Industry mourns leader's passing
'He was just amazingly positive and upbeat'
By MATTHEW WEAVER
The livestock industry bid farewell this week to a rancher it hailed as an innovator and optimist.
Patrick Dale "Doc" Hatfield, co-founder of Country Natural Beef, died of pancreatic cancer March 20. He was 74.
Hatfield founded the cooperative with his wife, Connie, in 1986, in Brothers, Ore., with 14 ranching families. The cooperative now includes over 100 ranch families who manage some 6.3 million acres in 13 states.
He is survived by his wife, their two children and six grandchildren.
Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba said Hatfield was one of the first to congratulate her when she assumed her director duties eight years ago.
"I never saw him be sad, angry or upset; he was just amazingly positive and upbeat," she said. "He was truly that eternal optimist, just a joy to be around."
Coba believes the Hatfields prevailed in their vision to move the cattle industry forward.
"The struggles we all go through, they went through, but he was true to his vision," she said.
John Wilson, managing partner of cattle-feeding agri-business Beef Northwest, considered Hatfield one of the most creative entrepreneurs in the cattle industry and a father of moving naturally raised beef into the mainstream.
"He and Connie really helped to educate consumers by reaching out and touching consumers directly, which had never really been done that much in the beef industry," Wilson said.
Hatfield also served as a mentor, Wilson said, noting he considered Hatfield one of the most inspirational people he's done business with.
"When Doc had an idea that he knew was right, nothing stood in the way of he and Connie getting there," he said.
"They were proud of how they raised their cattle. They made sure that land was going to be sustained so it could raise cattle indefinitely," said Jack Graves, chief cultural officer for the fast food chain Burgerville, which exclusively uses beef from Country Natural Beef.
Graves believes the entire industry will eventually raise beef by the Hatfields' example.
"He wanted to raise cattle the right way, and show people how it was done. I think he demonstrated that beautifully," Graves said.
The Hatfields have been recognized as leaders in the industry.
In 2009, the Hatfields received the Ag Connection Award from the Agri-Business Council of Oregon. In 2010 they were recipients of Oregon State University's Weatherford Award, which honors lifelong entrepreneurs and innovators.
That same year, animal behaviorist Temple Grandin endorsed their "Raise Well" animal welfare standards.