Renee (McConnell) Bartlett had a dream of working on a ranch, complete with horses and cattle, and raising a family there as well. She grew up on a farm – a lifestyle that she wanted to carry with her well into her adult life.
A native of Colorado, Bartlett was born in Fort Morgan, Colo. Bartlett’s father, a welder by trade, also had a custom hay business. “My dad and my brothers would go around and bale hay and then they stacked it,” she said.
When she was 6 years old, Bartlett’s dad sold their farm, and the family moved to Oregon for four years. “My dad was looking to purchase a ranch,” she said. “He was going to do something for our family, but that deal fell through.” Bartlett’s dad ended up working on the Alaskan pipeline instead. “My dad and some of my brothers went to Alaska,” she said. “Some of my brothers graduated in Oregon, and two of my brothers graduated in Alaska.”
In 1976, the Bartlett family returned to Colorado and settled in Fort Collins. “My dad started a custom harvest crew,” she said. “My dad and brothers cut wheat from Texas up to Wyoming.” The family also operated their own horse and cattle ranch.
In 1984, Bartlett graduated from Fort Collins High School, and that year she also met her future husband, Lonnie, at a stock show. Their wedding took place April 28, 1984.
The Bartletts lived in Colorado Springs for a year before moving to Elbert, Colo. “I’m from the country, and I didn’t really want to live in the city,” she said. “And I said, ‘Can’t we move out east?’” The couple rented a 300-acre farm from friends for 14 years. Life on the prairie allowed plenty of space for horses and cattle and served as a great place to raise their five children. “We didn’t know we would stay there that long, but we loved it so much.” she said. “The house was very small, but we have a lot of good memories.” In 1999, the family moved off the property and built a home in Peyton, Colo.
The Bartletts began hauling hay from their home shortly after Lonnie lost his job working for an asphalt company. “We started hauling hay for different ranchers and feed stores,” she said. “And we became self-employed.”
In 1990, they bought a small piece of property in Falcon with plans to open their own feed store. “We always said that if we were going to do this, we would do a feed store,” she said. “That was always our goal.” The Bartletts made it a family business and started with a small trailer on the corner of Old Meridian Road. “Our kids would go with my husband in the semi or they would come to work with me,” she said. “And they all learned to ride their bikes there.”
In 2004, the Bartletts replaced the trailer with a more permanent structure to store and sell hay. “We moved down here (Falcon),” she said. “But he (Lonnie) hauled hay to different places and feed lots and we would have hay at the house that people could come up and buy.” Their business is more than hay. “We sell dog food and chicken food,” she said. “We have a lot of poultry customers.”
The Bartletts purchase and haul hay primarily from four states – Kansas, Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado. “Mainly we’ve built a relationship with these individuals that we’ve had for 25 years,” she said. “Some of the ranches are third generation.” Bartlett said they have had to find additional vendors because of drought conditions throughout the last several years.
Once the Bartlett’s haul the hay back to Colorado, they set up deliveries to area farmers and ranchers. “We used to do them in the early days when we couldn’t afford any employees,” she said. “When someone wanted bales, we all loaded up in the pickup and delivered it.” Today, they have a staff that helps with their deliveries. “We have done every aspect of the business,” she said. “Everything we ask our employees to do, we’ve already done.”
After almost three decades in the business, Barlett said that every day is still a learning experience. She said she is proud their business has done well, but it wasn’t without hard work. “We have put our name on the line and rolled ourselves up and worked real hard,” she said. “And that’s what we’ve taught our kids. And here we are still after 28 years.
“It has been a dream come true. I wouldn’t change a thing.”