Getting Back to Nature at Colorado’s Medano-Zapata Ranch

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In addition to epic rides and outrageous views, Zapata also serves up really, really good food. My husband and I spent the last year as many people did: marinating in the monotony of cooking three meals a day, which made our first meal at Zapata all the more enjoyable. It started with two golden pieces of cantaloupe piled with tender slices of prosciutto, topped with crumbled honeycomb bits and broad flakes of salt, and ended with a ranch-raised bison burger, french fries and blistered shishito peppers. All the produce Zapata uses comes from the valley the ranch sits in—head chef Chase Kelly works closely with Valley Roots Food Hub, a farm fresh food distributor that helps support local farmers and ranchers.

Zapata’s mercantile shop is another aspect of Ranchlands’ multidimensional approach to ranching, a way of diversifying income that adds to the financial sustainability of the profession. The shop is stocked full of handmade leather goods inspired by utilitarian pieces used every day on the ranch. Case in point: their Billie Bag, which is based off of the riding bag ranchers use to hold tea canisters out on long rides.

This support and collaboration is part and parcel of being a member of the ranching community. “Ranches are living, breathing, moving things with lots of layers, not just animals and land but people too. There’s always someone to phone that can help you out or come and give you a hand if the truck is stuck in a bog or the cows are out or countless other things that you can’t imagine until it happens,” Matheson says. “Unless of course you dropped your phone out of your pocket in a 3,000 acre pasture—that’s happened many times too.” Which, in the end, really isn’t the worst thing to happen for someone looking to get off the grid.

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