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February 18, 2014
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Farm to Fork: Yoncalla's Burchers live off the land

In 1995 Monty and Karen Burcher sold their family ranch in Coos County and took off on a two-month expedition to discover the land they now call home.

Their travels took them and their youngest son across Oregon and as far as Idaho, looking for the perfect piece of ground. As it turned out, they ended up back in Western Oregon, just 90 miles from where they started, settling on 123 acres in the Yoncalla area. Douglas County turned out to have the right climate and topography to meet the goals and lifestyle that Karen and Monty Burcher enjoy.

High school sweethearts and Oregon natives, the Burchers decided on the ranching lifestyle while raising three boys in Coos County. They wanted to instill a work ethic in their kids and school them in being stewards to the land. For years, Karen Burcher helped the boys through 4-H and athletics while attending to the ranch. Monty Burcher worked off the farm as a bricklayer, contractor and carpenter. Now that the kids are grown, the couple continue this physical lifestyle because of their love for the animals and connection to the land.

The Burchers have raised several types of livestock throughout the years. Dexter cattle have become their beef of choice. Originating in Ireland, these smaller cattle work well with the flat, moist land and have easygoing natures. The Burchers sell their beef directly or through local farmers markets. Other than the 35 to 40 head of cattle they manage, the Burchers have 75 to 80 head of sheep, including the current crop of lambs. The picturesque landscape is also home to stock dogs, cats, chickens and horses, making the Burcher Ranch an iconic image of the ranching lifestyle.

When not with the critters, Karen Burcher is likely to be in one of her greenhouses or digging in the dirt. An avid gardener, she has for years owned a nursery business that was once open to the public. She is planning to sell her plants at area farmers markets and enjoys wintering plants for other people in the meantime. She also enjoys making homemade juices, jerky and other processed items derived from the bounty of their farm.

Her husband, on the other hand, can be found in his leather-working room, where he tools, cuts, beads or stitches details on one of his many creations. Monty Burcher picked up leather work about five years ago and has become quite accomplished at handcrafting chinks, chaps, farrier aprons, arm cuffs, saddle bags, hat bands, scabbards, bracelets and a variety of other custom orders. This trade keeps him busy during the winter months and is a relaxing pastime.

Monty and Karen Burcher are passionate about their animals and lifestyle. This radiates through the excitement and energy they share while talking about the challenges and victories of the small rancher. Thank you, Burcher Ranch, for helping our community eat fresh and for keeping it local.

Heather Barklow of Glide manages the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market and is the farm market promotion coordinator for Markets of the Umpqua, a program of NeighborWorks Umpqua. She also operates HB Horsemanship. She can be reached at heatherbarklow@gmail.com.

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The News-Review Updated Feb 18, 2014 02:25PM Published Feb 20, 2014 09:27AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.