Mitch Baker, Rancher
"I have lived in Harney County most of my 74 years and most of that time lived right here on the family ranch." Mitch ranches just east of Burns at his family's place. "The ranch was purchased by my grandparents back in 1918, I am the third generation to own and operate the family ranch. I grew up and ranched with my dad and three brothers, at that time we were still using horses to do all our work, from farming, putting up all our hay and feeding cattle. I learned to work a team of horses at a very early age.
But ranching wasn't necessarily what Mitch saw for his future. "I was the fix-it guy on the ranch. Me being the repairman on the ranch led me to a career of being a farm machinery mechanic and later a heavy equipment mechanic while always helping out on the ranch. I started running the ranch operation for my mother after dad passed away in 1980 and was able to purchase the ranch in 1995. At that time I was a full time rancher and full time heavy equipment mechanic."
Mitch doesn't shy away from helping his community. He epitomizes the character of Harney County that has been described as "full contact citizenship". He's actively involved with the Harney Basin Wetlands Initiative (HBWI); Mitch uses the practice of wild flood irrigation to irrigate his meadow hay, a historic practice HBWI partners want to see continue for both the livelihoods of ranchers like Mitch as well as bird and wildlife habitat. What Mitch says about his involvement: "I think it all started when they asked to come and do a fish inventory on the Silvies River that runs through our property and has kind of evolved from there. I have been doing projects with the Natural Resource Conservation District and the Soil and Water Conservation District for many years, I think back to around 1985 is when we started. From irrigation gates, fencing, brush control, juniper thinning, solar water pumps and water troughs, pipe lines, vegetation monitoring on the Silvies River and streams on our property. I always have a project going on. I've also been involved with all the groundwater study groups as well."
Mitch stays busy, this time of year for example it's long days haying, keeping an eye out for fires and a myriad list of things that are never ending and changing. From where Mitch sits, "it’s always changing and we will meet the challenges. Landowners, ranchers and farmers are always contributing and finding new ways to solve the challenges they face. Ranching in Harney County, it’s a good life, the freedom, open space, solitude, peacefulness, quietness. Experiencing the changing seasons, watching the new born baby calves grow up. Getting to experience and see all the birds and wildlife. Every day is different and the settings change. It's not a 9-5 job, long hours and hard work with good times and bad times, but mostly too many good things to list."