The Nugget Newspaper - News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Ranch to host some events and community activities

 

Last updated 8/9/2022 at Noon



When Richard and Linda Patterson decided it was time to sell their iconic 350-acre ranch along Highway 242, they “prayed to find the best realtor and the best people to buy it” and carry on their stewardship of the land and the incredible mountain view.

“We got both!” Richard Patterson said. “The Coles are first-class, sweetheart people and they love Sisters. I would do business with them with only a handshake.”

Glenn and Jennifer Cole of Hermosa Beach, California, have had property in Sisters for 16 years, first out in Plainview and now off Indian Ford Road. Jen’s godmother, Jeanne Holcomb, lives here in Sisters.

When the Coles saw the Patterson Ranch was for sale, their first reaction was, like many locals, one of dismay — the fear that someone would buy it and develop it into something besides a ranch. So they bought it in 2017 with the intention of “preserving and protecting” what was and is a special place with a spectacular view.

Richard Patterson told The Nugget he is so pleased that, with the Coles as owners of the ranch, “the view is preserved for the town of Sisters.” He and Linda come after church on Sundays, with their fish sandwiches and Blizzards from Dairy Queen, and park in front of the ranch fence to have lunch and gaze out across the pastures to the mountains.

Ranching is a demanding business, according to Patterson, and making it profitable nowadays is challenging. The Coles second that opinion.

They bought the ranch, which they call Pole Creek Ranch, never planning to live there. One of their goals is to have locals and visitors be able to enjoy the ranch and learn about agriculture. They had to find ways to make the ranch a profitable enterprise and they are still finding their way. Their first task was determining what was allowed on land zoned Exclusive Farm Use (EFU).

When they sought permits to create a guest ranch on a portion of the back property, utilizing the former Patterson residence as a lodge, they were challenged by Central Oregon Land Watch. Richard Patterson testified in favor of their plans and the ruling went their way, but those unexpected legal fees took a big bite out of operating capital.

Running an agricultural operation carries challenges seldom fully appreciated by those who aren’t in the field.

“Every farmer and rancher has to deal with the pressures of increased prices while competing for fewer pennies on the returns,” Glenn Cole noted. “And that all assumes nothing catastrophic happens, like a hailstorm that destroys your crops or a disease that debilitates your herd, or the water just doesn’t flow enough. Those are annual existential threats looming over the whole enterprise. And they’re getting worse and more common every year.”

The Coles hadn’t anticipated the “scope of deferred maintenance” that needed to be addressed.

“We invested over half a million dollars to upgrade the power across the ranch,” Glenn Cole noted. “This is the most significant deferred maintenance job. And the most critical. You can’t do anything in 2022 without reliable power. In our case, the wiring above and below ground was all failing. Entering, this would shut down our pumps so we could not irrigate the fields. It would shut down the barn and our beef lockers, jeopardizing our inventory. And it deterred us from almost any new venture since every opportunity, whether it’s a crop or livestock, or something else, requires reliable power.”

The ranch has over three miles of fence, much of it over 50 years old. That is being replaced on an ad hoc basis in the face of rising costs. The Coles expect that new revenue will help complete that project.

The main barn was specialized for horses and elk, two of the Patterson’s successful enterprises during their 40-plus years as ranch owners. There are changes that need to be made to make the running of the ranch more efficient, which all requires significant expenditures of money and time.

The Coles have had assistance and guidance from the family at 6R Ranch in Powell Butte, headed by Randy and Rhonda Avery and their children. Rhonda was the Patterson’s bookkeeper for 37 years. The Avery’s daughter, Renee, is the ranch manager at Pole Creek and works with Jen in a woman-run enterprise, producing natural beef, and offering a new community venue for weddings/events.

Several weeks ago, Circle of Friends held their fundraising evening at the ranch and raised $92,000.

Executive Director Nicole Swisher Woodson said, “The venue was absolutely spectacular. The Coles were wonderful to work with and their entire staff was so easy to communicate with. The whole thing couldn’t have gone better. And we want to book again for next year.”

Glenn Cole described the evening as “our vision in action. They had our natural beef for the barbecue cookoff, and guests sat on bales of our hay.”

The ranch hosted a wedding in June. They also hope to host farm-to-table dinners.

Plans for the guest ranch began in 2018, and remodeling of the former Patterson house was Phase I. It features a large kitchen, living room for guests to gather, and floor-to-ceiling windows all along the south side, highlighting the mountain views, with a large lawn for outdoor events. Then COVID hit. Supply issues and the increase in materials prices required repricing the cost for building the guest cabins and halted construction.

Deschutes County granted the Coles a permit for 18 weddings/events a year for no more than 250 people. Parking for guests is in a back pasture adjacent to the lodge, where cars are not visible at the front of the ranch.

The Coles envision the guest ranch as providing an opportunity for people to experience a working ranch and to see where their beef in grocery stores comes from. Guests may be as involved in the ranch as they choose, from learning how to saddle/ride a horse, to bucking bales and feeding the livestock. Or they can sit and watch.

Jen is excited to own the ranch, to “have the opportunity to learn something new,” and she hopes the guests will too.

The Coles plan to continue the Pattersons’ practice of making the ranch available during forest fires in the area for people/animals who need to vacate their properties.

“We will open the barn and pastures and house to people who need them,” Glenn Cole offered.

The Coles said they want the community of Sisters to know, “We roll with integrity and play within the rules. Our neighbors appreciate that. We want to let the feeling of ‘ownership’ [of the ranch] out into the community.”

 

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