Craig Reed/For the Capital Press
GLIDE, Ore. — Austin VanHouten, at just 15 years old, has developed a business plan. He’s working at developing his sheep shearing skills and turning them into a seasonal job.
To help him in that process, he put together an application, explaining his business plan, and submitted it to the Douglas County Farm Bureau. The application was reviewed by bureau members and then VanHouten was selected as the recipient of the organization’s Young Entrepreneurship Grant.
The grant is for about $1,300. VanHouten will use the money to purchase a shearing motor, clippers and the accessory tools needed for the job.
“On the application, I had to explain why I was applying,” he said. “I want to start up my own business in agriculture. I want to start up my own sheep shearing business. It’s a great way to make money in your free time.”
Following his selection for the grant, the Oakland, Ore., High School student spoke at a Farm Bureau meeting, explaining his plan and his appreciation for the financial support.
VanHouten has a sheep background, helping his grandparents, John and Peggy Fine, with their flock. He has watched his grandfather and others shear sheep so he’s aware that it’s a physical task. And as a member of the Heavenly Ranchers 4-H Club, he has slick sheared numerous lambs for entry at the annual Douglas County Lamb Show.
Matthew Brady, the vice president of the Douglas County Farm Bureau and the coordinator of the Young Entrepreneurship Grant program, said the goal of the program is to give high school aged youth help in getting started in an agricultural project.
“We want to at least help in part these young people overcome some of the monetary obstacles involved in getting into farming,” Brady said. “It can be fairly expensive, pursuing equipment and tools, and these grants can help get the wheels rolling for a young person.”
Brady added that a past recipient of the grant started an asparagus business, using the money to purchase starts, soaker hoses and some other accessories.
To learn how to be most efficient with his new shearing equipment, VanHouten attended a four-day sheep shearing school on the Dawson Ranch in late May. The Oakland High School FFA Alumni Association paid the $225 fee for VanHouten, who then proceeded to shear 50 sheep a day.
“I’m pleased with the progress I made,” the teenager said of shearing. “I learned for a commercial shearing job, you don’t have to make all the lines perfect. You have to know how to handle a sheep properly and to keep the blades on the skin.”
Brady said there is a need for more experienced sheep shearers. He attended the sheep shearing school and was pleased to see the progress VanHouten was making as a shearer.
“Austin saw a need and an opportunity to shear his own sheep as well as others,” Brady said. “It can be hard to get shearers scheduled in a timely manner because there is a shortage. It’s difficult and back-breaking work that is not really attractive to a lot of people. You usually have to wait in line to get your sheep sheared every spring.”
VanHouten has a flock of 15 ewes. His goal is to shear, save money for college and following graduation, start his own sheep, cattle and pig operation.
“I’m really appreciative of this grant,” he said. “I don’t know if I would have been able to start up a shearing business if not for this grant.”