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Couple talks about guest ranch to Tourism Council

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More than a decade ago, Kim and Patrica Chesser opened their home to strangers when they started the Burnt Well Guest Ranch, a cattle and sheep ranch the couple own just outside of Roswell.

The Chessers spoke about the journey they made from the buyers of a ranch to hosting strangers from around the globe at the Oct. 15 meeting of the Roswell Tourism Council.

Visitors to the ranch are able to enjoy the sunset, the picturesque landscapes and get a simulated experience of life on a ranch.

The couple said that they never considered themselves “tourist people.” Kim Chesser hailed from a ranching background. However, when they purchased the 15,000 acre ranch from Chesser’s father in 2001, they quickly realized that raising cows was not going to generate enough money, they started to look for a way to use the property to make more money.

“We were looking at other options as to how we could get some form of income,” Chesser said. “We were just trying to think of anything we could do from home to make money and we talked about maybe doing a guest ranch.”

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The Chessers decided to explore the idea more in 2002, when they went to the Dude Rancher’s Association convention being held in Albuquerque that year.

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, they were wary about entering the tourism business, but the Chessers were told by people at the convention that it was actually a good time to start a tourism venture.

“When we go to the convention and talked to the people they were like ‘no this is the best time,’ they said because people don’t want to travel abroad, they want to stay at home,” Chesser said.

The Chessers were also worried because the land they occupied was not usually the type where dude ranches are built. Typically these getaways are in mountainous or wooded areas, but the people at the convention said having a guest ranch in southeast New Mexico and not in the mountains was an asset, not a liability. Many guest ranches have lost their authenticity.

“Many of them are just hotels with horses now,” Chesser said.

So they decided to move forward with their idea. At first they struggled to find a bank that would lend them the money, but with the help of Eastern New Mexico State University-Roswell’s small business center, they developed a business plan and were eventually able to get some funding.

Patricia Chessier said the ranch has several packages for potential guests, the most common one is an all-inclusive stay, where people typically stay for five days, and the guests are provided with opportunities for horseback riding, stargazing, birdwatching, roping and plenty of others.

“That is the main thing we offer,” Chesser said.

The Chessers also have specialty weeks, such as a cattle drive, where guests get to to camp out and drive cattle.

People can also customize a stay. One couple from Great Britain consisted of a man who wanted to concentrate on riding while his wife wanted to rope.

One time a man from Pennsylvania who had stayed there three times before just wanted to spend his time at the ranch learning how to weld.

The first guest came to the ranch in 2003, and since then they have had guests from 44 states, six Canadian provinces and 26 countries.

This calendar year alone, the Chessers have had 95 guests from 22 states and five countries, Patricia Chesser said.

Guests get to see not only what life is like on a working ranch but also eat meals and converse with the Chessers.

Many times the local history of the area is the topic of conversation. Kim Chesser said that while that might not seem all that interesting to people who have lived in southeastern New Mexico all their lives, many of the guests find it fascinating.

There are people who often come in through Roswell International Airport but also sometimes there are just people who are traveling along the backroads of America and not the highways.

Some come from cities along the east coast, other guests are people from Australia, Siberia, Canada and New Zealand taking cross-county trips along the backroads of America.

Some come from rural areas in other countries to experience what rural life is like in America. For them the shift from home to the Burned Well Ranch is not that big.

“Country people are the same all over, they just talk funny,” Kim Chesser said with a smile.

For the Chessers, the experience has been and is a rewarding one.

Kim Chesser said when the ranch first opened, he wondered who would come to southeast New Mexico for vacation.

For visitors, the ranch has a beauty that Kim Chesser said he had not seen before, such as a couple of women from Switzerland who were at the ranch.

One morning they stood out on the porch and said the ranch was the most beautiful place in the world.

Now Kim Chesser sees the land he has been so familiar with in a new way, as he has seen so many others catch their first glimpse of the New Mexico landscape.

“I looked at this pile of rocks out there where we live, I see the beauty that is there because I am getting to look at the eyes of some of these people who live in the most gorgeous places in the world,” Kim Chesser said.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.

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