Ranchers: a dying breed
July 25, 2007
D.A. Pace says his memories of milking cows and riding a horse between his home and barn are among his most beloved.
But the 70-year-old rancher in rapidly growing Wanship now makes the daily trek on an ATV. He often refuses offers from real estate investors wanting to subdivide Pace’s pristine ranch.
"They want the property. They want to help you ‘dispose of it,’" said a sweltering Pace, sweat dripping from his face at his barn in North Summit around 6 a.m. "You’re getting somebody here every day. I’m not interested. If I wanted to sell it, it’d be gone tomorrow."
As owner of roughly 1,300 acres of rangeland, some alongside the Weber River, Pace says he is thankful the smell of cow manure still welcomes people to the East Side.
According to the developers, "we don’t need farms, just golf courses," he said with a note of sarcasm.
"It makes you wonder whether you want to carry on," Pace said. "They just keep crowding you and crowding you. I guess it will all work out. It always has."
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Pace laments that "the family farm is going to disappear because the dollar bill is more important."
"There are more important things than money," barked Pace, who boasts never owning a cell phone. "My heritage interests me just a little bit."
Indeed. A fourth-generation cattle rancher, Pace milks cows every morning and night. Just like his ancestors who migrated to Utah in the 1800s.
Something newcomers to eastern Summit County seem bent on changing, Pace said.
So-called "right-to-farm" laws are meant to protect East Side ranchers from city slickers who move in and complain about noise from late-night farm machinery or odors from livestock.
"It’s got to be or else they’ll run you out," Pace said about the importance of such ordinances.
But "move ins" still complain, Utah State University Extension Agent Sterling Banks explained.
"Wealthy people come in and buy these ranchettes," he said about the subdividing of farm land into roughly five-acre lots. "[Families] are all selling off."
Selling out to developers tempts children who inherit land from their parents, Banks said.
"None of the kids want to farm because the money is not there," he said. "You’re getting people who have different values That’s what we’re dealing with."
A woman in Wanship once called the police to report Pace for working in his pasture early in the morning.
"I was out there in the field baling hay one morning at about 4 o’clock. She called the sheriff and said that she was a professional woman and there was machinery being run and she couldn’t get her rest," Pace explained.
The deputy arrived and told Pace the woman claimed he was disturbing the peace.
"I told him to go back and tell her that I’m a professional and I’m out standing in my field," Pace said chuckling.
Since then, longtime eastsiders have razzed Pace for "bothering the professional people," joked Louise Pace, D.A.’s wife.
"It just breaks my heart," she said. "We have lived here for 50 years and we really don’t have that many people around us, and we kind of like our lifestyle the way it is."
"None of them who move here are ranch people. They don’t understand that you bale hay during the night and then you try to haul the hay real early in the morning," she added.
People in the nearby Tollgate Canyon subdivision also cause problems for ranchers.
"There are millions of houses up in there and they’re all on septic tanks and all that water runs down," D.A. Pace said about the Tollgate subdivision near Wanship. "Where do they think that all this water comes from and how are they going to keep it clean?"
In general, Tollgate residents don’t understand the agricultural community, he said. When he leased land in the neighborhood somebody tore down his fence and then Pace received a call from a woman telling him his cows were loose.
"I asked this woman if she had seen any cows. She says it used to be they were nesting in these trees," he said.
Louise Pace quickly added that cows do not nest.
"How much does a cow weigh? They were, I think, lying under her tree, not nesting in the tree," she said.
Pace said he fears that what happened with development in Tollgate Canyon will soon occur in Wanship.
"That Park City and Snyderville Basin mess got way out of hand before anyone tried to slow it down," he griped.
Well situated as a bedroom community for Salt Lake City, Wanship becoming the next Snyderville Basin is a nightmare, Pace said.
"They keep saying ‘don’t sell it,’" he said about his children’s desire to keep the ranch. "But I don’t think they’re going to want to work their tail off."
Recruiting high school students to work on his ranch in the summertime is difficult, Pace said.
But his ranch hand, 15-year-old Nathan Wright, says he hopes to spend the rest of his life tending cattle in North Summit.
His fear is getting stuck in a stuffy office dealing with people "who don’t know what in the hell they’re talking about," the Coalville boy said.
People move to Wanship because they want the "country life,’ however, the rigors of running a ranch during Wanship’s scorching summers and freezing winters convince newcomers to subdivide their property, he said.
"A bunch of people from Salt Lake come in where it’s been open land for 30 years, and it makes you mad," Wright said.
He claimed "not half of them" understand country life.
"They come in and buy up a bunch of ground and they decide to subdivide," Wright said.
He blamed developers for drying up his grandmother’s water well.
"She didn’t have enough water to take a shower," Wright said. "Wanship has no water and it’s going to get a lot worse."
Septic tanks like those in Tollgate Canyon could worsen water quality and pollute the Weber River, D.A. Pace said.
"They keep talking about how animals shouldn’t be allowed to get by the river," he said. "What’s more filthy than the people? What’s any more dirty than dumping sewage in your watershed?"
Louise Pace said she constantly picks up dirty diapers and other trash fishermen leave on her land.
"Animals, they don’t leave that," she said. "When they have calves they don’t leave their mess there. They do away with it. Animals take care of things, people do not."
Sadly, D.A. Pace said "you can’t trust people anymore."
"[Water] used to run downhill, now it’s going toward the dollar," he said.
Louise Pace added that "not everything can be bought for a price."
Most of the Paces’ friends have passed away and their children are trying to sell property they inherited because land in Wanship is so valuable.
"That old burnt side hill right there on the other side of the river, they just sold that and they tell me the developer is looking at $300,000 an acre to build on that dried up mess," D.A. Pace said pointing to a swath of land in Wanship. "All it is is a big rock."
Builders are just trying to "make a fast buck," he added.
"I guess they’ll put a million-dollar house on it. I don’t know," Pace said. "Here we are in these watersheds building million-dollar homes and then they want all this wildlife. Where the hell are they supposed to be?"
Pace sees moose, elk and an occasional cougar on his ranch.
"You’ve got a lot of people moving in here who can’t afford to live in Park City, so they want to be as close as possible," he said. "We have a lifestyle that most people would kill for."