Mountains near Hipwell Farms

Bigger Doesn’t Always Mean Better

Hipwell Ranch moves to smaller acreage, doubles down on sustainability

Lex Nelson

Since 2010, ranchers Brecca and Mitch Hipwell have been running 150 head of cattle and raising their family on Mitch’s parents’ ranch in Oreana, Idaho. In that time, they became known for their grass-fed BrAngus beef, which they sold at the Caldwell and Nampa farmer’s markets, and for their Juniper firewood cut from the Owyhee Mountains. Then in August 2019, the couple turned their lives upside down when they purchased their own 185-acre parcel of land, intending to craft a brand-new, entirely self-sufficient version of Hipwell Ranch. 

“Where we moved from it was all my parents’, and they had just under 10,000 private acres—so there’s a little bit of a size difference,” Mitch joked, adding that in reality, his cows were just “filling the gaps” in his father’s herd on the larger range. “…This way I’ll have a lot better management over my animals because it is a smaller place, and I’ll be able to watch things a lot closer,” he said. 

Hipwell corral

Right now, the Hipwells are working both Oreana ranches while they tackle the project of getting their new land and home, left untended for the last 20 years, up to snuff. But they have big plans for 2020. 

“We have goats coming this year, and we just want to get to the point where we’re really a regenerative farm,” Brecca said. “Where all the animals are working the ground and there’s not a whole lot of farming on our end, just management of animals.” 

In addition to 20-30 goats, the Hipwells will add roughly 150 chickens to their menagerie this year. The couple plans to rotate their goats and cows through the rangeland, letting the goats eat back the brush and weeds that the cows avoid and make space for more grass. According to Brecca, this system will serve as a natural alternative to chemical weed killers. 

“We’re looking at the big picture—the whole ecosystem,” she said. “… We’re moving them regularly and then giving the ground time to rest, which is building soil, building those root systems that give better feed. When you get better feed, that gives back to the animals, and you’re going to see that all the way around. It’s a full-circle picture.”

Mitch added, “Really my end goal is with all of this is soil health, and getting better use of the rainfall we get by actually capturing the rain and not letting it run off. From everything I’ve looked into, animals are the way to do it.” 

The Hipwells will offer beef, eggs and firewood to Treasure Valley customers in 2020 at two farmers markets and various pickup sites, and plan to add goat meat to their stock in 2021. For Oreana residents, an on-farm store is also in the works. To learn more about where to find the Hipwells this market season, visit HipwellRanch.com

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