Expert Series: The Recreational Ranch: Reprint from Rural Rich: Create Wealth in Rural Real Estate Newsletter April 14, 2024

  You won’t find many people who know more about ranching and rural living than  Sheldon Wellborn.  Having grown up in a small Texas town of 300 people, he attended   Tarleton State University in Stephenville and earned a Bachelor’s degree in animal science.  After graduation, he began his professional career as a ranch hand, eventually progressing to become the managing director of an extensive 4,000-acre agricultural operation due to his combination of grit and business acumen.  Leveraging his unique knowledge of ranch operations, Sheldon successfully transitioned to a career as a land agent with Ranch Connection LLC in Fort Worth.  As an expert in both ranching and Texas land trends, he shares his insights on a growing phenomenon in this Rural Rich newsletter: the recreational ranch.



The Emergence of Recreational Ranches

Over the past few years, Sheldon has observed a consistent increase in buyers seeking land for recreational purposes rather than for establishing livestock or agribusiness operations.  Given that full-time farming and ranching are not for everyone, these recreational buyers are primarily motivated by a desire to reconnect with nature, slow down, and create lasting memories with family and friends.  They aim to be responsible stewards of rural communities without altering their landscape.

Characteristics of Recreational Ranches

While every property and buyer is unique, Sheldon provides his prospective on some of the characteristics found in recreational ranches.

  1. Within a two-hour drive from the city: This distance represents a comfortable travel time for weekend trips and provides peace of mind in case of emergencies requiring a quick return home.
  2. Adequate living quarters: These properties will have suitable accommodations for the buyer and space for hosting family and friends. Amenities typically include indoor plumbing, central heating/cooling, internet access, and storage for outdoor recreational equipment (e.g., boats, ATVs).
  3. Less than 250 acres: Recreational ranch buyers prefer low-maintenance properties, as larger tracts require more upkeep. Generally, plots under 250 acres can be managed with the occasional check-in.
  4. Agriculturally exempt: Recreational ranch owners value both land conservation and wise investments. Thus, they seek properties with lower taxes due to agricultural exemptions and adhere to regulations to maintain the land’s agricultural status.
  5. Abundant wildlife: These ranches offer ample opportunities to connect with nature through hunting and fishing, as well as native wildlife viewing thanks to habitat enhancements.

Counsel for Prospective Recreational Ranch Owners

For those aspiring to own a recreational ranch, Sheldon provides three key recommendations when working with a land broker:

  1. Define your goals: Clearly understanding your motivations and desires for owning land is crucial for you and your realtor to create a plan and find a property best suited to your needs.
  2. Disclose your budget: Aligning your goals with your budget will save time and potential disappointment during your search. Competent land brokers have connections to lenders who can help you determine affordability quickly.
  3. Identify a target area: Where would you like your ideal property to be located? Although your goals and budget may not align with your initial area of interest, a skilled realtor can find a suitable location that meets most of your criteria.

In conclusion, the rise of recreational ranches is a burgeoning trend across Texas.  While large working cattle ranches are becoming less common, and full-time ranchers are increasingly rare, recreational ranches allow more people to connect with nature and pass on values of land stewardship and appreciation to future generations.  Sheldon is a land sales expert at Ranch Connection LLC in Fort Worth. For any of your land needs, contact him at  This newsletter is educational in nature and not intended to be financial advice. Reach out to for questions or ideas for future topics.

Sheldon Wellborn is pictured riding at the 4000-acre Bison Run Ranch in Walnut Springs, Texas.

Gary Whidden

Head of Vertical, Account Management at Facebook

Ranch Connection is a full service Land and Ranch Real Estate Brokerage established in 1984.

If we can assist you with selling your ranch/land please contact us at

Please visit our website at

By:  Sheldon Wellborn –