Summary: In 2000 the Imperial Stock Ranch near Shaniko, Oregon received a jolt of un-expected news when its traditional wool buyer declined to renew the annual purchase of Columbia Sheep wool, and intended to use wool acquired from Asian sources. One of the hallmarks of design thinking is leveraging the need for change, and using adaption principles to create resiliency into the future. The Imperial Stock Ranch went ‘all in’ and changed its ranching practices and focus from a commodity-based model into a high quality product for local and global markets. In so doing they transformed their business into more than a commodity, but a collaboration between rancher, suppliers, consumers, industry, and community. They constantly sought tangible ways to leverage their unique place in Oregon’s high desert, their generations-long history, need for strong market relationships, and clear-eyed focus for crafting high quality beef and wool. The world is now beating a path to their door. The ranch began in the 1870s by Richard Roland Hinton, and by the early 1880s the sheep industry was rapidly increasing in importance. Wool became one of Oregon’s leading exports and sources of revenue. The semiarid regions of Oregon’s interior were well suited to raising sheep. Hinton carefully improved and expanded his flocks, importing breeding stock and cross-breeding meat and wool breeds which eventually led to the creation of the Columbia Sheep — an entirely new breed, ideally suited for the high desert terrain and yielding more pounds of lamb and excellent wool. It was also remarkable that he raised cattle, especially during a time when there were range wars occurring between sheepmen and cattlemen. He established a diverse operation focused on the stock, while also producing grain and hay to carry the animals through the bitter winters. Richard Hinton’s dream has evolved to today where the Imperial Stock Ranch is the only privately held ranch in Oregon recognized as a National Historic District. Many of the early day facilities are still in use. The setting, history and husbandry practices are a real draw for tours of varied interests. Today, Dan and Jeanne Carver are extremely proud to carry on the traditions and sound, sustainable practices started more than 135 years ago. “The Imperial Stock Ranch has received numerous awards for excellence in stewardship and land-management practices. We chalk it up to a long-standing tradition—140 years—of responsible stock raising and mindful land guardianship. We carefully manage our livestock in ways that enhance the environment, working closely with many private and public agencies. Our grazing animals vitalize plants, harvest sunlight and help keep healthy stands of vegetation growing on the high desert landscape. The ranch’s 150 miles of creeks and many lakes also benefit the ever-improving fish and wildlife populations. Low input farming practices are exclusively used, from which soil is actually created, not lost. As a family-owned ranch, we believe an ever-improving landscape leads to a healthy ranch economy, which in turn directly contributes to the vitality of our local and regional community. We invite you to be collaborators in the process by enjoying the fibers, garments and educational partnerships offered by the Imperial Stock Ranch. Together, we’ll move toward a sustainable future.” -- Dan and Jeanne Carver, Imperial Stock Ranch Creating and reinforcing relationships: Anna Cohen/internationally renowned fashion designer. Working with historic Imperial Stock Ranch (ISR), a Certified National Conservation Farm, on a project sponsored in part by a US Department of Agriculture grant. Anna co-produced a feasibility study and business plan exploring the value-added rural to urban opportunity and state of the domestic supply chain in the wool fiber, yarn, textile and apparel industries in the United States. Anna also provided creative direction for ISR's yarn and apparel divisions and designed the "Imperial Collection by Anna Cohen" Fall 2010 Preview utilizing the feasibility study research in action. Chef Pascal Sauton/ Carafe Bistro, Portland, Oregon (retired, 2013), "Imperial Stock Ranch lamb sausages are always of the highest quality and very consistent. We always enjoyed serving them at Carafe. Not only is their meat great, but the relationship created with Dan and Jeanne Carver fits our ‘direct from the farm’ buying program. They are committed to quality Oregon products, and so are we!" Sustainable land and business practices: Careful livestock management in ways that enhance the environment, working closely with many private and public agencies. Imperial Stock Ranch grazing animals vitalize plants, harvest sunlight and help keep healthy stands of vegetation growing on the high desert landscape. The ranch’s 150 miles of creeks and many lakes also benefit the ever-improving fish and wildlife populations. Low input farming practices are exclusively used, from which soil is actually created, not lost.
Product innovations: Once a year, ISR harvests the soft, white wool from the sheep and begin the process of transforming this naturally renewable resource into a wide selection of fibers and yarns. All of ISR wool is specially milled without harsh chemicals or extreme temperatures, leaving it comfortable, soft and pure. Custom colored to reflect the ranch's unique high-desert landscape, ISR yarns and fibers offer knitters, weavers and other fiber artists a naturally beautiful array of hues, textures and weights. You won't find ISR wool in any other yarn on the market, and they take great pride in being a USA wool product.
Partnerships innovations: With Agencies- Most ranches today have good working relationships with agencies which assist in land management in a variety of ways. Agencies such as the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), Oregon State University Extension and the local Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) provide a variety of services and expertise in crop and livestock production, as well as watershed and range land management. The Imperial Stock Ranch has been working with these agencies for decades, for the betterment of the land and fish and wildlife populations. Agencies provide valuable technical and engineering assistance in developing management plans and carrying forward the implementation and monitoring of those plans. With Customers- Each of the restaurants or shops that becomes ISR partners, becomes part of the “ranch family”. ISR encourages them to visit the ranch, sending time seeing first-hand the interactions of the land, the animals and the people (and they have a really great time!). They are able to feel confident in the product they sell and the story they take to the public. Most of them say it means a lot to come to the ‘roots of food’, or that we are the perfect ‘slow food’. “The family of customers that chooses our products, whether its meat or fiber offerings, has made a commitment to making a difference in their local communities. They set themselves apart...seeking unique natural and healthy offerings and supporting local agricultural practices that help define our state. With today’s global community, you have to look hard to find labels that read, ‘Made or Grown in America’, and especially hard to find things originating right here in Oregon. People who choose local or regional products have a strong impact on sustaining our communities, and even greater, a positive impact on sustaining the earth. Look for the Imperial Stock Ranch label...’It’s from Oregon’." -- Dan and Jeanne Carver, Imperial Stock Ranch Creating on-going feedback loops: As a family-owned ranch, they promote an ever-improving landscape that leads to a healthy ranch economy, which in turn directly contributes to the vitality of local and regional community. They seek out collaborators in the process transforming the fibers, garments and educational partnerships offered by the Imperial Stock Ranch.
“Together, we’ll move toward a sustainable future.” -- Dan and Jeanne Carver, owners, Imperial Stock Ranch
Article information sourced from Imperial Stock Ranch website, see www.imperialstockranch.com for more information. ©Oregon/By Design
For update to Imperial Stock Ranch see January 26, 014 article in The Oregonian- ~~http://www.oregonlive.com/playbooks-profits/index.ssf/2014/01/post_27.html