Imperial Stock Ranch Interview

Posted on July 14 2015

20140121-225434.jpg In honor of the exciting news that Imperial Stock Ranch has supplied the yarn (Erin) for the US Olympic teams opening ceremony sweaters!!! I am excited to share with you my interview with Jeanne Carver... (I've been holding onto it a while!) 20140121-225919.jpg 1. The ranch has been around a long time, over a hundred years? How do you manage to keep what was original intact? This is a great question! As I may have mentioned when you were here on tour.....we are still benefitting today, from the vision, planning and building that the original man did here in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Richard Hinton was very visionary, and it shows in the operation, and the permanence with which he built. There has been continuity throughout the ranch's history with each man running this place, in keeping it going. The Imperial Stock Ranch has been operating continuously for 142 years. So what is original? The location -- still ranching on the same landscape; the operation -- still raising sheep and cattle, and producing grains and hay; the headquarters -- a National Historic District, it consists of more than 22 acres of buildings, structures and plantings from the historic period; the buildings -- the Hinton House, Servants' Quarters, Old Garage, Ice House, Smoke House, Cookhouse, Bunkhouse, Round Pen, Barn, Shearing Shed (2 structures), and Grainary are all significant structures from the historic period. My husband Dan, has always placed importance on maintenance, so we continue to appreciate and take care of these facilities, and they continue to serve us well. One of the blessings of a dry climate, is that the wood lasts for a long time! 2. What is your favorite part of calling Imperial Stock Ranch your home? Oh that's easy! The wide open spaces and the quiet! I love being immersed in nature, and that's how we live everyday. In addition to the natural elements, there's the animals. Those two things...which are all nature....provide a rich life. 3. You are one tough Mamma, what is your role on the ranch? No....not so tough. I think women who live on ranches like this simply accept everything that comes with it. You have to be ready to help in whatever is needed.....riding to gather sheep or cattle, lend a hand with calving or lambing, nurture the weak or orphaned or sick (once in awhile) -- another favorite part of the life!, help unload a truck, drive a truck!, help with the farming or harvest or haying, fix fence, run to town for parts!, take care of your garden and put up the harvest of vegetables and fruit, or a million other things. Ranch women are usually pretty "handy" and have a variety of skills. And you have to listen.... We work as a team. Ranching couples work side by side every day of the year. Sometimes that's a challenge! If you don't get the gate shut in time during sorting, and you let a cow out that wasn't supposed to go out the gate, your husband can forget he's working with his wife! It can make for interesting dinner conversation....or lack of! You work to support each other in the work and as a couple. My role has changed on the ranch with the development of our value-added marketing businesses with wool and the meat. I have shifted from being "a hand" most of the time, to being in the office directing the work of developing products (yarns, apparel, lamb/beef) and marketing them. When I still get the chance to help in some part of ranch work, either during lambing or cattle work, it's pure pleasure. One thing I haven't given up and never will...is my morning and evening daily chore round. I care for the dogs and the barn cats and the horses when they're in the corral, and the bummer lambs and any animals we have in close around the headquarters. It's my joy. 4. What did you do prior to been a ranch wife? Well.....I call that my former life. I grew up with this kind of life in a very rural setting. But then went to college, where I excelled in academics, but also Volleyball and Track and Field. I competed at the national level, and upon graduating, began coaching both of those sports at the division 1 collegiate level. I spent 17 years in education and coaching, serving on the Olympic Development Committe in Track and Field, and having the opportunity to coach the U.S. women's team in international competition. My efforts were always to lead young people to excellence in whatever they chose to do. I have a Master's Degree in Biomechanics, and was working to complete my doctorate when I met Dan. I began a new journey when I joined my life with his, and have never looked back. I have simply worked to support his efforts on this ranch in any way I can. 5. You seem really self sustainable out there. How much of what your land produces feeds and takes care of your family? Everyone who lives on the ranch, including us, raises a garden and fruit trees. We obviously produce our own meat (beef, lamb, venison and elk). So we really purchase very little in the way of groceries. I even have a small flour mill to grind wheat for making bread. Almost everything that we eat, we prepare and cook, exclusively. We rarely eat anything pre made or processed, like "hamburger helper" or anything like that. We cook from scratch, and eat very simply but good. 6. Is your yarn locally milled? And your meat locally distributed? We mill all our yarns in the U.S. at this point, but not so "local" as there are no mills here. The west is a vast source of raw materials. And the majority of processing and manufacturing is in the east. We use a local USDA certified and inspected processing facility to harvest the animals for meat. We personally take all orders from chefs each week, pick up the cuts and deliver to the back door of restaurants in Bend, Portland and the Columbia Gorge. We distribute only locally with our food products. 7. What is you everyday moto? Focus on the work in front of you! 8. One thing you can't live without? Faith.... 9. If you had one super power what would it be? Get people to move at "my" speed! 10. Favorite song? Oh gosh....I'm not really into these kinds of things. It changes......right now I like: Luke Bryan's That's My Kind of NIght! It rocks! 11. We adore your yarns and Anna Cohen's designs. How did that connection happen? I felt overwhelmed with the need to come up with ideas for apparel. I was selling clothing made from our yarns to a national clothing retailer between 2005 and 2010. The pieces were all made within 120 miles of the ranch. I was directing all of the process. I had read about Anna in Oregon Business Magazine. She was featured as an "up and coming designer" in the fashion world. I thought that maybe she'd like to work with our fabrics....made from our yarns by local textile artisans. So we reached out to her. We had several conversations, and then she and her mother came to the ranch for a visit. That sealed the connection, and rather than her buying our fabrics....she came to work for us! At first, she worked with our apparel, but eventually, I had the idea of her designing patterns for the needlearts market. She thought it was a great idea, and off we went! 12. In the 90's your clients, of forever, decided to go with foreign products, did you ever consider leaving your family career like a lot of other companies? In 1999, the Imperial Stock Ranch had been selling wool as a commodity to the same buyer for more than 100 years. That spring, when we contacted them to sell as usual, they said they weren't buying our wool anymore, had closed the regional processing facility, and were going to begin making products offshore. We were stunned. There were additional challenges in the lamb market due to consolidation in the meat industry, and we only had one buyer to sell to, and they were importing heavily. Lamb prices were very low. These factors contributed to many sheep producers in the U.S. going out of the sheep business (26,000 between 1996 and 2000). We knew that to continue to have sheep present on our landscape, we had to find a new way forward. We never really considered being rid of sheep on the Imperial Stock Ranch. We just knew we had to find a different path. 13. How did you thrive in that kind of market? We weren't thriving in the commodity markets. What we're doing today yields better returns, and even more important, it does a greater good for all who are part of it: us, the animals, our customers and our communities. 14. HOW is your wool so white and yummy? I don't know how to answer this one! It's the miracle of creation.....you must ask the sheep! 15. We are so exited to hear about Ralph Lauren, can you tell us what is to come with Imperial Stock Ranch yarn and patterns? We are beginning to promote a project right now that is a great warm up for the Olympics. It's Sousa's Mitts designed by Tanis Gray and published in her book, Knit Local, that uses the Erin Yarn. The Erin Yarn was chosen by Ralph Lauren for the premier garment for Team USA to wear in the Parade of Nations in the Opening Ceremonies of the XXII Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia this winter. These red, white and blue mittens are really a great project. Then....during the games, Tanis Gray will led a KAL with our Erin Yarn in a unisex pullover sweater. We are also working on 4 new patterns that will be released in January at TNNA in San Diego, and available to everyone at that time. We're doing a crochet sweater for the first time....very cute!!!! 20140121-225335.jpg Isn't she awesome?! Thank you for the interview and Ranch tour Jeanne!! And thank you Mom for letting me join in on this adventure!! 20140121-230449.jpg 20140121-230504.jpg Come and shop our selection of Imperial Stock Ranch fibers. We love their yarns and have knit many of their patterns. Happy Knitting! xx Ash

1 comment

  • Pat Meyer: April 21, 2015

    Great story. Just wish Ralph Lauren had been more circumspect in designing the sweaters, they look like candidates for the Ugly Sweater contest.

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