Diverse uses have kept Strang family ranch viable since 1965
No story about women in ranching and farming in the Roaring Fork Valley would be complete without a visit with the Strangs.
Kit Strang lives on the Missouri Heights ranch she purchased in 1965 with her husband, Mike, who passed away in 2014. Bridget, one of their four children, has remained on the ranch full-time.
Kit grew up in the Midwest and moved to Denver after college to ski.
“I didn’t want to do what all the women at that time were doing, which was work as a secretary in New York City,” she said.
She met Mike and they decided to get into cattle ranching after they married in 1960.
“I thought it was a good idea. I definitely didn’t know anything about cattle ranching,” she said.
They started off with partners, but that didn’t pan out so the Strangs bought a lonesome place in Missouri Heights, roughly 3 miles from Catherine Store. Kit recalled barely being able to see the lights of neighboring ranches back in the old days. Now large-lot trophy homes and subdivisions are creeping in on all side of their 453 acres.
Bridget was born and raised on the property and relished roaming the ranch. “It was just being turned loose on my own wilderness,” she said.
The family has always followed a strategy of diversification. They graze some cows and sheep, board horses, operate a sod farm and Bridget has taught riding lessons for years. They have worked with Aspen Valley Land Trust to place a conservation easement on part of the spread to ensure it won’t be developed.
“I’m thrilled the children like the ranch and still want to make it work,” Kit said.
While both mother and daughter help direct operations, they will be the first to admit they aren’t out there wrestling with calves at branding time or throwing around bales of hay.
Kit said she was too busy in the early years running after her four kids to get directly involved in a lot of ranch operations. Bridget doesn’t shy away from hard work. She is accustomed, for example, to pulling out four or five newborns per day during lambing season in the spring.
“It’s a frantic two weeks,” she said.
But she gladly defers to the ranch manager and hired hands for many of the operations.
“Mom and I are not proud. We’re perfectly fine calling in the boys for the tough jobs,” Bridget said with a laugh.
They wonder if ranching as they know it will survive in the Roaring Fork Valley. Soaring land prices, urbanization and scarcity of water all loom as growing challenges. Even now, ranching is more of a lifestyle choice than one that makes great business sense.
“We do it because we love it,” Bridget said. “We love the animals. We love this ground.”