May 08, 2016


East of the Cascade Mountains the land can be harsh and conditions tough. It takes grit to thrive in the high desert terrain. For nearly 4 decades, Dan Carver and his wife Jeanne -- both of them born and raised in rural Oregon -- have made a living in ranching. Since 1988, they’ve owned and operated the Imperial Stock Ranch near Maupin. 

“Like Will Rogers once said,  Buy land. They ain’t making any more of it.’ I got into ranching for the business but mostly for the challenge,” said Dan Carver. “Anyone can climb the corporate ladder, but not everybody can make it in farming and ranching.”

Operations at the nationally recognized ranch (it’s the only privately held ranch in Oregon designated a National Historic District) are a mix of traditional and new. The Carvers work to create sustainability in their business, on the land and in the community.

 “My motto or creed is ‘a healthy landscape means a healthy bottom line’,” said Carver. His view of sustainable is not only preservation of the environment but the ability to stay in business and to grow. “You’re not sustainable if you’re not making a living,” he said. 

Imperial Stock Ranch moves its herds around all year to different patches of native grass. They don’t till the soil. These practices capture carbon and keep it in the earth. They also eat up less resources: reductions in fuel use, less fertilizers and herbicides and lower equipment costs have all contributed to increased profits at the ranch.

“In a way, we raise grass for a living. We use livestock to convert it into something humans can use in the form of meat and wool fiber. People care, more and more, how this is done. It’s good business to be sustainable,” said Carver.

As a rancher completely in touch with the land and a businessman who ships meat, yarn and wool all over the country, Dan experiences the effects of climate change first hand. “I’m afraid the California drought is headed this way,” he said.

“Just this past winter, you saw what happened out East. We have yarn customers and mills in Massachusetts, Rhode Island -- they were getting hammered with snow. Meanwhile, we’re basking in warm weather for the whole month of February. You can’t use the term global warming. It’s total climate change.” Carver said. “We don’t have winters anymore. They’re old-fashioned.”

The whole-picture mentality of “healthy landscape, healthy bottom line” has paid dividends at Imperial Stock Ranch. “We’ve more than doubled meat production, the rangeland grasses are healthier than ever and salmon are returning in record numbers,” said Carver. He’s especially proud of the water protection work on the ranch, which has 75 miles of creeks. Dan served for 8 years on the Board of Directors of the State Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board.

“20 years ago there were environmentalists on one side and cattlemen on the other. I’ve seen that pleasantly change over the years. There’s conversation now,” said Carver. “If we don’t take care of the land, we’ll be out of business.”

 Dan Carver is the owner of Imperial Stock Ranch near Maupin, Oregon.