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Made in Rural America: Value-added Agriculture Takes Oregon Wool from Ranch to Runway and, Now, to the Olympics

Dan and Jeanne Carver, owners of Imperial Stock Ranch, have implemented a number of value-added strategies in order to keep the history and culture of Western ranching alive and thriving. Photo used with permission from Imperial Yarn.

Dan and Jeanne Carver, owners of Imperial Stock Ranch, have implemented a number of value-added strategies in order to keep the history and culture of Western ranching alive and thriving. Photo used with permission from Imperial Yarn.

I am thrilled to share with you some very good news from Oregon’s high desert. Ralph Lauren, the iconic American brand and U.S. Olympic team sponsor, recently announced they will be using wool produced by one of our Value Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG) participants, Imperial Stock Ranch, to make sweaters for Team USA to wear at the 2014 Winter Olympics opening ceremony.

The news would be big for any small rural business. For one working tirelessly to find new ways to profitably preserve Central Oregon’s nearly extinct–yet very American–tradition of raising sheep for fiber, this is especially gratifying.

Imperial Yarn is the value-added business offshoot of Jeanne and Dan Carver’s family owned and operated Imperial Stock Ranch, which produces sheep, cattle, grains, hay and grasses on more than 30,000 acres of stunning Central Oregon rangeland.

Since 2008, Imperial Yarn has participated in the VAPG program for planning and working capital assistance to keep their sustainably and traditionally produced wool a profitable and job-creating venture in an evolving marketplace. With VAPG assistance, USDA Rural Development is proud to have played a small role in helping this rural enterprise take their product from “ranch to runway,” as Jeanne Carver says.

USDA administers the VAPG program to help agricultural producers add value to the agricultural commodities they already produce, generate new products, expand market opportunities, create jobs, and increase rural economic activity.

In addition to boutique yarns and knitting kits, Jeanne and Dan have added designer patterns to Imperial Yarn’s product line. Photo used with permission from Imperial Yarn.

In addition to boutique yarns and knitting kits, Jeanne and Dan have added designer patterns to Imperial Yarn’s product line. Photo used with permission from Imperial Yarn.

And that’s exactly what Imperial Stock Ranch and Imperial Yarns have done in a relatively short time.  They have added capacity and improved the supply chain for their sustainably produced, boutique products including yarn, fibers, patterns and knitting kits developed in partnership with some very big names in the world of fashion.  With a lot of hard work, Imperial Yarn even caught the attention of Ralph Lauren, and now they’re going from ranch to runway and onto the world stage at the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia!

Congratulations, Jeanne and Dan for not only preserving a rural way of life, but for showing the world what can be “Made in Rural America.”

With the Cascade Mountains in the distance, sheep graze carefully tended rangeland under the watchful eyes of ranch hands and some very capable and happy working dogs. Photo used with permission from Imperial Yarn.

With the Cascade Mountains in the distance, sheep graze carefully tended rangeland under the watchful eyes of ranch hands and some very capable and happy working dogs. Photo used with permission from Imperial Yarn.

4 Responses to “Made in Rural America: Value-added Agriculture Takes Oregon Wool from Ranch to Runway and, Now, to the Olympics”

  1. Kip Kolesinskas says:

    Very cool story. There is so much potential to add value and build local and regional economies through agriculture and agricultural products. Thanks for sharing!

  2. ashleyw11 says:

    This is a great story! I wonder how much revenue this will mean for the Imperial Stock Ranch. This is fantastic showcase of the postive programs USDA administers. I hope that this leads to more future business with Ralph Lauren. This seems like a great opportunity for others to reach out. VAPG is not a program that I am all to famililar with, but from what I can see and what I have researched this seems like a great program and use of our resources. Hopefully this story encourages other people to do businesse with VAPG participants. How many participants are there in VAPG and what other success stories can you share?

  3. Jill Rees says:

    Thank you for the comments! It is very exciting to see how the Value Added Producer Grant Program is helping a host of different types of agricultural producers across the nation enhance rural economies. You can learn more about program participation nationwide in USDA Rural Development’s annual reports. The Fiscal Year 2012 report is online at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/Reports/RDProgressReport2012Feb2013.pdf and the Fiscal Year 2013 report is under development and expected to be released in the near future. Also, you can find additional success stories about VAPG, and our many other USDA Rural Development programs, on our national website and each state website for USDA Rural Development under the “Success Stories” section of the home page (scroll down past “Spotlights,” “Publications,” and “Reports.”

  4. Sarah Adler says:

    A long and loud round of applause to the Imperial entrepreneurs. Super job telling this inspiring story.

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