Jim & Connie Dunham
Dunham Ranch came into being when Vern and Martha Dunham bought the original acreage in 1958. Vern had come from the line of Dunham farmers who settled in the Midvale and Cambridge, ID area in the 1920’s. Most of them lost their farms in the dust bowl era of the 1930’s and Vern’s dad moved to the Pendleton, OR area and farmed there. Vern eventually farmed on his own near Hermiston, then Kendrick, ID and finally came to Wallowa County. After living in the valley area, Vern was able to buy the current place in the Leap country north of Enterprise. Jim was 16 at the time and within a few years, declining health led Vern to retire and Jim secured a loan to buy the ranch.
The small herd of cows he took on wasn’t enough to make payments and live on, so Jim worked at the local saleyard, and did custom combining for neighbors. Eventually he was able to buy an adjoining acreage and also a 40 acre parcel in the valley which was ideal for calving. Jim and Connie were married in 1977 and raised five children on the ranch. One son, Jason, has stayed on and is now a partner in the operation. Jason and Shannon have a young son, Wyatt, who shows lots of interest in the big tractors and trucks!
Along with the cattle, the Dunhams raise their own hay and some barley and oats.
Jim and Connie carefully increased their cow herd to almost 400 mother cows, primarily commercial angus, and paid special attention to buying the best bulls they could to improve genetics related to calving ease, growth of calves, tenderness and great taste. Working through the generic marketplace was frustrating though, with not much extra money for all the extra input done with producing good calves. When they were approached by a CNB member with the perks of belonging to a co-op, they jumped at the chance to join.
Raising calves for the co-op required a few changes in the focus of the calf carcass, so now they use some Angus/Charlois cross bulls to meet size and grade requirements.
Jim has always worked at improving the land and water resources, developing a gravity fed water system that fills cattle waterers all across the ranch. No-til is used on the farm ground to preserve the soil and hold moisture. Timber is carefully managed providing good cover for wildlife and good tree growth. Timber covers almost half the ranch of 1500 acres and the rest is rolling hills with good bunch grass pasture.
They recently purchased canyon acreage east of Joseph for summer pasture and also rent some irrigated ground in the valley to grow hay and use for pasture.
Operation of the ranch is set up so that succeeding generations will be able to come on board and have the opportunity to keep raising good cattle and crops for the future.