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The new ranch economy

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If anyone could rebrand a cattle ranch a “sheep ranch” through sheer force of will, it would be Jeanne Carver.

The Carvers in 1999 started creating retail products from their raw commodities to survive. A small, lean whirlwind, the 58-year-old Jeanne has been working for a dozen years creating retail products from her sheep — artisan wool and meat (some of their beef is also direct market). She calls it her “sunlight story,” tying together the ranch animals that eat the sun-grown grasses, and that are being converted into food and fiber for people. The value-add is important because long ago the American sheep industry collapsed, and keeping alive the historic Columbia breed is as important to Jeanne as the revenue.

“It comes from our efforts to remain viable as a family ranch,” she said in a recent newsletter that she writes about ranch life, “to preserve the presence and relationship of sheep on the landscape and ... to reach a hand across the rural/urban divide to work together for a richer future.”

Over the years, Jeanne’s fiber business has taken many turns: in 2004 clothing retailer Norm Thompson agreed to sell the garments that Jeanne produced in collaboration with local weavers and knitters. Portland designer Anna Cohen joined forces with Jeanne in 2008, and in 2009 they debuted the Imperial Collection by Anna Cohen at Portland Fashion Week, an apparel line designed by Cohen. They were back at fashion week last fall with a pattern-only collection designed by Cohen, with a final collaborative effort that included Earthtec, which makes fabric from recycled plastic.




+1 #1 Imperial RanchGuest 2013-03-18 15:54:59
How exciting to read about the Imperial Ranch as one of my relatives George Ward was once an owner. George E Ward was a son of Elizabeth Sharman and George Prevost Ward. Elizabeth and my Gt,Gt,GT Grandfather were brother/sister.
How wonderful to see such dedicated people still believing and strongly finding ways to hold on to their land.
It is also interesting that my son, who lives in Vermont was raising Katadin sheep for meat and stock. Even his 9 yr old daughter helped during lambing season.
Some of George's family went West and others stayed back in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. At age 77 I still drive up there once a year, especially in the Spring as I love the smell of freshly plowed fields. But unfortunately, many are using liquid manure. And even closed windows can't keep out that putrid smell.
Thank you for the wonderful articles and video allowing me to see a part of my ancestor's way of life.
Trudy Sharman
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-1 #2 Imperial Valley Real Estate AgentGuest 2013-05-25 16:34:20
Great article! Well written and nicely presented. I hope all reader will enjoy and keep up the share.
Imperial Valley Real Estate Agent
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