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. In addition, they have a lighter impact on the landscape.

Meet Your Rancher- Caleb Valdez
Born in rural New Mexico, I grew up around livestock as my family trained horses and were farriers, and my brother worked on El Sueño Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico. This is where I first developed stockmanship skills. When I was in third grade, my dad worked a ranch in Northern New Mexico that was so isolated I had to be home-schooled, which in reality meant I spent my days ranching. Eventually we moved to Cortez, CO, where I competed in rodeo, showed steers, and played basketball. My nickname on the team was Cowboy, and I can still hear my coach yelling from the bench “Cowboy, Cowboy!”  After high school I thought I needed to make something of myself, so I left. I worked to pay my way as I bounced around different universities, and finally I landed a career. As the first in my family with a degree and a steady job with benefits, my parents were proud, but the work didn’t excite me- I was caught in those golden handcuffs. I kept punching the clock so I could travel and buy skis and bikes, but my computer felt far removed from the land. Needing a change, I packed my bags 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 me forge lifelong friendships and learn to make decisions quickly. I also finally had enough saved to buy some cattle. Once I get an idea in my head, I like to go all in, and I suddenly found myself leading four cows and a bull away from sales on Craigslist, and me still with a fulltime job and not an acre to my name. For a landless start-up with my savings invested in the herd, I hoped to knit together a pasture rotation by leasing smaller fields owned by community members. That meant I was due for some nerve-wracking door-knocking- would folks think this was a hare-brained scheme? Luckily I met Frieda, a spry 87-year-old who’d worked cows, horses, and land all her life, and she took a gamble on me. Her encouragement kept me going, and our community-based pasture rotation grew to include land leased from ten other community members. Just as the herd is growing, so is the Uncompahgre Farms community, and I’m 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 I move the cows between fields, they’re never piled into a big rig and driven hundreds of miles to be crammed into a feedlot, they get to stick to what they know best- eating grass. Because I’m 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

I started Uncompahgre Farms 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 insectoids. 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, improvmed habit for wildlife, and a more connected community. If you’re in the area, please reach out! I’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. In the US we are very efficient at finishing beef in feedlots. I don’t have the answers as to how we feed the world population, but I do know we will focus on our land, cattle, and customers. We do not choose to participate in the commodity market, but take on the work of direct marketing our beef.  We graze our cattle all year and only supplement with Redmond trace minerals, and in the winter mixed grass-alfalfa. in the summer we are on horseback checking cattle and making sure they are not over grazing and rotating them around the ranch.

For the land

Like many of you, I love the outdoors, my time in the mountains never decreases but just changes with the seasons- mountain biking, hunting, and skiing. I tried to be a conscientious recreationist, but even when packing in/packing out and leaving no trace, I realized I was wanting 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 (organic manure, aka cow pies, aka 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. I’m intimately aware of how much polywire fence I have to build, and ecosystem improvements will be measured not in days but in years. This will be a challenging lifelong task, but I know I’m in good company- so many ranchers are working just as hard to do right. Uncompahgre Farms is just a small operation, and I know I can’t save the world on my own, but I’m just happy to be doing my part, one cow, one customer, one field at a time!

Contact Us To Learn More