Houseworth Realty
6493 US 31 N, Alanson, MI 49706

(231) 548-5578
(231) 838-5743

 

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Sunlit views with Douglas & Burt.jpg
The above view shows Douglas Lake (C), and portions of Burt Lake (L), and Munro Lake (R)

The Romanik Ranch
10637 Weadock Rd., Levering MI. 49755

(MLS# 427039)
By Doug Houseworth

Being in the right place at the right time is true for both people and real estate.  For the former Romanik  Ranch, the right place is directly on I-75 about 13 miles south of Mackinaw City.  In 2002 Walt and Marilyn Romanik fulfilled their vision to establish a first rate agritourism facility in northern Michigan. 

With easy access off I-75 on exit #326, thousands of visitors came to marvel at one of Michigan’s larger buffalo herds, elk with their giant antlers, long horn steers and emu.  The park featured a ½ hour tour of these wonders that included a trip through 40 acres of mature hardwood wilderness. There also was a petting zoo, goat run, gem stone panning, koi fish pond, butterfly hatching house, corn maze, annual pumpkin patch, and play ground for the many families visiting with their children.  In addition to these attractions, the Romaniks had a restaurant and gift shop on the farm.  Elk antlers and buffalo horns were popular items.  They also offered elk and buffalo meat for sale (see brochure).  For the health conscious carnivore, the opportunity to purchase such lean and healthful meat (learn more), was worth the trip.  If that wasn’t enough, you could cut and pick out your own Christmas tree in December.

There is no doubt; this 250 acre estate was the right place.  Walt and Marilyn Romanik had the right concept and the proof was a remarkable success in the four short years of operation from 2002- 2005.  Each year exceeded the previous year with the exception of 2005 when access to the farm was restricted due to road construction on I-75 during the peak tourist season.  Walt and Marilyn were great partners and Walt had the know how to make it work. The family reports that Marilyn was the visionary half of this successful team.  After she died in 2006, Walt already in his late 70’s decided to retire.  Walt died in 2011.

Like many businesses that appear to be an “overnight success”, this one had a history of diligent research and expertise.  Walt already had many years experience raising animals.  Besides growing up on a farm, in the early 1970’s he purchased a petting zoo in Mackinaw City.  There were monkeys, coyotes, fox, skunks, raccoons and peacocks. In the late 70’s he expanded into raising buffalo and elk. He and Marilyn also visited a number of other successful agritourism operations around the country before founding the Romanik  Ranch on I-75.  They had also owned the property since 1996 prior to establishing the ranch in 2002.  It became the site of many family celebrations including the wedding of their son Gregg.  Their vision was correct and expertly executed.  Walt seemed to have a gift for seeing opportunities.  In 2007 he was inducted into the Michigan Christmas Tree Association Growers Hall of Fame.  Prior to opening the ranch, his Sno-Kist Tree Company harvested over 205,000 trees in one season. 

In reporting his obituary, the Cheboyan Daily Tribune, July 6, 2011 wrote:

“In February 1952 Walt enlisted in, and proudly served in, the U.S. Marine Corp for two years.  Upon discharge, he went to work for the Chicago Bridge and Iron Company as a crane operator.  In the spring of 1957, he returned to his beloved northern Michigan and purchased the Shell distributorship of Northwood Oil Co.  In this same year, he also planted his first field of Christmas trees, a venture that would grow into Son-Kist Tree Co.”

 

BIRTH OF THE WHITE BUFFALO
2013-02-06 105434, photo White Buffalo.JPG
 
Photo courtesy of Romanik Trust

 

On July 26, 1997 a significant event occurred that brought the Romanik family into a new awareness of a 2000 year old prophesy.  A white heifer calf was born on their property near Cheboygan.  Kim Schneider reported the following in the March 2001 edition of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine:

“Over the past three years, the 70-year old farmer has heard from Indian chiefs, grandsons of chiefs, all manner of holy men.  They’ve given him peace pipes and left offerings of tobacco on his fences.  And they’ve told him pretty much the same thing: this Northern Michigan calf, born white before turning various shades of brown, is a sign that the world is at a crossroads.  In their beliefs, No. 19’s birth is akin in importance to the birth of Jesus in Christianity.  Romanik and his wife Marilyn, he was told, have been chosen as caretakers, like Mary and Joseph were.  And that’s something that Romanik, a devout Catholic doesn’t take lightly, whether or not he believes in the legend or thinks it’s all just an interesting coincidence.” 

For a number of converging reasons, now is the right time to take the Romanik  Ranch to the next level.  Aside from the agritourism aspects of this great location, and fascinating history, the original vision of the Romanik’s is even stronger in today’s business and environmental climate.

 

 DROUGHT

These days, there may be some dispute about the causes of global warming, but few dispute the fact that it is really happening (See Discovery Channel – Global Warming, What You Need To Know, with Tom Brokaw).  A compelling read by Gregg Easterbrook, Global Warming:  Who Loses – and Who Wins?  talks about the winners being land owners in the high latitude regions of the world with extended growing seasons.  These trends are also supported by other evidence seen in the side bars on this home page.  The evidence is clear that growing seasons are longer than in years previous.  This can be a mixed blessing if you don’t have the water to take advantage of this climatic change.

Owning the means of production is a foundational truth in the generation of wealth.  It is not enough to own the land, owning the water rights and having water in abundance is primary to livestock or crop success.  Last year many hay growers in this region found they no longer needed to deliver their harvest.  The buyers were coming to them.  This region happens to be one of the ideal areas for alfalfa production.  We have the water and the grass.  For livestock produces this is the place to be.  Being said, what we don’t have is the best location to feedlots and distribution centers.  However, for grass fed beef, that is becoming less of an issue (see Michigan is Grass Fed Friendly).  In a project titled:  A Local Pasture-Based Beef Production System for Northwest Michigan, Jason Rowntree, Ph.D. of Michigan State University, outlines a project called 20 by 2020.  The goal is to have 20% of beef sales in Traverse City to be local and grass fed.  This is real progress.

There are a number of natural springs on the Romanik Ranch that supply several ponds.  There are also 4 wells that serve the needs of livestock and the people who may occupy the Ranch.  One of the wells is a Type II Public Well.  In order to get health dept. approvals of the restaurant, this well was required.  This is a big plus in that such a well facilitates other applications such as an RV Park or residential development needing a common source well.

Direct Marketing
Resturant, meat sales area.jpg

The agritourism model the Romanik Game Ranch followed was not only correct, but present trends for direct marketing are rapidly growing.  Proximity to feedlots is no longer an issue for   producers of grass fed meats.  Health conscious consumers are changing the paradigm.  In a research paper titled, Expanding Grass-Based Animal Agriculture in the Midwest:  The Pature Project (see full report), we read, “Research shows certain consumers are willing to pay more for natural beef.  The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) monitors retail beef sales through scanner data at the retail level.  Natural and organic beef sales have trended upward, ranging from 1.1% in 2003 to 4.2% during the first quarter of 2011”.  These percentages may seem small but highly significant considering that grass fed beef is now the fastest growing segment of the beef industry. The report goes on to say:  “A survey conducted by Whole Foods Markets (2006), the global leader in retailing natural and organic food, showed that 65% of Americans want a guarantee that all meat and poltry products are free of added growth hormones and antibiotics, and that animals are humanely raised; 61% say it is important to read the labels to verify such guarantees; and 59% would purchase more natural and grass-fed beef if it came from trusted sources and was raised naturally (without antibiotics or synthetic growth hormones).

Proof positive of these trends can be found on Eatwild, the #1 Site for Grass-fed Food & Facts, Pastured Products Directory-Michigan.  The grass fed meat products found on this site include everything from beef to free range chickens, pork, sheep and goats.  The Michigan Directory shows over 30 farms who are now direct marketing (vertical integration).  There are many more small producers supplying friends and family who are not members of Eatwild.

With high visibility from I-75, easy access from Exit 326, and a history of past success in this location, the opportunity for direct marketing of any agricultural product could hardly be better.  There is clearly a high market demand for healthful meats, and although the Romaniks confined their marketing to over the counter sales, plus restaurant sales in this Northern resort area, they had an impressive list of customers.  Their buffalo meats were on the menu at the Grand Hotel on Mackinaw Island and could be found at the Perry Hotel in Petoskey.  All in all, their meat products could be found in 15 of the best restaurants in this region, including the Bay Harbor Yacht Club.  What they did not do is internet sales.  Add this element to the mix and success is imminent.  Internet sales are an integral part of marketing for nearly all of the farms found on Eatwild site, both in Michigan and nationally.

 

ALTERNATIVE USES

The ranch also became a favored venue for weddings, company functions and parties.  The Cheboygan, Mackinaw and Indian River Chambers of Commerce held their annual “Buffalo Bash” at the park.  It became a favorite Chamber function and hosted between 200-300 people at these events.  Boy Scout groups discovered it was a great place to camp, and school field trips from all over the state came to visit.

The 3,450 sq. ft. restaurant/gift shop with approved public rest rooms is a natural to host a variety of group activities, such as training seminars and workshops.  The historic barn with over 4,000 sq. ft on the main level has hosted many “barn dances”, weddings and parties.  The original farm house is a “bed and breakfast” waiting to happen with its 5 bed rooms and scenic setting.  There are many levels to expand the Romanik Ranch to an even greater vision.

 

image001.jpg, Per Acre Land Values by State.jpg

 
 

The above graph is reported in FARMERS NATIONAL COMPANY, Landowner News.  They are “rated the #1 Land Auction Company in 2012 and 2011 by The Land Report – The Magazine of the American Landowner.”

 

“This high level of activity is likely to lead to a short supply of available land as we enter 2013, according to Volchoff (Vice President of real estate operations at Farmers National Company), which could drive the values even higher.  Pure economics should dictate that values rise if the supply of available land tighten, said Volchroff.”

 

Note:  While certain areas of Michigan are bringing the above reported values, they are not reflected in the current sold history of farm land in Northern Michigan.  In a recent study titled 2012 MICHIGAN LAND VALUES AND LEASING RATES by Eric Wittenberg, Extension Specialist and Christopher Wolf, Professor at Michigan State University, they report that farm land in this region is going for about $1,700 per acre but admit there was very low response to the survey they did.  As a Realtor, I personally am aware of several hundred acres of pasture land that recently sold in Cheboygan County for $2,000 per acre.  In my view, this is a good news/bad news scenario.  For buyers it not only is good news, but great news.  It is clear that good land is being pressurized by trends in global warming and there does not appear to be much relief for drought regions historically known for cattle production.  If you want to produce crops or livestock, water is the number one requirement.  I believe water is what will drive future land prices in this region and smart buyers will understand this.  Values in this region can only increase, making the Romanik Ranch an investment opportunity at this time.

 

There is little question that dwindling inventories of farm and ranch land are being driven by drought and world demand for U.S. agricultural products.  In a Jan 30, 2012 report in MOTHER NATURE NETWORK titled The Great Northern Migration of U.S. Cattle, authors P.J. Huffstutter and Theopolis Waters, write the following:

 

“Weather patterns have shifted in recent years, allowing the sandy soil of Nebraska’s sandhills to enjoy more rainfall.  In Cherry County, Nebraska, where some ranchers are sitting on a three-year stockpile of hay and wild grass, the annual precipitation has averaged 30.44 inches in the past three years, up nearly 300 percent from the state’s drought of 2002, said Al Dutcher, state climatologist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.”

 

“While ranchers are being steadily driven out of places like Iowa, where cattle and crop battle for the same fertile ground, Nebraska’s richest cattle-grazing country – the Sandhills – makes for relatively poor soil for corn, limiting competition from farms, say agricultural economist and agrarians.”

 

Conclusion

The time is right for the next entrepreneur to take the Romanik Ranch to a new level.  Global Warming is driving geopolitical changes that are affected the entire world.  In terms of farmland values, this region is a sleeper and those who recognize this and act on it, are the winners.  Drought maps show northern Michigan as an area minimally affected, and we are rich in lands known for good foraging.  While the growing season may be a little shorter, annual precipitation and strong levels of ground water contribute to ideal conditions for certain crop and livestock production.  Recent trends driven by health and environmentally conscious consumers have created a strong market for locally produced food.

The place is right for direct marketing of organic farm and meat products.  The Romanik Ranch has a high profile directly on I-75, and a proven success as an agritourism attraction.  Because of this, and increasing public awareness of how food is produced and transported, this property is positioned for both the “right time and the right place”.

This estate is offered as two parcels.  See links to fact sheets for 144 acre and 106 acre parcels:

 

Contact Doug Houseworth
hwlogo.gif
www.houseworthrealty.com
www.houseworthrealty.com/Ranch/
231-838-5743 (cell)
houseworth@centurylink.net

 

 
 
 

About Farm Land

2012 MI Land Lease Rates
Farm Land In Short Supply
Farmland Prices Stay Strong

About Grass fed Meats

Michigan Bison Association
Raising Grass Fed Beef
Eat Wild
Grass Fed Beef is Healthy
Pasture Project Final Report
Michigan Promotes Grass Fed

Agritourism

Agri-Tourism
Agri-Tourism Activities
Agri-Tourism Corn Mazes

Drought Issues

Regional Drought Monitor
Managing Drought In South
Global Warming Winners/Losers
Drought Worse in 2013
Drought Cause Cattle Migration
Global Warming What You Need

Mobile Slaughtering Units

Mobile Slaughterhouse Units
Direct Marketing Meat Inspection
USDA Slaughter House Regs.
Case Study
Guide to Slaughter Houses
Slaughter House Construction

Prophesy of the White Buffalo

Chief Arvol Looking Horse
Traverse Magazine

Lame Deer Quote
Prophesy
White Buffalo Woman
White Buffalo Calf Woman

Resources

MI Beef Herds at Crossroads
Beef Team
NW MI Ag Bus. Team

Funding Resources
USDA WASDE Report
Soil Conservation
How to Start a Cooperative
Capping Property Taxes
Soils Map for Romanik Ranch

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