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Ranch Stories: Red Barn Ranch in Las Vegas, New Mexico

By Shaun Johnson

Sitting at the southeast tip of the spectacular Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Las Vegas, New Mexico, Red Barn Ranch is the epitome of a family-owned, family-operated grass-fed beef ranch .

In a day and age when people post their every move on the internet, you’d be hard pressed to find a single photo or bit of information about Red Barn Ranch online (trust me, I’ve tried). That’s just never been what ranching is about for them. When it comes right down to it, the Unruh family runs their ranch for all of the right reasons, prioritizing their love for the land, their animals, the quality of beef they produce and, last but definitely not least, their family.

I recently had the privilege of picking the minds of the Unruh family in an effort to find out more about who they are and what they’re about. Their answers confirmed my initial impressions of them, and then some.

Tell us a little about yourselves

We’ve been raising cattle for many years.  We have leased many different little pastures, often the owners offer us a lease because they want short-term rotational grazing to improve the pastures, instead of the traditional year-long grazing on the same acreage. Our home ranch, where the “Red Barn” and main corrals are, is north of Las Vegas, quite literally where the “plains meet the mountains”.  So it is mainly gently rolling open grasslands merging into the pinyon and juniper canyons and foothills.

Who makes up “the team” at Red Barn Ranch?

The Unruh family: Daniel & Deborah & teenage son Nathan. Son Luke & his wife Megan. Also our daughter & oldest son & his wife help out occasionally.

What motivates you as ranchers?

A love for the land and animals, both domestic and wildlife, and being able to harvest quality natural food while hopefully improving and regenerating our resource base instead of depleting it.  It’s also very satisfying when our customers tell us how much they like the beef!

What is it about eating home-raised beef that  is so rewarding?

It’s knowing where it came from and that it’s really good for us all and whoever eats it. Also we know that the animal had a good life and a dignified ending of its life to keep on giving us life!

What would you consider to be Red Barn Ranch values:

A good stewardship of the beautiful natural resources that God has entrusted to us and a faith and dependence on Him because of the uncertainties of the weather. We are very attuned to the weather each day, whether hot or cold, dry or wet, windy or calm. Rain and sunshine grow grass, but too much can be detrimental. Wind and sun pump water, but again, too much can be damaging.

Why is it important for consumers to learn about regenerative grazing and sustainable ranching?

The media has portrayed agriculture and animal grazing in a very negative light. But we know that if done in the proper way (for example, to try to imitate the bison herds rotation of animal impact and then prolonged resting of that area, from hundreds of years ago) grazing and sustainable agriculture can actually improve the water and mineral cycle, and therefore, the soil and land resource.

What should change in the current food production system?

If the current system could be seen holistically, not adding or deleting a practice only for the sake of efficiency, but seeing how said practice affects all the other components of the whole.

The average age of ranchers and farmers is almost 60 years old. How can we get the younger generation interested in ranching, farming, and the overall food production system?

Our children, the younger generation, love the land and have very good animal husbandry skills, conservation ethics, etc. Each one’s different skills are very much needed to contribute to the whole, the “big picture “. The difficulty for them is the large capital resource needed to get a business rolling and the many regulations and requirements. There are many young people actually interested in raising food in a natural environment, but the costs and requirements almost preclude it for most.

“Come see us, see the animals and the land!”


Daniel, Deborah Unruh and family at Red Barn Ranch

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