Dixie Meadow Company lands are located twelve miles east of Prineville, Oregon along the Paulina Highway. John & Lynne Breese took over the ranch March 1986, as fourth generation ranchers. The ranch came into Breese ownership in 1888 when John’s Great-grandfather, Dick Breese started a homestead. Grandfather Ralph’s, leadership grew the ranch over the years as adjacent homesteads were made part of the original holdings. Originally, the family raised sheep and had some of the first grazing allotments from the Forest Service in Central Oregon. During World War II most sheepherders joined the war effort, and the family was left with bands of sheep camped from Diamond Lake in South Deschutes County, to Snow Mountain in West Harney County. The sheep industry collapsed during the war; Central Oregon once known as the “Wool Capital of Oregon” was finished. The family ranch began to raise cattle from then on. John’s father and his brother, Jerry, kept the ranch on a steady keel as a cattle ranch. After John’s Dad died, we divided the ranch between our cousins. Today we have about 7700 deeded acres plus 640 permitted BLM acres and over 400 acres of leased private land.
Dividing the ranch was a catastrophic financial and moral blow for us. After paying lawyers, estate and personal taxes, and siblings we had nothing but the land and no money to operate it. Lynne went back to OSU Extension in Jefferson County and Warm Springs Reservation while John and a neighbor started logging for near-by timber properties. We had to sell our cattle because we couldn’t log and ranch at the same time. Soon log prices fell, John’s logging partner was killed in a tree felling accident, and we had just paid off our logging equipment. We had equipment, land, and no money. We were able to get the ranch going again by applying grants and cost-share programs. We made commitment with cousins, who had our same goals for the land, who were ranching and could bring cattle back on to the ranch. We eventually want to turn the ranch over to them. Our philosophy in management is to “capture, store, and safely release water” that falls on our lands (Hugh Barrett). To accomplish this, we pay particular attention to the soil, native grasses, forbs, and shrubs. John & Lynne have pursued a course of intensive grazing management. In 1996 John & Lynne were awarded Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife Landowner of The Year, “in recognition of our outstanding contribution to the Fish and Wildlife resources of Oregon”. We have cleared hundreds of acres of juniper. In the 1980’s we used an ODFW grant to seed 200 acres of uplands before cutting the junipers. The downed junipers were to protect the seedlings from grazing until we removed the stems for firewood. When the 200 acres were burned and rested for three years, the grass recovery was outstanding. This is excellent elk and cattle feed as the elk have shelter in the near-by timber stands and the cattle have another rotational grazing pasture. In 2010 and 2011 we followed up with two other controlled pasture burns. Finding a burn window is very difficult, the liability is very high, and the mechanics of set-up time consuming. We have divided our pastures into 29 paddocks. On deeded land and leased property, we have over 30 pastures for deferred rotation. This gives us options for resting pasture and not using the same pastures at the same time every year. We move livestock according to the grass and move the cattle when the forage “tells” us to move to fresh feedstock. Using several grants and ODFW funds, we have a main well and two solar wells. We have over six miles of pipeline to eighteen water troughs connecting fourteen different pastures. Timberlands are also vitally important our management. We have invested in logging equipment and have become OSU Master Woodland Managers. We do our own resource planning, timber layout, marketing. We used to do logging and hauling of our logs to market, but with mill closures and different log economics, we hire contract loggers to help.
Meet the Breese’s
John Breese: Following graduation from OSU with a science degree, John headed to Viet Nam as an army helicopter pilot. After four years of military service, he put his degree to work as a science teacher for grades 6 –12. A highlight of teaching was hands-on field trips to introduce students to all of Oregon, from the coast to the high desert. After 13 years of teaching, it was back to the ranch which was homesteaded by his Great-grandfather in 1888. Keeping even a relatively small ranch intact is an awesome responsibility. The ranch had to survive on my watch, and give the next generation the potential to ranch for another hundred years if they want to keep it the family. There was no way we were going to lose it or sell it. To meet that goal, the ranch had to be sustainable ecologically and financially. John became involved in SRM, forest and wildlife programs. He leaned heavily on OSU Extension and ARS Range Science to get up to speed. It was/is a steep learning curve. John likes to think of it as “college of life”, where the tuition is very high, the tests are extremely hard, and failure was/is not an option.
Lynne Breese: Following 10 years as a 4-H “kid”, and being inspired by her OSU Extension Agents, Lynne graduated from OSU with a degree in home economics. She became a 13-year OSU Extension Agent for 4-H and home economics. While living in a tiny town where John was teaching, she was the substitute teacher for grades K-12, including music, PE and shop!! She is currently involved with the same natural resource organization as John, plus Crook County Natural Resource Committee and Crooked River Watershed Council. Recognizing that people worked with the knowledge that they had in their time, John & Lynne are working to leave the land better than they found it. Her dream is for their ranch to be in the family forever.