Friday, February 3, 2017

What's wrong with ranching today.

From the Great Falls Tribune:
The owner of the Super Bowl-bound Atlanta Falcons and the co-founder of Home Depot bought the 6,300-acre West Creek Ranch in Montana’s Paradise Valley.
This is Arthur Blank’s second ranch in the area and is adjacent to the Mountain Sky Guest Ranch, which he bought in 2001.
The West Creek Ranch is a working ranch and will serve as an additional platform for The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation’s philanthropic work in the West, according to a news release from Arthur M. Blank Family of Businesses, the entity that operates Blank’s business interests.
Elizabeth and Carl Webb sold the ranch to Blank. Carl Webb is a co-managing partner of Texas-based Ford Financial Fund.
The foundation will use the ranch to expand its scope of philanthropic work focused on conservation of natural resources and wildlife habitat.
Nice, eh?

No, its a disaster, of a type.

Let's be brutally frank. We've reached the point where only people like Arthur Blank, who may be a terrific guy (I have no idea) can buy working land like this.  He won't make a living from it and does not need to.  Indeed, he'll loose money owning it, more likely than not. But what won't happens is that a ranch family won't own it, and make their livelihood from it.

I don't know anything about Blank personally.  He may be the nicest guy going and the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation may be great.  Slight, and I do mean slight, research reveals that he has had a hugely successful career in business, he's been married three times, he's survived prostate cancer and he gives away half of his income to charitable causes annually.  The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation defines its message as follows:
The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation promotes positive change in peoples’ lives and builds and enhances the communities in which they live. We seek innovative solutions that enable young people, families and communities to achieve results beyond what seems possible today.
I don't really know what that means, but I'll accept that its all worthy.

But the greatest "philanthropic work in the West" he and his well funded kind would do, would be to stay out of ranching and let real ranchers, ranch.  Beyond that, if he supported efforts to let the average men and women who make up the labor on ranches, and the small ranches which are really true family operations, thrive, that would be great. But that won't happen by his, and the super wealthy, buying the land. They tend, however, to be the only ones who can afford to do so today.

But that's not going to happen. And its not going to happen because the American concept of land ownership is an absolute.  The fact that we're going from a country which allowed the poor to become middle class farmers to one in which only the rich will own land, and that this is a universally bad thing, is beyond our capacity to grasp.

This isn't Arthur M. Bland's fault, but a purchase like this is illustrative of the problem.  In our collective minds we imagine a country like that depicted in Red River where an average Thomas Duson can work the land.  But we're becoming more like the one depicted in something like Pride and Prejudice, where only the upper class owns land.  This is not a good thing at all.

Well, if nothing else, I now know who I'm rooting against in the  Super Bowl.  Boo hiss Atlanta Falcons.  May you go down in an earth shatter record defeat.

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