November 4, 2013

“The Call” and the Journey

Dear Friends,

It’s been an unbelievable week.  It began with Ralph Lauren’s announcement that the uniforms Team USA will wear in the XXII Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, were all Made in America.  The news launched on the NBC Today Show on Tuesday, October 29th, and the film they made about the process went live on their website (watch it now on YouTube) that morning.  If you’ve seen it, then you know that they told the Imperial Stock Ranch story.  Our phone started ringing  —  and it kept ringing all week.  My email inbox overflowed, and if I haven’t answered you yet, it may take me just a little longer.  It’s impossible to describe how all this feels. We’re humbled and honored be a part of the story.  We’re grateful to Ralph Lauren for the decision to look here at home for a way to clothe our Olympic team, and very fortunate to be a part of it.  There were many companies and people involved in making the Olympic apparel. Our Erin Yarn was chosen for the Opening Ceremonies sweater, for Team USA to wear in the Parade of Nations. I’m not sure there could ever be a greater honor for our yarn.

This journey with Ralph Lauren began in July of 2012, with what has become known as “The Call.”  I was outside in the back yard when I took a phone call, and there happened to be a group of sheep on the hillside behind the headquarters.  They had come to the spring for a drink, and were starting to head out, grazing their way toward sunset and the night time bedding grounds up on the ridge.  I could see from the number on the phone that this wasn’t a local call, and as the gentleman on the other end jumped right in with questions about our yarns, I assumed he was with a yarn store.  I asked him which yarn shop he was with, and he replied that he was with product development for Ralph Lauren in New York.  It took me just a few seconds for that to process, and then I said, “You’re kidding me!”  He said, “No, I’m sitting right here on Madison Avenue.”  And I replied, “That’s incredible!  I’m sitting out here in the Oregon desert.  In fact, I’m outside right now, can you hear my sheep?”  I held up the phone and let him listen to a symphony of sheep sounds — ewes and lambs calling to each other and the jingling of sheep bells — which transported him for just a moment, into our world.  We carried on a long conversation, and that night I put together a packet of information and samples which shipped out to New York the next day.

About a month later, a Ralph Lauren design team came from New York to visit us.  They were interested in everything about the ranch, including the yarns, and we had a fantastic tour and conversation.  We filled a couple small orders for sampling and the process continued for quite a few months.  Five to six months after the initial call, they placed an order.  We didn’t know for a long time, what the yarns would be used for.  Once we found out, it was hard to comprehend.  I don’t think it really hit me until this past week, when I watched the Today Show on NBC, and saw the U.S. athletes wearing red, white and blue.  We cried.  I think the greatest thing about this is how it is touching so many people.  Ralph Lauren’s decision and commitment to make the Team USA uniforms and apparel in America, is building a tremendous amount of pride across the country.  I’m sure everyone involved is proud to be doing their part to support our U. S. athletes as they head to Sochi.

Oregon Public Broadcasting told our story this week too, on two television shows.  Oregon Art Beat did a piece on our designer Anna Cohen, and her relationship to us; and Imperial Stock Ranch was featured on Oregon Field Guide.  These are beautiful productions, and we appreciate the support of all the wonderful folks at OPB.

In addition to sheep, yarn and the Olympic excitement, there are lots of things going on around the ranch.  Fall is always an exciting time.  This past week we worked cattle.  Fall roundup and weaning had an added challenge this year due to the large number of elk moving across the landscape in the middle of the gather!   Dan was working the north side overlooking the mouth of Wood Gulch, as they pushed cattle toward the holding pasture.  He could see elk in the bottom, and as he looked across the center ridge toward the horizon about two miles away, he could see a lot more elk coming down the drift fence with the whites of their rumps glistening in the sun.  The riders begin on the perimeter, and move through the pasture pushing cattle toward the holding area at the upper corrals.  With elk in the middle of the action, you try to pick up the cattle and at the same time, not spook the elk into running through fences creating havoc.  When the riders finally got together at the holding area, they had elk stories to tell.  Perhaps the most exciting was seeing 200 elk in one bunch that included 37 branch antlers bulls.

It’s such a joy to have Keelia back to work at Imperial Yarn operations, and Max gets to come too!  All the yarn girls help out with Max.  It’s a great feeling of community, and this grandma loves it!

Warm Regards,