For Orr Land Company, real estate in Colorado is about legacy
April 29, 2016
On the wall in Ed Orr's office in west Greeley is a plaque showing the family's cattle brands. His is pictured last, the latest in a line of Colorado ranchers dating back four generations.
When you ask him about his two set of cattle, he smiles. One groups runs on a ranch in Grand County and the other grazes just off the Poudre River between Greeley and Windsor, he smiles. Orr isn't being glib when he calls the balance between his ag real estate business and ranching the best of both worlds — he grew up with a love for Colorado land in his blood, and now, he gets to help others find their own corner of the state to sow.
Orr's great-grandfather was a miner and a bar-owner in Silverton and Leadville in the 1860s. He and his wife told his kids stories about attending Colorado legend Baby Doe Tabor's wedding. When great-grandma wanted him to sell the bar, he did, and in 1883, the couple moved to Grand County. There, they homesteaded, starting the ranch that's still in the family today.
Orr's other great-grandpa was a huge name in Herefords and was instrumental in the breeding lines that made the animal what it is today. He ranched out in Kremmling.
By the time Orr was born, both ranches were still part of the family. He grew up around agriculture, showing cattle and rodeoing.
In the 1960s, his father started to delve into the ag real estate business, eventually moving the family to the Denver metro area, where Orr met his wife.
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As Orr got older, he knew he had a decision to make: stay in ranching, like he'd grown up in, or follow his father's footsteps into real estate.
"I knew at the time I loved ranching, but it's such a tough business to be successful in," he said.
So, before he even graduated high school, he got his real estate license. He started college, but soon quit his studies and college rodeo to practice real estate, the business he knew he wanted to pursue.
After several years practicing with his father, he set up Orr Land Company in Greeley.
When he sold land with his father, the majority of it was mountain properties. Sometimes, the duo would even sell land in neighboring states. Orr would spend days traveling to show land, he said. Now, the majority of the ag land Orr deals with is much closer to home, but even that has its challenges.
In northeastern Colorado, there are more mineral rights, ditch companies and other intricacies Orr wasn't as familiar with before setting up shop in Greeley.
And then, there's the topic of growth. In an area like Weld County, which was named one of the top-ten fastest growing areas by the U.S. census bureau in 2015, Orr Land Company sees a whole other slew of issues, like the balance between ag and municipal land, water use, traffic and more.
"It's grown so much in the time we've been involved in (Weld)," Orr said. "I think we have been through an era where we will never see as much growth as we have seen in the last 30 years."
When Orr's clients come to him or his five real estate agents with questions about water use, mineral rights, or any of the other unique challenges that come up in this area, they're prepared to handle them. His agents have varied specialties, but a deep knowledge of ag and ag challenges. Some, like Tammy Ellerman, specialize in horse properties. She and her husband are rodeo aficionados. Others, like Greg Smith, grew up on farms in Weld County.
And Orr himself owns land for both crops and livestock, as well as water rights in the area. He splits his time between his real estate business, ranching and his several racehorses, which are dispersed across the country. Having thoroughbreds running on the tracks in Kentucky and California is like competing in rodeos for him, he said — something he's not very good at, but loves.
Orr's busy, but that's how he likes it.
"I think I'd probably get tired of ranching if that's all I did," he said with a chuckle. He glances around his office, the leather chairs and wood accents, little cowboy trinkets filling the spaces. "I think it's a wonderful life."❖