managing horse properties so that sound land management practices are the draw for potential clients.
The workshop for horse owners was about different ways horse properties can utilize their acreage as money-making endeavors. The bottom line: to stimulate the thinking that sustainable and environmentally sensitive ways of keeping horses can be a draw by themselves.
The Snoqualmie workshop was held at a private horse facility where the owners plan to utilize their eco-sensitive horse property as a venue for corporate retreats or training. Promoting thoughtful management of the land is part of what they are hoping will attract visitors, farm owners Mike Akers and Jason Weatherholtz explained. They also talked about their land-management journey, the process of working with their local conservation district as well as the county, and their future business plans. At the end of the event, participants were invited to look at manure composting facilities, mud-free horse paddocks, pasture management, and forest management.
Our next speaker was Teri Herrera, owner of Misfit Farm in Redmond, Washington. Misfit Farm is a commercial boarding facility that caters to the local dressage community. Herrera is also a real estate broker specializing in equestrian properties. “Over the years I’ve seen what works, what doesn’t work, and everything in between,” Herrera explains. “When we (as a horse industry) don’t do a market analysis before building, that’s when we can end up getting in trouble.”
If you plan to build a structure as part of a commercial equestrian business, Herrera suggests surveying your community to look at similar services so you keep in-line with prices, interests, and needs. If you are opening your arena to the public, consider things such as insurance, public parking, bathrooms, accessibility, and trailer storage for boarders.
Herrera designed her facilities for a high-end dressage community and made cost-effectiveness a priority. She looked at layout in terms of client use and needs, designed facilities with chore-efficiency in mind (such as stalls close to compost bins), used reclaimed materials from nearby structures being demolished, and incorporated materials such as lumber from trees sourced from her own land.
Herrera has created additional financial sustainability by diversifying; she now has an organic garden and sells produce to a local co-op, and has recently begun to raise and sell organic chickens and eggs. Other clever cost-savings include getting her shavings supply for free from a local cabinet maker and creating an attractive pollinator hedgerow for honey bees, which she will also raise for honey. All of these are innovative ways to utilize the environmental aspects of good land management and bring in the clients she is looking for.
“Look at all potential sources of income for your property,” says Herrera. “We have boarders, sell eggs and meat birds, joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) to sell produce, offer trailer storage, and hope to someday also do Airbnb, as well as sell honey.”
I was the last to speak and I spoke about Sweet Pepper Ranch, our horse motel and guest ranch in southwestern Idaho. Sweet Pepper Ranch offers a paradigm shift from the stereotypical guest ranch or dude string operation. For travelers, we offer overnight stalls for horses and bed and breakfast rooms for humans, making it convenient to stay onsite in a comfortable setting near your horse.
We also offer a host of cowgirl retreats, horse camps for youth, as well as clinics for all ages and stages of horse ownership—all based on an environmental, eco-friendly theme. We have cement composting bins for manure management, do rotational grazing in pastures, have mud-free paddocks, created native pollinator hedgerows, and implement water conservation and least-toxic pest control. We are also an Airbnb and Glamping.com site. In other words, we showcase our horse-healthy and environmentally sound land management practices as attractive components of our place for clients to enjoy and learn about.
Some of our “green” projects at Sweet Pepper Ranch include:
- Controlling gophers and rodents by attracting rodent-eating wildlife, specifically barn owls and American kestrels. We’re excited to have two barn owl nest boxes in place now, along with several kestrel nest boxes.
- Non-toxic insect control with swallows (several swallow nest boxes installed), non-toxic fly tape and fly bags, as well as fly predators (stingless, nocturnal beneficial wasps that seek out and destroy fly larvae by laying their eggs in them).
- An attractive 70-foot native pollinator hedgerow of drought-tolerant prairie flowers that native pollinating insects can use at the front of our property.
- Water conservation through our use of xeric (drought-tolerant) native grasses and flowers for landscaping, which doubles as a habitat for native insects and small animals. We also have an outdoor washrack which helps conserve water.
- Native plants also provide a privacy screen, wind barrier, and dust barrier between us and neighboring uses.
Studies prove that tourists and visitors appreciate agriculture producers and the quality of life they lead - as well as the fact that these open spaces protect wildlife habitat and enhance water quality. You, too, can join in the fun by creating extra income from your eco-sensitive, “green” horse property by thinking “outside the box.”
Watch the HCW website to join in on learning about wildlife enhancement, as well as mud, manure, and pasture management—and put your land to work for you!