The land is calling and I must answer
From the very beginning, land has been central to Jessica and Cade Richmond’s life.
“The first time I laid eyes on him, Cade was hauling hay that he produced on land he was leasing outside of De Leon,” said Jessica, who, as a senior at Texas A&M, was visiting friends at Tarleton State. “The story is so us—he likes to work on the land and I like to play on the land.”
As such, the couple, who married in 2003, bring two distinct perspectives and skillsets to RE/MAX Lone Star, the farm and ranch realty company they’ve opened in Stephenville. The new office, which has dedicated marketing personnel and will eventually include up to six associates, expands and formalizes the real estate business they’ve run for 13 years solely on a referral basis.
“For years, we’ve handled transactions for people within our network—all over the state,” said Jessica, who serves as State Director of Texas Farm Bureau where she represents her fellow agricultural producers in Austin and Washington D.C. “The time is right to grow the business, which has a strong track record, into its full potential. People are hungry to connect to the land.”
While the primary focus is farm and ranch properties, residential customers are welcome, too. The Richmonds want to keep the firm small, nimble and personal.
We are creating a team that shares our background, our values and our commitment to customer service,” said Jessica, who graduated with a B.S. in agriculture economics from Texas A&M University and a masters in agricultural and natural resource sciences from Tarleton State University. “Whether clients are looking for a country property or their dream home, we can help.”
Although Central Texas is home base, the Richmonds and RE/MAX Lone Star have statewide reach and capability. While customers will get “two for the price of one” with the Richmonds, Jessica is the driving force behind the company.
She’s the energy, the vision and the driver behind our real estate work,” Cade said. “I’m the nuts and bolts guy.”
Real estate is the third leg in their family business tripod. The Richmonds also have a commercial hay operation and a cattle operation. Together, the sixth-generation Texans are doing something that most economists say is impossible.
“Even though both our families have land, Cade and I operate only on land that we’ve purchased or leased,” said Jessica, noting their operation now encompasses several thousand acres. “Frankly, we have a land addiction. We’ve always talked about building our dream house, but we haven’t yet because we’ll find another piece of land and say, ‘Maybe we better buy that.’”
Acquiring property for themselves has given the Richmonds first-hand experience with everything from Farm Credit System loans, agricultural tax valuation and 1031 exchanges to succession planning. Jessica also serves on the Comanche County Appraisal Review Board and works first-hand with Texas law makers on landowner issues including agricultural tax valuation and eminent domain.
Cade said, “We’re using our land to pay for itself, our equipment and our life, I’ve got to make things work from a business standpoint. If something isn’t working, I’ve got to reconsider it, revamp it or sell it. We’re authentic and that wins over a lot of people because we’re not just selling you a piece of property, we’re living the life.”
Jessica added, “We live on the land. We make our living from the land—and we want to help others enjoy all that the land can offer.
Farming and Ranching
The Richmonds’ home, where they’re rearing their three children, sits on the 320-acre tract where they met. It was their first land purchase.
“When I graduated from Tarleton in 2001 [with an agriculture business degree], I just knew that I wanted to do my own thing,” said Cade, whose family settled in Brown County near Blanket in the 1870s. “There was no blue print; it was just one day, one step at a time, making and taking opportunities when they came.”
Cade’s first agricultural enterprise was commercial hay production. Using irrigation and fertilization to help control Mother Nature’s variability, he produces high-quality, high-protein coastal Bermuda hay targeted to the equestrian market.
“Horse people understand the importance of consistent quality and are willing to pay for it,” said Cade, who grew up ranching alongside family in Brown, Comanche, Coleman and Brewster Counties.
Because quality matters to his customers, Cade implements strict quality control that hinges on paying attention to even seemingly minor details such as grass burrs. In the horse world, where hand feeding is common, grass burrs are deal-breakers. The burrs can be introduced and scattered over a field if someone unthinkingly drives a truck with burrs stuck to the tires into a hayfield.
“I hate when people don’t pay attention to the details because they make a huge difference,” said Cade, who carries a pear burner with him to spot treat grass burr outbreaks. “I stand behind every product we sell.”
During the growing season, he completes a cutting every 30 days and sells 95 percent of the production, which is square baled, to nine feed stores scattered throughout Texas and New Mexico. When he delivers the Central Texas coastal Bermuda hay to New Mexico, he backfills his trailer with alfalfa, another feedstuff important in the equestrian trade, and then sells it to the Texas feed stores. While some years he could supply more feed stores, he’s reluctant because variables like the weather can always affect production.
“I believe in delivering what I promise because that’s how you build trust,” said Cade, noting that if his personal supplies ever run short, he purchases hay from trusted suppliers to keep his customers’ stock high. “If people can’t trust you, they’ll find someone else.”
In addition to producing hay, the Richmonds have a 1,000-head diversified cattle operation. Cade got started with a heifer development program, which is a long-time family specialty. He raises or purchases young Brahman-influenced weanlings and, using a feed and health protocol, raises them until they are 18–20 months old. Then, they are bred to low birth weight Angus bulls and sold as bred heifers ready to enter a producing cow herd.
“Our heifers are marketed throughout the South and Southeast,” Cade said. “We’ve built a business on repeat customers.”
Changes in the heifer market dictated changes in the Richmonds’ cattle operation. Last year, they retained 250 females, calved them out and implemented a cow-calf operation. They are using Hereford bulls to produce desirable “black baldies.”
The heifers can be retained, sold to other ranchers as select females or marketed as beef; the steers are destined for the feedlot. To further enhance the value of the calves, particularly the steers, the Richmonds are participating in a third-party certification and verification program run by IMI Global. The program requires producers to follow specific animal husbandry and antibiotic-free health protocols and to keep strict records.
“Consumers are demanding accountability in their food supply,” said Cade, noting the certification can result in a premium of $10–$20/CWT/head. “Unlike many people in agriculture, we’re price-makers not price-takers. We work hard to produce a superior product that deserves a premium price.”
Living a High-Quality Life
The riches of production agriculture aren’t fully measured by the bottom line.
Agriculture is about quality of life; there is something that just touches the soul,” said Cade, who serves as an area Director for the Comanche County Farm Services Agency Board. “And for kids, it exposes them to what is real and important.”
There was never any doubt that the Richmonds’ children would be country kids.
“My mom and dad didn’t farm or ranch, but we lived in the country,” said Jessica, a native of Mineola. “I grew up riding horses, fishing, and playing outside. There was never any doubt that we would raise our own children the same way.”
And they are. The children, Sterling, 14, Jackson, 11, and Lillie, 8, who attend school in Stephenville, are 4-H kids, raising and showing lambs. Each one keeps records of costs and profits. It is a learning business enterprise. They share their parents’ passion for hunting and fishing, which is, according to Jessica, Cade’s only recreation. In their free time, Lillie “sits in the grass and sings to the wind” and the boys pack up their water bottles and BB guns and explore the familiar creek and woods.
“Our place isn’t Yellowstone, but you’d think it was,” Jessica said.
The children also work alongside their parents. They earn a wage because their efforts contribute to the business’s success.
Recently one of their sons asked, “Dad, do you know how many kids wish they could go to work with their dads, but can’t? We get to go to work with you.”
Working side by side, the children see their parents fill different roles, which illuminates different facets of their character.
“Day after day, our kids get to see Cade being gentle and caring as he tends to our livestock and being tough and determined as he has to be to survive in the ag. industry,” Jessica said.
Lessons on the land are lessons for life.
“We’re trying to raise our children as citizens who want to work hard and contribute to society,” Cade said. “The lessons they learn early, like a strong work ethic, will serve them well wherever they go.”
Wherever they go, the Richmond children will likely carry a strong connection to the land. It will give them, as it has given their parents, common ground with other people who love the land.
“There is a certain connection between people of the land that cuts across all kinds of differences,” said Jessica, who serves on the Texas Farm Bureau’s Natural Resource Committee and as chairman of its State Commodity Committee. Elected to represent farmers and ranchers, she also represents the unified voice of agriculture in Austin and Washington D.C.
For instance, they have a client who is an Italian winemaker. His European home is a castle. He also owns land in Texas.
“We’re not Italian grape growers and he’s not a Texas farmer, but we share a passion for the land,” Jessica said. “Our greatest calling is to be stewards of the earth.”
In the Richmonds’ world, friends often become clients and clients often become friends. The key is honest communication. Initially, Jessica spends a lot of time asking questions to help customers figure out exactly what they want in a property.
“Sometimes people know they want land, but they don’t know much more,” Jessica said. “It’s important for them to be clear about what they want, so we can help them find it and they will be satisfied because it meets their expectations.”
The Richmonds also make sure their clients’ expectations are realistic.
“Land ownership is a beautiful story, but it’s not a fairy tale,” Jessica said. “Problems will arise, so we help our clients be problem solvers from day one.”
Property purchased through RE/MAX Lone Star comes with access to the Richmonds’ network of land professionals ranging from the Farm Services Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service specialists to Farm Credit Bank financiers and local contractors and trusted seedstock producers.
We have learned lessons from the land the hard way, so we use first-hand experience to help our clients avoid any pitfalls,” Cade said. “We work to prepare them so they can manage their land and enjoy it.”
With that said, land is a rare asset because it is a source of true wealth that allows its owners to enjoy it while they improve its ecological and economic value.
“There is a certain pride of ownership in land and a personal commitment to leaving it better than you found it,” Cade said. “Taking care of it is a joyful responsibility like taking care of your family. When you make land better by investing time and money it repays you in productivity—and memories.”
For the Richmonds, the real value of land lies in the life it enables people to live. While they help customers buy and sell property, the couple knows their clients are seeking a one-of-a-kind lifestyle.
“We deliver a Texas lifestyle, whether it’s a house on Lake Granbury, a ranchette near Bastrop or a production farm outside of Comanche,” Jessica said. “People want to live the Texas way.”
RE/MAX Lone Star • Jessica & Cade Richmond • MyTexasLifestyle.com
Stephenville Office • 2217 West Washington, Stephenville, Texas 76401
Office: 254-434-4123 • Jessica (Mobile): 254-485-8023 • Cade (Mobile): 325-330-0590
Ranch Office (By Appointment Only) • 7491 Highway 6, De Leon, Texas 76444