Dallas and Fort Worth rank as two of the top housing markets in the United States based on current and projected real estate fundamentals, according to Ten-X Research, an online Irvine, California-based firm that tracks the real estate market.
The two North Texas cities ranked as “hot,” markets based on the strength of the single-family market based on current and future expectations, said Ten X Research CMO Rick Sharga.
A Coldwell Banker LLC sign is displayed outside of a house for sale. Photographer: Jacob Kepler
“Dallas and Fort Worth are sitting in some high-performing real estate markets with some strong economic fundamentals,” Sharga told the Dallas Business Journal.“It shows these markets are getting away from that boom or bust cycle. They are extremely strong job markets and the affordability levels remain healthy even though prices have gone up significantly.”
The research group has named Fort Worth as the No. 3 “hot,” housing market in the United States following Nashville and Orlando, with Dallas ranking as the No. 4 hottest housing market in the country. San Antonio rounds out the top 5.
The list of top markets is compiled by Ten-X Research from the 50 largest U.S. housing metros based on market fundamentals.
“The way we determine the hot markets is from home sales and home price trends,” Sharga said. “We look at the economic fundamentals of the region, such as unemployment rate trends, population growth and wage growth — which all helps us predict where the market is going.”
Fort Worth’s home prices grew to a cyclical high of 11.7 percent year-over-year this quarter, with a 3.4 percent home sales growth, according to their data. Home prices are at an all-time high of 43 percent above their pre-recession peak.
Meanwhile, the home prices in Dallas increased 9.2 percent, with a 3.6 percent annual home sales growth.
Despite this growth, homes in Dallas-Fort Worth are still comparatively affordable compared to other major metros in the United States. With strong demographic trends and a solid economic forecast — barring some unknown economic event — Dallas-Fort Worth’s single-family market has a promising outlook, he said.
“The region has done a good job of diversifying its employment,” he added. “It looks like the market is setting the stage for further growth.”
Texas barbecue has no peer on earth. If you’re reading this in Texas, you may wonder why we need to begin with such an obvious statement, but there are people who contend otherwise. In Kansas City they tout paltry slices of gray beef covered in sweet ketchup; the whole thing resembles cold cuts more than barbecue, which is why their arguments generally center on sauce rather than meat. In Memphis they grill ribs over charcoal and fret about whether to hide the product under a pool of sugary sauce or cover it with flavored dust. In the Carolinas they lift their noses and say through pursed, vinegary lips that they invented barbecue. They may have a claim there, but luckily we Texans came along to perfect it.
Let’s back up. The American barbecue tradition is rooted in numerous ancient practices. Caddo Indians had a method for smoking venison, and in the West Indies, natives grilled meats on a frame of green sticks. When European colonists arrived in the New World, no doubt tired of all the salt cod from the long Atlantic passage, they found a local populace given to roasting all manner of game—iguanas, fish, birds, corn, pretty much anything at hand. The Europeans’ contribution to this scenario was to introduce a tasty new animal: the hog. Not only was this beast a marked improvement over the previous fare, but its own gastronomic habits proved well suited to the slop-filled environs of the burgeoning Eastern seaboard. In rural areas and colonial burgs, pigs would roam freely, indiscriminately eating trash until someone decided to roast them, which was done in the local manner—a hole in the ground, a fire, and a split hog laid directly above it on a wood frame.
Barbecue might never have advanced beyond this crude stage but for the fact that another type of animal had come to these shores at the same time as the pig: the cow. Eventually, bovines made their way up through Mexico to the vast grazing lands of Texas, and it didn’t take long for us to figure out what to do with them. We started out by placing the beef directly over the flames but eventually adopted a more elegant approach by which the meat was smoked to tenderness in a chamber with a fire pit at one end and a chimney at the other. Over time, barbecue proliferated throughout the state, eventually leading to the opening of commercial establishments like Elgin’s Southside Market, in 1886, and Lockhart’s Kreuz Market, in 1900. We’ve been arguing about barbecue joints ever since.
Unlike our friends in the South, however, our arguments involve only the important stuff—not who has the better sauce or rub but who has the best meat. And in Texas, this means beef. Sure, we smoke hogs, in the form of spareribs, pork chops, or even (gasp) pulled pork, but we specialize in the Mount Everest of barbecue: brisket. In all of barbecuedom, there is no greater challenge and no greater reward.
This year marks the fifth time that Texas Monthly has sought to identify the state’s finest purveyors of smoked meat. In 1973—our first year of publication—we selected the top twenty joints in the state, singling out Kreuz Market and Taylor’s Louie Mueller Barbecue as the best of the best. In 1997 we expanded our list to include the fifty best joints, with Kreuz and Louie Mueller still at the top. Both were—and remain—exemplars of the German meat-market style, which has always been, in this magazine’s opinion, the primary form of Texas barbecue. It’s true that we can boast tremendous diversity in our methods—from the glazed ribs of East Texas to the cowboy style found farther west—but the Central Texas holy trinity of brisket, sausage, and ribs (beef and pork), smoked for many hours in an indirect-heat pit and served on butcher paper, remains this state’s finest contribution to the genre. Until recently, that kind of meal was synonymous with small-town joints like Kreuz and Louie Mueller. For most of the twentieth century, Texas barbecue was an indisputably rural phenomenon. Sure, there were a few iconic places in urban areas—Angelo’s in Fort Worth, Otto’s in Houston, Sonny Bryan’s in Dallas—but they were hardly citified. Our first fifty-best lists of the new century, compiled in 2003 and 2008, showed little change in that regard.
Then something happened. A tectonic shift occurred. Over a few short years, beginning around 2009, an unprecedented number of brand-new, very good joints opened up. (Sixteen of this year’s top fifty—including two of the top four—were not even in existence five years ago.) Even more unusual, most were in cities, operated by fanatical young pitmasters like Houston’s Greg Gatlin of Gatlin’s BBQ, Dallas’s Justin Fourton of Pecan Lodge, San Antonio’s Tim Rattray of the Granary, and the biggest sensation of them all, Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue, in Austin. They were traditionalists, students of the canonical joints, disciples who would bring the old ways into a new age and a new place. And they found an enthusiastic reception among not just longtime barbecue hounds but also the growing ranks of the food-obsessed, the type of people who shop at farmers’ markets, stock their fridges with artisanal pickles, and tweet pictures of their meals. Suddenly, that most traditional of foods—pit-smoked meat—was reaching a much wider audience.
We are now in the golden age of Texas barbecue. A new generation has arisen to take its place beside the stalwarts, and together they are producing more truly exceptional brisket, ribs, sausage, pork loin, pork chops, pork butt, hot guts, prime rib, chopped beef, and chicken than ever before. The pitmasters featured on the following pages offer the closing argument in the long-standing case of Texas barbecue versus the world. That case may now be considered closed.
And now, we give you the fifty best barbecue joints in Texas—which is to say, the fifty best barbecue joints in the world. —Patricia Sharpe and Daniel Vaughn
What are the keys to being successful in this business? Here are four common traits of established industry leaders.
As a writer who focuses on the cattle business, I frequently have the opportunity to interview a wide variety of influential people in the beef industry. When visiting with these folks, it’s interesting to learn more about what makes them tick, what steps they took to advance their careers and the little things they do to be successful in this business.
Over the years, I’ve realized that successful cattlemen have a few things in common. I’ve identified the four common traits of these individuals, and I try to practice these in my own ranching enterprise.
Efficiency is the key to advancing yourself. Are you making the most out of your 24 hours? Are there things on the ranch you avoid doing or put off for later? Are there ways you could improve how you feed or tasks you could simplify, so they take less time? Are you hustling to get things done, so you have more time to focus on expansion, innovation and implementation of new ideas?
2. Continued education
Learning shouldn’t stop once your school days are over. Take advantage of educational opportunities as they arise. Whether it’s reading BEEF magazine, taking an Extension course, attending a cattlemen’s meeting, enrolling in a program for young producers offered through your local bank or simply visiting with a respected mentor, there are many ways to continue learning, growing and expanding your knowledge in the beef cattle business.
There’s no doubt about it — the cattle business isn’t for the faint of heart. The risk, time commitment, market swings, weather—all are factors to make this a challenging industry to be a part of. When the going gets tough, remind yourself why you’re so passionate about this business in the first place. What do you love about this industry? Is it the ability to be your own boss? Work outside? Set your own schedule? Watch your herd grow and genetics improve? Focus on the positives and the tough parts of the job won’t seem so bad.
What are your short- and long-term goals for your business? Is everyone in the family on board to help you achieve those goals? Make it a habit to regularly review your one-year, five-year and 10-year plans to ensure that you’re constantly striving for something. Make goals attainable and realistic, but don’t forget to dream big, as well. Be sure to celebrate the little milestones along the way, too, as you make progress on your long-term goals.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.
In order to be a successful beef producer, one must manage two key factors very well — the land and the cattle. As the summer grazing season draws closer, it’s a good time to think about the ways we can improve our pastures, and subsequently increase our calves’ gains, as well.
So what does it take to be a good steward of the land?
That was the question asked in a recent survey of 14 natural resource professionals. Based on their responses and combined 469 years of experiences, Jeff Goodwin, pasture and range consultant for The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, compiled the survey results and created a list of the top 10 traits that successful grazing land managers exemplify.
Here are five examples from his list:
1. Manage the ranch as a business
Goodwin writes, “These are managers who make decisions based on the physiological needs of the vegetation, the nutritional and habitat requirements of the animals, and the financial realities of the ranching business enterprise. They scrutinize every dollar spent, limiting unnecessary and nonprofitable inputs. They completely understand that profitability will often come down to how he or she controls costs.”
2. Understand ecological principles
“Most successful managers have the ability to observe climate, animal and plant interactions, and they make management decisions that capitalize on those conditions,” says Goodwin. “They understand the real purpose of roots versus leaves and where the plant makes its food. They may not know the name of the plant, but they understand plant selectivity and production differences. Most certainly, they understand soils are the building blocks. They know that soils are teeming with life and that biology drives most systems such as nutrient cycles, water cycle, etc.”
3. Have a conservation ethic
Goodwin quotes environmentalist Aldo Leopold, who stated in 1949, “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
4. Have clear, measurable and attainable objectives
Goodwin writes, “Monitoring and keeping good records is a common practice among successful ranchers. A recent study conducted by Texas A&M indicated that less than 15-20% of producers monitored their forage, indicating 80-85% may not know how much forage they have or need. Most successful producers, at a minimum, consistently monitor rainfall, available forage, body condition score relative to class of livestock and reproductive stage, and market tendencies. Then, they act on monitoring triggers.”
5. Cautious risk taker
“A cautious risk taker is someone with an open mind and willing to consider more effective and efficient methods of doing things,” said Goodwin. “They often carefully consider new technologies and might implement a test on a small portion of their operation. Many times, they are willing to try new ideas and concepts. They take risks based on knowledge, experience, and sometimes hunches, but on a limited basis. They rarely risk everything and always operate within a safety margin.”
Now is a great time to tour your summer grazing spots and evaluate the shape of the fences, estimate available forages, calculate stock density for the upcoming grazing season and monitor for thistles and other weeds that might be cropping up with the spring weather.
Make this your best grazing season yet by utilizing these leadership traits and making improvements to your management strategies.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.
Modern millennial moms are fortunate to have an abundance of choices when it comes to what they want to feed their young families. This can be seen as both a blessing and a curse because with all of these choices comes a myriad of questions, concerns, doubts and mom guilt.
Is organic healthier? Is it really worth the higher sticker price? Should I be worried about hormones and antibiotics in my food? What if I can only afford the off-brand food? What are the best foods to offer my kids? Should I feel guilty giving them frozen instead of fresh products?
These are just a few of many questions I’ve seen asked recently on a Facebook group of local moms that I’m a part of. It’s evident that these millennial moms want to know more about the food they are purchasing, but because they are on a budget, they don’t want to feel guilty if they can’t afford the fancy label or purchase exclusively organic.
A recent survey sponsored by the Enough Movement revealed there
is a great deal of conflicting information about food, nutrition and label claims, and that makes it extremely difficult for families to make decisions at the grocery store.
“The farm-to-table movement has revealed that we all want to know what’s in our food and where it comes from,” said registered dietitian Susan Finn, PhD, RD, FADA, in an Elanco press release about the survey. “But it’s hard to separate fact from fiction when it comes to food labels, farming practices, and other food production topics. Distinguishing myth from reality can make a big difference in the choices families make about nutrition, household budgets and environmental impact.”
Here are three key findings from the survey:
1. Consumers believe all natural and organic foods are safer and healthier to eat.
According to the survey, “A whopping 99% of organic purchasers expressed confidence in their understanding of the organic label. Yet the data show a significant gap between their perceptions of what it actually means. The main motivation consumers report for buying organic – 82% – is because they believe organic foods to be pesticide free. Organic does not mean pesticide free. Organic farmers may use a variety of chemical sprays and powders on their crops manufactured from natural sources, including substances like boron, copper sulfate and pyrethrin1, similar to the synthetic versions used in modern farming.”
Additionally, two-thirds of the consumers surveyed also believe organic products are more nutritious.
According to the press release, “A landmark meta-analysis from Stanford University, which compiled data from 237 studies, concluded that there was no health or nutrition difference found between conventional and organically produced food.”
2. Consumers are confused about the no added hormones and no antibiotics labels
The survey revealed that, “more than 60% of consumers thought No Added Hormones meant there were no hormones in products with that label, while another 25% thought products with this label were higher quality. Meanwhile, about one-third of consumers believed antibiotic free meant non-labeled products contained antibiotics.”
Yet, Elanco points out that all living things contain hormones; no added hormones are used in pork or poultry production; and in beef and dairy production, hormone levels in food from animals supplemented with hormones are nearly identical to those that aren’t. Plus, hormones in naturally hormone-rich foods like cabbage and soy contain far higher levels than meat, milk and eggs. And regardless of whether an animal was sick and treated with an antibiotic or was raised entirely without antibiotics, the food you buy is free from any harmful antibiotic residue.
3. Consumers have slanted views of modern agriculture
According to the survey, “More than half of survey respondents (52%) believe that the majority of farms are run by corporations. In the United States, 97% of farms are family owned and 88% are small family farms. The percentage of family-owned farms globally is 90%.”
What’s more, “nearly 70% of survey respondents choose organic foods because they believe they’re better for the environment. Organic farming produces less food – about 25% less on average. It requires significantly more land and resources to produce the same yield as modern farming methods. For example, to have raised all U.S. crops as organic in 2014, farmers would have required an additional 109 million acres of land, about the size of California.”
These survey results prove that producers need to continue to engage and share their agricultural stories with consumers. We need to find common values, make it a priority to relate to our customers and take the time to explain these labels and modern production practices. Most importantly, we need to work hard to alleviate the guilt, correct the misinformation and provide transparent information that our consumers can trust.
Based on the survey, the Enough Movement is sharing the “Truth About Food,” a program to bring accurate, fact-based information to spark discussion and dispel misunderstanding. Information about the campaign can be found by clicking here.
According to recent data, the number of people moving to Southern Great Plains states like Texas is more than 1,400 per day. Private lands in the U.S. are undergoing significant changes. For example, more than 1 acre of farmland is lost per minute. Most of these lands are privately owned and play an unseen yet critical role in water and food sustainability, and both national and energy security. Recent data from Texas A&M University suggests that of the 26.9 million residents in Texas, less than 10 percent of those live in rural areas and less than 1 percent are private landowners.
That less than 1 percent of the Texas population encompasses the land stewards of today and tomorrow. Recent data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service also estimates the average age of today’s agricultural producer is 58 years old. It’s more important now than ever that we recognize and support successful land stewards providing the other 99 percent of the population ecological services such as clean water, clean air, sustainable livestock products and wildlife habitat across the Southern Great Plains.
A survey was recently conducted of 14 resource professionals who have spent their entire working careers assisting these land stewards through the good and tough times. These professionals are from respected institutions such as the Noble Foundation, Texas Christian University Ranch Management Program, the King Ranch Institute for Ranch Management, Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and several private consultants. Together, these professionals total more than 469 years of experience. Based on their responses, we organized the top 10 traits of successful grazing land managers below.
10 Cautious risk taker
A cautious risk taker is someone with an open mind and willing to consider more effective and efficient methods of doing things. They often carefully consider new technologies and might implement a test on a small portion of their operation. Many times, they are willing to try new ideas and concepts. They take risks based on knowledge, experience, and sometimes hunches, but on a limited basis. They rarely risk everything and always operate within a safety margin.
9 Willingness to share knowledge
George Bernard Shaw once wrote, “If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples, then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.” Most producers who are successful often get great ideas from their peers. They talk and learn from each other, many times gaining more satisfaction from seeing others succeed than themselves.
8 Have clear, measurable and attainable objectives
Successful outcomes are very often a result of carefully planned objectives. Clearly stated objectives keep sideboards on expectations. In order to achieve success, you must also know when you get there. It is often stated, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” From available forage to production costs, it’s hard to take advantage of an opportunity if you don’t know you had an opportunity in the first place. Monitoring and keeping good records is a common practice among successful ranchers. A recent study conducted by Texas A&M indicated that less than 15 to 20 percent of producers monitored their forage, indicating 80 to 85 percent may not know how much forage they have or need. Most successful producers, at a minimum, consistently monitor rainfall, available forage, body condition score relative to class of livestock and reproductive stage, and market tendencies. Then, they act on monitoring triggers.
7 Have a conservation ethic
In 1949, Aldo Leopold stated, “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” Successful managers want to leave their properties for the next generation better than when they received it. This requires an inner conviction to be a responsible caretaker of the land and all its parts.
6 Big picture thinker
Big picture thinkers don’t get caught up in the weeds. Meaning, they focus on big picture outcomes and don’t get derailed by minor setbacks. Where others tend to find problems, they try to find opportunities and structure their business to decrease risk and be positioned to capitalize on opportunities inherent in turbulent conditions. They understand how all the pieces of their operation are interrelated and find leverage to change the system for the better of the entire operation.
5 Lifelong learner
Successful managers often stay up-to-date of new techniques and technologies, and they are not afraid to cautiously try them. Often, they keep updated by staying active in professional development and associations. However, being involved is not enough. They have the ability to not just hear but listen. They understand that they can learn something from anyone, often learning the most valuable lessons from the most unlikely situations.
4 Have an inquisitive and passionate mind
Inevitably, if you ranch long enough somebody’s going to say, “You’re doing it wrong.” Inquisitive and passionate ranchers often are the innovators in the crowd, asking questions and continually evaluating everything. Most are quick to disregard practices that do not work and search for new solutions. This requires a creative and innovative mind that is always thinking. They often reject the “that won’t work here” or “this is how we’ve always done it” paradigm. They are keen observers, and many come from a nontraditional ranch background.
3 Understand ecological principles
Most successful managers have the ability to observe climate, animal and plant interactions, and they make management decisions that capitalize on those conditions. They understand the real purpose of roots versus leaves and where the plant makes its food. They may not know the name of the plant, but they understand plant selectivity and production differences. Most certainly, they understand soils are the building blocks. They know that soils are teeming with life and that biology drives most systems such as nutrient cycles, water cycle, etc.
2 Manage the ranch as a business
These are managers who make decisions based on the physiological needs of the vegetation, the nutritional and habitat requirements of the animals, and the financial realities of the ranching business enterprise. They scrutinize every dollar spent, limiting unnecessary and nonprofitable inputs. They completely understand that profitability will often come down to how he or she controls costs.
1 Flexible and adaptive
Most successful managers are continually updating plans based on new knowledge. Many times the reason for their success is they are not rigidly managing. Stocking rates are the most critical decision a producer has to make, and this decision should be flexible with weather and markets. Many of the biggest ranch failures, ecologically and economically, have come from having rigid stocking rates despite changing forage conditions. Successful grazing land managers understand there are no easy answers, no simple solutions, no cookbook recipes for success, no magic wonder grass, no magic breed, and no magic herbicide. They succeed because they are flexible and adapt.
Concentrating on developing any single trait on this list is a move in the right direction. However, the best grazing land managers will possess some aspect of all of these traits.
Did you know? A recent study conducted by Texas A&M indicated that less than 15 to 20 percent of producers monitored their forage, indicating 80 to 85 percent may not know how much forage they have or need.
Padre Island National Seashore
Photograph by Kenny Braun
Studies have shown that even bite-size tastes of the great outdoors contribute to our kids’ psychological well-being and sense of self-worth. Thanks to the efforts of Texas Children in Nature, you can find dozens of outdoorsy activities across the state. (Check out its site, naturerockstexas.org, to find the parks and green spaces in your neck of the woods.) But while an afternoon in a neighborhood park or playground is better than nothing, when it comes to re-wilding your child, I say, “Go big or go home.”
Here’s why: from the dramatic heights of the Davis Mountains to the shaded bayous of the Piney Woods, exploring Texas’s natural marvels will create the sort of indelible family memories that will instill a lifelong interest in the great outdoors. And as journalist and back-to-nature advocate Richard Louv put it to me, “Nobody wants to be the last generation that spends time in nature.” So when you’re ready to tackle an adventure beyond your backyard, head out on these epic but accessible expeditions.
Estero Llano Grande State Park
Outside Weslaco, the Estero Llano Grande State Park is one of nine World Birding Center locations spread throughout the Lower Rio Grande Valley, a migratory hot spot where nearly five hundred species of birds have been counted. The bucolic refuge and its mere 230 acres are ideal for first-time wildlife watchers as well as young listers hoping to impress their birding buddies. The park’s wetlands are home to a riot of waders and waterfowl, including the threatened wood stork and the colorful roseate spoonbill, in addition to bright borderland draws like the green jay and groove-billed ani. Over in the gardens, little lepidopterists can chase some three hundred species of butterflies and also spy on the critters that congregate on the shores of the shallow lake, easily viewed from nearby blinds. Take advantage of the ranger-led activities too, particularly if you’re not that confident in your ability to identify the 1,100 local plant species that you’ll pass on the undemanding hikes. theworldbirdingcenter.com
Spanning more than 26,000 acres across the Texas-Louisiana border, Caddo Lake is considered to be one of the largest naturally formed lakes in the South. The swampy wetland is also a Rorschach test of ecological wonder, particularly for young ones paddling along its serpentine shoreline past centuries-old bald cypresses draped in Spanish moss and through bayous carpeted with lily pads. At Caddo Lake State Park (tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/caddo-lake), you can rent a canoe or borrow fishing equipment to cast a line for one of the lake’s 71 species of fish. If you’d prefer to hitch a ride, call up local guide John Winn, the owner of Caddo Outback Tours caddolaketours.com), and arrange a cruise through alligator habitat on his eighteen-foot Go-Devil boat. Pro tip: be sure to request the “really swampy” route.
Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center
The 1.2-acre, cypress-ringed pond at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, near Athens, is an unintimidating place for student anglers to try their luck. Depending on the season, they might be casting for catfish, largemouth bass, or rainbow trout—no license required. But the fun doesn’t stop after a few flopping fish are pulled from the water. There are aquariums filled with more than fifty fish species and kids can watch a scuba diver hand-feed sturgeon, bass, and gar in a 26,000-gallon tank during the daily dive show. Over in the Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, future Bassmaster pros can learn about famous guides and sport-fishing pioneers, then go wide-eyed at the taxidermied specimens of some of the largest fish ever caught in Texas. tpwd.texas.gov/spdest/visitorcenters/tffc/
Palmetto State Park
The thick undergrowth and remnant dwarf palmettos that give Palmetto State Park its name lend it the kind of primordial vibe that kid campers will find spellbinding, whether you’re throwing up a tent amid the neotropical scenery or flipping on the A/C in the six-person cabin. Like any good family campsite (of which the 270-acre park has nineteen), there’s a range of diversions within striking distance: an oxbow lake for swimming (or tubing or pedal-boating), four miles of trails for hiking, a Civilian Conservation Corps–built pavilion for picnicking, and a stretch of the San Marcos River for paddling. And then there’s the wildlife, which includes scuttling armadillos, flying squirrels, a remarkable array of birds, and the occasional snake, which means you’ll get to convey the importance of always checking your tent for holes. tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/palmetto
“Give me land, lots of land under starry skies above.” Whether your family prefers Gene Autry’s or David Byrne’s version of “Don’t Fence Me In,” the whole gang will be channeling the song’s refrain as you drive up the highest strip of highway in Texas to get to the University of Texas’s acclaimed astronomy facility way up in the Davis Mountains. Located on Mount Locke, nearly seven thousand feet above sea level, the McDonald Observatory sits beneath some of the darkest night skies in the Lower 48, which makes it one of the best places in the world for contemplating the cosmos. At the thrice-weekly star parties, city kids will learn how to identify constellations they’ve likely never seen and peer through powerful telescopes to spot planets, satellites, and distant nebulae. If the night viewings are too far past your brood’s bedtime, try the early-evening twilight program or one of the guided daytime tours, which highlight the current research being done at the facility and show off live telescopic projections of the sun. mcdonaldobservatory.org
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
It may not be Mount Everest, but there is something momentous about climbing Enchanted Rock, the 425-foot pink-granite batholith that rises from the Hill Country just north of Fredericksburg. A trip to the top of the ancient dome is no less than a rite of passage for any Texan, which is why the park gets a little zoolike on weekends—in other words, it might be worth pulling the kids out of school for a weekday visit. Though it’s a good starter climb, clocking in at about an hour and a half round-trip, you’ll want to watch your charges—and your own step—up the steeper stretches. Outfitters like White Star Mountain Guides (wsmg.co) are best if you’ve got budding rock climbers looking for a more technical trek, but even tiny tots can manage the flatter, four-mile hiking trail around the formation’s base. They may even wind up chasing the same spiritual visions that once guided the Apache and Comanche to this mystical place. tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/enchanted-rock
Natural Bridge Caverns
Thanks to the idiosyncrasies of regional subterranean erosion, Texas boasts nearly three thousand underground geological features. But among the known caves and karst hollows across the state, none have the wow factor of the Natural Bridge show caves just outside San Antonio. Not long after the caverns were discovered on a private ranch by four St. Mary’s University students, in 1960, the landowners, the Wuest family, opened their otherworldly attraction to visitors. Outfitted with staircases, paved walkways, and plenty of lighting, it’s just right for first-time spelunkers who may still be scared of the dark. The 35,000-square-foot Hall of the Mountain King, with its sparkling calcite crystals, will captivate young and old alike, while risk-takers can head off on a three-to-four-hour guided exploration of undeveloped caves. Back aboveground, a zip-line course and a new maze all but guarantee your kids will be tuckered out on the way home. naturalbridgecaverns.com
Padre Island National Seashore
Even the youngest among us are hardwired with that innate desire to soak up the sun and wade into the surf, which is why you should introduce your Thoreau Jr. to the charms of Padre Island National Seashore as early and often as possible. Just a half hour from Corpus Christi, the planet’s longest barrier island boasts seventy miles of mostly pristine white-sand beaches. Whereas South Padre is strewn with resort-town amusements, this stretch of seashore is wholly undeveloped. If you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle, you can venture several miles down island to Little Shell and Big Shell beaches, which draw beachcombers from around the world, thanks to the scads of cockles, lightning whelks, and sand dollars that wash up there. If you’ve got adolescent adrenaline junkies, head to Bird Island Basin on the bay side for windsurfing lessons in the hypersaline Laguna Madre. During summer’s peak hatchling season, stick close to the Malaquite Visitor Center, where you can watch as thousands of endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle babies make their way to the sea. nps.gov/pais
TSCRA Special Rangers and county law enforcement agencies strongly encourage all livestock owners to brand their cattle for the purposes of identification and proof of ownership, especially in cases of theft, estray or natural disaster. After thousands of years, branding is still used today because it’s simply the best way to identify the ownership of livestock.
Branding is also the best way for law enforcement, judges and attorneys to identify animals involved in civil or criminal investigations at the local, state and federal levels. In addition, the Texas Animal Health Commission, Texas Department of Agriculture and USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Identification Service (APHIS) can use brands for traceback in cases of animal disease.
The most common use for branding is to identify and verify ownership of cattle that have strayed or ended up somewhere they shouldn’t be. Brands are a permanent mark, unlike plastic ear tags that can be removed. Brands can also be read from a distance, so often a pair of good eyes or binoculars is all the equipment required.
Even in bright sunlight, all Angus cows can look alike, but a clear brand can help sort out who is who and what doesn’t belong in a field of similar animals.
In the case of stolen cattle, a clear, registered brand can speed up an investigation and get cattle returned to the rightful owner, usually with a minimum of fuss and confusion. Brands registered by Texas county clerk are sent to TSCRA and entered into a searchable electronic database. TSCRA market inspectors record information on all the animals that pass through livestock markets, including brands of cattle sold and seller information.
This allows TSCRA’s special rangers to determine if cattle with your brand passed through a livestock market in Texas and who brought them. However, if your cattle are just one of hundreds of unbranded 600-weight black steers that sold in a particular week, the investigation gets much more complicated.
Brand young and new animals as soon as possible. Every week you put it off is another week a thief could decide to pass on your neighbor’s branded calves and take your unbranded ones. Thieves have admitted that branded cattle are not as tempting as those that are unbranded. A brand and a blue POSTED sign are all that have changed the mind of more than one thief.
In a natural disaster such as flood, fire, blizzard or storm, animals and wildlife often end up scattered miles from home. A brand can make identification of animals much easier, and paired with owner information on a plastic ear tag, can help officials coordinating disaster response and recovery during a disaster.
“During the 2016 blizzard in the Panhandle we found a lot of cattle with names and phone numbers on the ear tags,” says TSCRA Special Ranger H.D. Brittain, District 19 in West Texas. “It was very handy and made notifying the owner or caretaker much easier. With the brand and the information on the ear tag, it made simple work of getting the cattle back home, many of which were miles from their home range.”
On a sadder note, it made notifying the owner of losses much easier, as well.
“We could document these two identifiers (brand and ear tag with owner name and phone) to use in the assistance programs sometimes offered in times of natural disasters. Nothing takes the place of the brand to determine ownership, but if you are going to use numbered ear tags, for a few cents more at least add a phone number,” Brittain said.
According to the Texas Agriculture Code Chapter 144, Marks and Brands, “Each person who owns cattle, hogs, sheep or goats shall record that person’s earmarks, brands, tattoos and electronic devices with the county clerk of the county in which the animals are located.”
Registering Your Brand
In Texas, brands are registered at the county level. There is no statewide registry. Please contact your County Clerk Office for more information.
TSCRA does keep a digital database of current brands at tscrabrands.com for Texas livestock producers to see if a brand is registered in a certain county and to learn about the brand registration process.
Brands must be registered in the county or counties in which you operate. Every 10 years, Texas requires that brands be re-registered.
Brands must be registered in person, unless another method to submit the brand registration form has been approved by your county clerk. An application is available at tscrabrands.com, but this form must be taken to the appropriate county clerk’s office.
“Why Should I Brand My Cattle” is from the March 2017 issue of The Cattleman magazine.
“The diverse job opportunities and high quality of life in Texas continues to drive in-state and out-of-state migration to Texas cities and counties, both big and small,” said Vicki Fullerton, 2017 chairman of the Texas Association of Realtors. “This is the third consecutive year that Texas has gained more than 500,000 new residents from out of state.”
Analyzing statewide and national migration data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the report showed that Texas continues to be a high-demand destination for U.S. residents relocating across the country.
“People finally discovered Texas and all that it has to offer,” Rogers Healy, founder of Rogers Healy and Associates and Healy Relocation, said. “Large corporations are moving their headquarters here, causing a major influx of relocation to Texas over the last couple of years — don’t think it’s going to slow down anytime soon. Healy Relocation has been booming with clients relocating to Texas, in large part to Austin and Dallas.”
According to the report, Texas experienced a net gain of out-of-state residents in 2015, with 107,689 more people moving to Texas than Texas residents moving out of state. This is a 4 percent increase in the net gain of Texas residents from 2014 (103,465 residents).
The total number of residents moving to Texas from out of state in 2015 increased 2.8 percent year-over-year to 553,032 incoming residents. The highest number of new Texans came from California (65,546), followed by Florida (33,670), Louisiana (31,044), New York (26,287) and Oklahoma (25,555).
Texas once again ranked third in the nation for number of residents moving out of state (445,343) in 2015. The most popular out-of-state relocation destinations for Texans were California (41,713), Florida (29,706), Oklahoma (28,642), Colorado (25,268), and Louisiana (19,863).
“We are experiencing increased relocation activity due to many major corporate relocations into the area,” said Sandi Snyder, relocation director for Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty. “Due to companies such as Toyota and Liberty Mutual, the demand in the north continues to be strong.”
According to the report, which now breaks down metropolitan statistical areas, Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington posted the highest number of incoming out-of-state residents at 117,982, followed by Houston-The Woodlands-Sugarland (101,604) and Austin-Round Rock (46,598).
At the county level, Harris County led the state with a net gain of 18,945 residents relocating to the county from out of state, but four of the top 10 counties with the highest net gain of residents from out of state were located in North Texas (Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton counties).
“Communities of interest that are on the rise are Uptown, Frisco, McKinney, and Prosper,” Snyder confirmed. “We are seeing more inquiries for the areas of Little Elm and The Colony as well.”
Fullerton concluded, “As thousands more people choose Texas to further their careers, grow their businesses and raise their families each year, the need for initiatives that protect our state’s affordability, mobility and economy becomes increasingly critical. In the upcoming legislative session, Texas Realtors will be actively advocating for sustainable, long-term policies that will support our state’s enduring population growth.”
Urban voters may like the idea of using more wind and solar energy, but the push for large-scale renewables is creating land-use conflicts in rural regions from Maryland to California and Ontario to Loch Ness.
Since 2015, more than 120 government entities in about two dozen states have moved to reject or restrict the land-devouring, subsidy-fueled sprawl of the wind industry.
The backlash continued last month when a judge in Maryland ruled that the possible benefits of a proposed 17-turbine project did “not justify or offset subjecting the local community to the adverse impacts that will result from the wind project’s construction and operation.” The judge’s ruling probably spells the end of an eight-year battle that pitted local homeowners and Allegany County against the developer of the 60-megawatt project.
Objections to the encroachment of wind energy installations don’t fit the environmentalists’ narrative. The backlash undermines the claim — often repeated by climate activists such as 350.org founder Bill McKibben and Stanford engineering professor Mark Jacobson — that we can run our entire economy on nothing but energy from the wind and sun. Many of those same activists routinely demonize natural gas and hydraulic fracturing even though the physical footprint of gas production is far smaller than that of wind. Three years ago, the late David J.C. MacKay, then a professor at the University of Cambridge, calculated that wind energy requires about 700 times more land to produce the same amount of energy as a fracking site.
Rural residents don’t want to see the red-blinking lights atop the turbines, all night, every night for the rest of their lives.
Rural residents are objecting to wind projects to protect their property values and viewsheds. They don’t want to live next door to industrial-scale wind farms. They don’t want to see the red-blinking lights atop the turbines, all night, every night for the rest of their lives. Nor do they want to be subjected to the audible and inaudible noise the turbines produce.
Even in California, which has mandated that 50% of the electricity sold in the state be produced from renewable energy sources by 2030, there is resistance to wind power. In 2015, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to ban wind turbines in L.A.’s unincorporated areas. At the hearing on the measure, then-SupervisorMichael D. Antonovichsaid the skyscraper-sized turbines “create visual blight … [and] contradict the county’s rural dark skies ordinance.”
In New York, angry fishermen are suing to stop an offshore wind project that could be built in the heart of one of the best squid fisheries on the Eastern Seaboard. Three upstate counties — Erie, Orleans and Niagara — as well as the towns of Yates and Somerset, are fighting a proposed 200-megawatt project that aims to put dozens of turbines on the shores of Lake Ontario. As in California, New York has a “50 by 30” renewable-energy mandate.
Outside the U.S., about 90 towns in Ontario have declared themselves “unwilling hosts” to wind projects.In April 2016, a wind project near Scotland’s famous Loch Ness was rejected by local authorities because of its potential negative effect on tourism. Poland and the German state of Bavaria have effectively banned wind turbines by implementing a rule that allows turbines to be located no closer than 10 times their height to homes or other sensitive areas.
The defeat of the Maryland wind project came as a relief to K. Darlene Park, a resident of Frostburg and the president of Allegany Neighbors & Citizens for Home Owners Rights. “We were up against an army of suits,” she told me. “It’s like a brick has been taken off our shoulders.”Park’s tiny group relied on volunteers and a budget of about $20,000 as it fought the turbines all the way to the state’s public service commission.
Neither the communications director nor the CEO of the American Wind Energy Assn., which spends more than $20 million per year promoting wind power, would comment on the rural opposition to wind turbines. Their refusal isn’t surprising. If the wind lobby — and their myriad allies at the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmental groups — acknowledges turbines’ negative effects on landscapes and rural quality of life, it would subvert their claims that wind energy is truly green.
Just as problematic for the industry’s future: to increase wind-energy production to the levels needed to displace significant quantities of coal, oil and natural gas will require erecting more — and taller — turbines (new models reach to 700 feet). But the more turbines that get installed, and the taller they are, the more nearby residents are likely to object.
Wind energy simply requires too much territory. That means we can’t rely on it for major cuts in emissions. Indeed, the more wind energy encroaches on small towns and suburbs, the more resistance it will face. That resistance will come from homeowners like Park who told me, “We feel this renewable energy push is an attack on rural America.”
Robert Bryce is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the author, most recently, of “Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper: How Innovation Keeps Proving the Catastrophists Wrong.”