SILVER LAKE, Ore. — Daniel Miles, at the age of 16, was ready to take over the operation of his grandfather’s ranch.
But Harold Miles told his grandson to have patience and that finishing his schooling had priority. Daniel Miles did follow his elder’s advice, graduating from North Lake High School in 2010 and then from Oregon State University in 2013. His degree was in agricultural science.
Daniel, now 25, and his wife Leanna, have now taken over the Miles Ranch, a 1,300-acre hay, grain, pasture and cow-calf operation. Leanna is also an OSU graduate, having earned a degree in agricultural business management.
This type of generational transition doesn’t always occur in agricultural businesses because there are fewer younger people who have an interest in making agriculture a career. But Daniel grew up in this environment and has been helping on the ranch since he was old enough.
His father, Lloyd, was actually in the transitional stage of taking over the family operation, but died in a traffic accident in 2009 on a dusty, rural gravel road while en route to check an irrigation pump motor. That’s when the 16-year-old Daniel said he could take over, but his grandfather quickly re-directed the teenager back to getting an education.
“He was willing, but probably not ready,” Harold Miles said of Daniel.
Daniel still helped with the work, however. The neighbors helped the Miles family get the third cutting of hay in the barn during that tragic year and some of the ranch was leased for the next two years and some for the next five years.
After earning their degrees at OSU, Daniel and Leanna returned to work the family ranch with the blessing of their grandparents, Harold, 85, and Lois, 78.
“We’re very happy to have somebody in the family continue our labors,” Lois Miles said. “There are fewer young people who are taking over for the older generation. We feel fortunate to have Daniel and Leanna back here.”
Daniel said he feels blessed to have the opportunity to carry on the family’s ranching tradition.
“I feel more honored by the responsibility than overwhelmed by it,” the young man said of making sure the ranch continues to be a success. “It’s an opportunity to carry on and to build on what others have essentially done for me, to build something for their kids.
“The story of this ranch is how much I’ve been given, how much we’ve been given,” he explained. “When dad died, the community helped us so much and we’ve been helped a lot since then.”
Scott Pierson, another Silver Lake area rancher and vice president of the Oregon Hay & Forage Association, said it is wonderful to see young people like Daniel and Leanna step up and make agriculture their profession. Pierson was friends with Lloyd Miles.
“It is so imperative that we have the next generation coming into agriculture,” Pierson said. “For all the effort people like Harold and Lois Miles put out there, you don’t want to see it be in vain. We want our children to be the next generation. We want our children to be independent, but also interdependent so they’re able to work successfully in agriculture with other people in the industry.
“It’s a challenge,” he added. “It’s a volatile environment passing the torch from one generation to another, trying to keep the land without being taxed to death. You need to be really sharp in your business in navigating the process of passing the torch. It’s not an easy thing to do.”
Harold Miles is optimistic Daniel and Leanna can make that transition “because they are willing.”
“I have faith in Jesus Christ that they can do this successfully,” Harold said of Daniel and Leanna.
The young couple already has the next generation wanting to help. Their 6-month-old son, Marcus, has been on a tractor.
“He would like to steer,” Daniel said, drawing laughs and smiles from his wife and grandparents.