Why We Work Hard

Uncompahgre Farms was founded in 2019 with three big goals in mind:

  • Improve the land through regenerative agricultural principles,
  • Raise the animals with respect and gratitude, and
  • Reconnect folks to their food and each other.

In an age ensnared by deceptive flashes of instant gratification and quick fixes, we deliberately asked ourselves- what is essential? We need food, water, shelter, purpose, and community, and we found solid ground for ourselves- well, in the soil. Rejecting the constant growth mindset and relearning our place in nature’s cyclicity, we have found deep joy in nurturing the cosmos beneath our feet, and in turn helping the animals, the land, and our community thrive. While we don’t own any land, we are lucky enough to lease fields from supportive community members, and enjoy making friends as we provide grass-finished beef and lamb at our local farmers’ markets. Uncompahgre Farms is an intentionally modest operation, and while we know we can’t save the world on our own, we’re happy to be doing our part, one cow, one neighbor, one field at a time! Thank you for joining us on the journey!

Who We Are

Meet The Bovines
Meet Uncompahgre Farm’s herd of red and black baldies- bringing together the best qualities of Hereford and Red and Black Angus. A critical aspect of regenerative agriculture is making sure we have the right animals for the pasture- suiting breed, size, and even temperament to the fields and managing them properly to improve the land. The gals are adapted to the high elevations of the Western Slope, their smaller frames are better suited to being grass-finished, and they have a lighter impact on the landscape.

Meet Your Ranchers

Caleb Valdez- Head Herdsman, Visionary, Bovine and Brand Boss

Born in rural New Mexico, Caleb grew up around livestock as his family trained horses and were farriers and one brother worked on El Sueño Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico. This is where Caleb first developed stockmanship skills, eying the swiveling ears and pounding hoofs of the herd and anticipating how to move them towards the next gate. When Caleb was in third grade, his dad worked a ranch in Northern New Mexico that was so isolated he had to be home-schooled, which in reality meant he spent his days ranching. Eventually they moved to Cortez, CO, where he competed in rodeo, showed steers, and played basketball. Caleb’s nickname on the team was Cowboy, and he can still hear his coach yelling from the bench “Cowboy, Cowboy!”  After high school Caleb thought he needed to make something of himself, so he left Cortez, working to pay his way through different universities, eventually landing a career with the Forest Service. As the first in his family with a degree and a steady job with benefits, his parents were proud, but the work didn’t excite him- he was caught in those golden handcuffs. Caleb kept punching the clock so he could travel and buy skis and bikes, but his computer felt far removed from the land. Needing a change, he packed up and left for CA in 2018 to be on the Redding Hotshots to fight wildland fire. This was one of the worst fire seasons on record, but the stress of the extreme fire behavior helped him forge lifelong friendships and learn to make decisions quickly. He also finally had enough saved to buy some cattle, suddenly finding himself leading four cows and a bull away from sales on Craigslist, still with a fulltime job and not an acre to his name.

For a landless start-up with his savings invested in the herd, Caleb hoped to knit together a pasture rotation by leasing smaller fields owned by community members. That meant some nerve-wracking door-knocking- would folks think this was a hare-brained scheme? Luckily he met Frieda, a spry 91-year-old who’d worked cows, horses, and land all her life, and she took a gamble on him. Her encouragement kept Caleb going, and soon the community-based pasture rotation grew to include land leased from ten other neighbors around Montrose. Just as the herd is growing, so is the Uncompahgre Farms community, and we’re incredibly grateful for the continued support.

Brittany Duffy– Community Connections, Plant Nerd, Composter-in-Chief

Growing up, Brittany had a lot of goals- teach kids to love reading (and through reading, humanity), join the Peace Corps, plant a million trees in the footsteps of Wangari Maathai- basically, she had grandiose ideas on how to serve and save the world. While real life and our own shortcomings humble us all, the die hard do-gooder in her has stubbornly clung to the idea that while one flawed human might not change the course of history, we can each find meaning in helping our corner of the community. Her pursuit of purpose brought her to the Forest Service, where she met Caleb and they started talking regenerative ag.

In 2020, Brittany started helping haul hay and cowsit for Caleb, gradually taking on more responsibilities as they grew the farm. Carefully cultivating new growth in previously neglected fields, cherishing the first steps of each calf, chatting with neighbors across the fence while irrigating, delivering quality grass-finished beef for home-cooked meals, nerding out on soil podcasts- as the world was shutting down, the clear purpose of nurturing the land, the herd, and the community called, and they both eventually left the Forest Service to devote themselves to the farm. While she had some ag knowledge from her experience and studies, she largely contributed an earnest and endless energy and enthusiasm to the team. In a field infamous for being hard on the body and the spirit, Brittany is the consummate cheerleader, holding to the clarion call of caring for the farm to stick it out through the hard days. The behind-the-scenes nerd quietly implementing and irrigating while the competent cowboy rides herd, cares for the cows, and provides the vision, their complementary skill sets, along with the invaluable support and encouragement from friends, family, and the community, have made Uncompahgre Farms possible. While 2023 was a difficult year on both the herd and human front, we will continue working towards the vision of caring for the land, the cows, and the community. Thank you for your support!

What We Do

Farm chores change with the seasons: feeding hay in the winter, calving in the spring, irrigating through summer, putting up hay in the summer and fall, and installing, fixing, taking down, and moving fence in any and all weather- that’s an essential part of avoiding overgrazing and making sure the animals have the positive impact on the land. While we move the cows between fields, they’re never piled in and driven hundreds of miles to be crammed into a feedlot, they get to stick to what they know best- eating grass. Because we’re still starting out and don’t own land yet, maintaining fields locally also means paying a fair lease to community members for pasture, keeping green space green and providing a local source of beef, so that folks can actually see how and where the cows are raised, and even visit. If you’re interested in learning more, or maybe even lending a hand at the farm chores, please reach out!

For the land

Like many of you, we love the outdoors, our time in the mountains never decreases but just changes with the seasons- mountain biking, hunting, and skiing. We try to be conscientious recreationists, but even when packing in/packing out and leaving no trace, we realized we wanted to not just enjoy the land but to really do something to improve it.  When a cow grazes, that plant sends energy to its roots to take in more nutrients. This helps the plant grow, and it also increases how much carbon is absorbed from the atmosphere and stored in the soil. Meanwhile, the cow is leaving natural fertilizer (a.k.a. organic manure, a.k.a. cow pies, a.k.a. the secret ingredient to rich, resilient, productive soil!). This vital organic matter adds nutrients, revitalizes plant growth, reduces soil compaction, increases water infiltration, and builds up the soil to store more water and carbon, so plants become more productive and the field more resilient. Because rotational grazing means moving the cows often and allowing fields to rest, the practice takes more time and effort. We’re intimately aware of how much polywire fence we have to build, and ecosystem improvements will be measured not in days but in years. This will be a challenging lifelong task, but we know we’re in good company- so many ranchers are working just as hard to do right by the land. Uncompahgre Farms is just a small operation, and we know we can’t save the world on our own, but we’re just happy to be doing our part, one cow, one customer, one field at a time!

For the cows

As you might know, most cattle end their lives in feedlots. Some would say this is a very efficient system, and the only way we can feed the world. While we don’t know if we have a better answer, we know we’re going to do what seems right to us, and focus on our cows, customers, and the land we are lucky enough to steward. This means instead of participating in the commodity market, we practice regenerative agriculture, grazing the cattle year-round, herding them on horseback in the summer pastures using rotational grazing techniques, supplementing only with Redmond salt trace minerals, and calving on green grass as the buffalo do. We might not be able to feed the world this way, but we’re not trying to feed the world- we’re trying to feed our neighbors, and do a little good along the way!

For the community

When you go to the grocery store try asking the employees where the beef was raised and processed- chances are they won’t know.  When you buy beef directly from small producers like Uncompahgre Farms, you don’t have to wonder what you’re buying. Our cows graze in the summer on 2,200 acres with multiple creeks running through the property. Then they are moved to the Uncompahgre valley for the fall and winter. We don’t use hormones on our cattle, or insecticides. Our beef is then dry-aged for 14 days right here in Montrose and packaged for you. The land we graze is leased from community members who share the goals of improved land, better beef, improved habitat for wildlife, and a more connected community. If you’re in the area, please reach out! We’d love to introduce you to the herd, walk the fields, and hear what we can improve. If you have time, it would be great if you can stay for dinner. After all, we have a motto to live up to- eat well, play outside!

Please let us know how we’re doing, we appreciate your thoughts and feedback!

Brittany Duffy     uncofarm@gmail.com     305.216.4682

Eat Well ◊ Play Outside