Where should you buy agricultural land in Wyoming?
Wyoming is a beautiful state with sweeping wide-open spaces and a variety of land types. If you’re considering relocating to Wyoming for farming, ranching, or any kind of agriculture, this article will help orient you to the locations that are right for you. We can divide the state into three major categories: Eastern Wyoming, the Rocky Mountains, and the Wyoming Basin.
Where should you buy agricultural land in Wyoming?
Eastern Wyoming is a relatively flat, fertile area that can be further subdivided into two main parts: The Great Plains and the Black Hills.
The Great Plains covers the southern 2/3rds of eastern Wyoming and offers a lot of grazing land as well as some opportunities to grow crops. The best area in Wyoming for cropland is in Goshen county, which is aptly named after the most fertile, desirable land in Egypt in the Biblical story of Joseph. The availability of water is the primary reason why Goshen county is so productive. The North Platte river flows through Goshen county and provides excellent irrigation opportunities, resulting in the county leading the state in the market value of agricultural products sold for both crops and livestock (1).
The remainder of the Great Plains land in Wyoming consists of endless stretches of grazing land. Using Wyoming land for pasture allows farmers and ranchers to make excellent use of land that would be difficult for raising crops. While cattle are the most important source of agricultural income for Wyoming, don’t overlook the possibility of grazing other livestock, such as bison or sheep. Sheep-rearing is particularly strong in Converse, Fremont, Laramie, and Lincoln counties, ranking Wyoming 1st in the US for wool production and 2nd in the nation (after Texas) for lamb (2).
The Black Hills are located in the northeast corner of Wyoming, north of the Great Plains. Most people think of the Black Hills as being in South Dakota, but the Black Hills land also extends 20-30 miles past the border into Wyoming (3). This land is characterized by forested mountains and the spectacular Devil’s Tower, a rock formation with a flat top that rises 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River. Timber is one of the main harvests in the Black Hills region (4), as well as cattle and wheat. The Belle Fourche river also offers some irrigation opportunities for growing crops.
The Rocky Mountains
The Rocky Mountains run through the center and northwest of Wyoming and can be broken down into three distinct zones called the Southern, Middle, and Northern Rocky Mountains, all three of which have a presence in Wyoming.
- The Southern Rocky Mountains extend from northern Colorado in three finger-like projections into Carbon County and Albany County on the south side of Wyoming (5).
- The Middle Rocky Mountains occupy the majority of northwestern Wyoming (6).
- The Northern Rocky Mountains just brush the northwest corner of Wyoming and extend up into Montana and on to Canada (7).
Yellowstone National Park is the best-known example of the Rocky Mountain area of Wyoming. Due to the mountainous terrain, the main agriculture taking place in this region are large cattle ranches along with many hunting properties for elk, moose, deer, antelope, bighorn sheep, and bear. Land values remain high, especially in Teton county, thanks to year-round tourism, beautiful terrain, and the town of Jackson attracting many higher-income people.
In addition, the Rocky Mountain regions require notably fewer acres per head to support cattle. This is due to greater water availability, as runoff and mountain springs supply water sources closer to pastures, as well as strong, hardy mountain grasses. When you compare acres of pastureland in the county to inventory of cattle, number of cattle sold, and dollars in cattle sales, Big Horn and Teton counties require the fewest acres per head (8). However, Goshen county remains the strongest ranching county overall.
The Wyoming Basin
The Wyoming Basin is an elevated depression (elevated because the land is around 5,000 feet in elevation, and a depression because the overall topography is a scoop-shaped basin in comparison with the surrounding mountains) in the southwest corner of Wyoming, covering a large portion of land in Sweetwater County as well as the western edge of Carbon County (9). This basin features semi-arid land, cheaper prices per acre, and lower agricultural outputs. Despite Sweetwater County being the 8th largest county in the United States (10), with over 6.6 million acres of land, only 35,000 of these acres were reported as cropland in 2017, and only 28,358 acres were actually harvested (11). The land is challenging to use for grazing as well, as reflected by the fact that Sweetwater county reported 62 acres of pastureland per head of cattle inventory in 2017 (12).
While the strengths of this region may not be in agriculture, mining more than offsets agriculture, thanks to land that is rich in coal, oil, natural gas, minerals, and other natural resources. Mining is Wyoming’s number one industry (13), and Wyoming leads the United States in coal production (14). Sweetwater County also contains the world’s largest reserve of trona; therefore the state leads the world in the production of soda ash (a refined product of trona used in the manufacturing of glass, laundry detergents, baking soda, paper, water softeners and pharmaceuticals) (15).
So Where is the Best Agricultural Land in Wyoming?
Goshen county is clearly the strongest county for both ranching and agricultural production, but a great way to find smaller pockets of fertile and productive ground in Wyoming is to check out the satellite view on Google Maps and look for where the land looks the most green. Then zoom in and verify whether you can see the circular fields that indicate irrigation. You’ll find some nice patches of fertile, productive ground in the regions around Powell, Burlington, Worland, Farson, Wheatland, Lusk, and Sheridan.
If you are looking for a large-scale ranching operation, you can find many quality ranches scattered throughout the state with varying stocking rates depending on the region. If the stocking rate doesn’t meet your requirements, don’t underestimate the potential for leasing your land for hunting to earn additional income. Big Horn, Teton, Goshen, Lincoln, Sublette, and Washakie counties are the best counties to begin your search for a Wyoming ranch as they have the highest stocking rates in the state to allow you to raise more cattle on less land.
For a more detailed, insider look at Wyoming, where to buy land, and help to find your perfect property, please contact American Land Brokers and let us know what you’re looking for. We look forward to helping you with your property search and finding the piece of land that best suits your requirements.
MARV VAN HOUTEN