It's their way of life

WILLAMINA -- To say Willamina residents Ron and Barbara Smith, and their children Anna and Nolan, are invested in agriculture would be inadequate.


Ron and Barbara Smith among the herd of Angus, Hereford and Maine-Anjou cattle at Gold Creek Ranch near Willamina. The Polk County Livestock Association recently honored the Smith family as its 2013 "Livestock Family of the Year" for their many years of work and contributions to the industry.

WILLAMINA -- To say Willamina residents Ron and Barbara Smith, and their children Anna and Nolan, are invested in agriculture would be inadequate.

It's closer to the truth that for the Smith family, owners of Gold Creek Ranch in Willamina, farming is simply a way of life.

Polk County Livestock Association

"We always wanted to have a ranch with cattle," Ron said.

"I've never known anything different," added Barbara, who grew up on a dairy in West Linn.

The Smiths raise and sell preconditioned feeder calves -- those that have been weaned and given initial vaccinations -- at their Polk County ranch.

It's a family business in the truest sense.

Ron and Barbara run the farm -- as well as working full-time jobs off the ranch, him with Hancock Forest Management in Independence and her at Wilco in McMinnville.

Anna, who will soon graduate from college, and Nolan, who is graduating from Willamina High School next week, grew up working with cattle.

Mackenzie Behrle/The Road Photography

Anna Smith, 22, and Nolan, 18, are both planning on careers that relate to the agriculture industry: Anna with an agricultural lending institution and Nolan as an attorney working on agricultural issues.

"From the time they were just tiny, they would think nothing of just walking out into the cows and calves and never were afraid," Barbara said. "They just really grew up with them."

Imagining such a scene is easy when Ron and Barbara took a drive last week out to the pasture where the cows were peacefully grazing with their calves. Curious, the cows approached Ron -- mooing the whole way -- clearly wondering if he had something for them to eat. He didn't.

If they were disappointed, the herd of Angus, Hereford and Maine-Anjou didn't show it, and slowly went back to grazing in the green field.

"Yeah, you can see they are really wild," Barbara said, smiling.

Life on the ranch isn't always so charming; at times it's head spinning hectic, but the Smiths wouldn't trade it.

That long-standing dedication was recognized as the Polk County Livestock Association recently named the Smiths its "Livestock Family of the Year" for 2013. The award acknowledged the family's business and for helping build the next generation of farmers through supporting the association's livestock market auction program.

"It was very nice," Barbara said of the award. "We were very honored."

The Smiths bought the ranch in 1987 looking for a piece of land located between both of their jobs. After some much-needed TLC around the farm, they launched the ranch, at first raising replacement heifers for Barbara's family's dairy. They made the transition to raising beef cattle in 1999, when the dairy was moved to Ohio.

Photo by Pete Strong

The herd enjoys time in the pasture.

The family occasionally hires people to help with feed harvest, but for the most part it was just the four of them juggling the chores.

At times, it isn't easy.

"Particularly in the summer when we are doing hay and that type of thing," Barbara said. "Yeah, it's a challenge, but we've been doing it for a long time."

And the younger generation of Smiths -- set to begin or pursue careers off the ranch -- will carry on the family agriculture tradition.

Anna, 22, is graduating from Cornell University in New York next week. She has already accepted a position with Farm Credit East, an agricultural lending institution.

Nolan, 18, is headed to Texas Tech in the fall to study to become a lawyer specializing in agricultural issues.

That both their children are planning careers that relate to farming was no surprise to Barbara and Ron.

"They both love the lifestyle and the industry." Barbara said. "I don't know that either of them considered anything else. ... I think that in some way they will continue to be involved in production agriculture as well once they are settled."

"They will do good things for the industry," Ron added.

As for Gold Creek Ranch, Ron and Barbara don't intend to slow down, even with Anna and Nolan moving away from the farm.

"We don't have plans to do anything different," Barbara said.


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