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 (necessary to avoid brisket disease), their smaller frames are better suited to being grass-fed and they have a lighter impact on the landscape.

Meet Your Rancher- Caleb Valdez
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 langing a career. 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 87-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.

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!

Why We Work Hard

Uncompahgre Farms was founded with three big goals in mind:

  • Direct market the beef we raise
  • Reconnect folks to their food and each other
  • Improve the land through our grazing practices

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!

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 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!

Contact Us To Learn More