Fount this article at Capital Press and thought you might enjoy it!
By JOHN O’CONNELL Capital Press
When cattle and sheep prices dipped eight years ago, Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, rancher Ken Andrus and his family supplemented their income by opening their home to visitors. The customers still come from throughout the world to ride horses and experience the open space and cowboy life at the Andrus Guest Ranch. Andrus, the Republican chair of Idaho’s House Agricultural Affairs Committee, enjoys the stable revenue the side business generates and the opportunity to employ his children on the ranch, which he runs with his brother. They raise 350 head of cattle and another 350 head of registered Suffolk sheep. They also offer two-hour trail rides for $50 each, a bed and breakfast for $100 per person and a six-day guest ranch experience for $800 per adult, with reduced rates for children. “Compared to the ranch it’s minimal,” Andrus said of the added income, “but it does help.” Startup costs included renovating lodging for guests, creating a website and obtaining liability insurance. They entertain roughly 100 customers per year. On July 11, the de Froidmont family of Belgium checked in. “For us, America is also Western,” said Anne de Froidmont, adding she grew up watching spaghetti Westerns. “And to experience the ranching lifestyle is very interesting.” Andrus advises any rancher interested in starting a guest ranch to take breaks between visitors. “The guest ranch thing can be quite draining because you’re with people all the time,” he said. Janice and Roley Schoonover carved a niche for themselves and their children at the family’s ranch in Sandpoint, Idaho, by opening Western Pleasure Guest Ranch, which serves about 3,000 guests per year, counting weddings, sleigh rides and trail rides. They leave the actual ranching to Janice’s brother. “Ranch people are very tight. You want your kids around you,” said Janice, who heads a loose association of about eight Idaho guest ranches. Colorado, Montana and Wyoming are the major guest ranching states, according to the Dude Ranchers’ Association, which represents more than 100 U.S. guest ranches. Only a few operations remain in Washington and Oregon. Dick and Shirley Bloomfeldt opened their Long Hollow Ranch in Sisters, Ore., to guests in 1998, after hearing a presentation from the Oregon Department of Agriculture about alternative agricultural income sources. The guest ranch now represents the majority of their income. “If you don’t like people, you won’t like this. They eat three meals a day with you,” said Dick Bloomfeldt. Based largely on inspiration from the movie City Slickers, Don Guglielmino opened Bull Hill Guest Ranch in Kettle Falls, Wash., in 1995. “We were looking at a way of diversifying and creating a cash flow that would help carry us through those lean times,” Guglielmino said. Guglielmino, who has a background in the hotel industry, oversees the guest business, which now accounts for more than 70 percent of the operation’s income. His brother Pete runs the ranching. “You have to have the right mix of personalities in the business and family to make it happen,” Guglielmino said.