The Bulletin via Associated Press

BEND, Ore. (AP) -- For the past four summers, Ed Winkelman toiled the fields of the historic Cant Ranch near Dayville while wearing his National Park Service uniform.

A rarity among the agency's staff, Winkelman was a full-time paid farmer during the growing season from early April until late September. Now he's switching hats and becoming a maintenance worker for the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, leaving an opening for a farmer at the ranch along the John Day River within the monument.

"I'm assuming we are going to get quite a response on the position," he said.

The job will pay $18.62 to $21.72 per hour, according to its posting on the federal employment website

The job is likely the only full-time farmer position offered by the National Park Service, said Jim Hammette, John Day's superintendent.

Growing hay on the four fields on the ranch keeps down weeds and draws in wildlife, particularly elk.

"It's a real treat for our visitors to see the elk in those fields," he said.

While visitors to the fossil beds may stop by and see the ranch, Hammette said the monument's main draw is the fossils.

"I would doubt that any of the people who come here for the fields specifically," he said. "It is just part of their visit."

A historic district on the monument, the Cant Ranch was established in 1910 by Scottish immigrant James Cant, according to the John Day website. James Cant ran the ranch with his wife, Elizabeth, until they died in the 1970s and their family sold it to the National Park Service, which created the monument in 1975. The Cants' large farmhouse is now the headquarters for the monument as well as a museum focused on ranching.

By growing hay on the ranch's remaining 74 acres, the monument is preserving the cultural tradition of the Cant Ranch, said Shirley Hoh, cultural resource manager for the monument.

The weather is hot and dry on the ranch in the summertime, she said, meaning farming the land requires daily irrigation. Other chores include harrowing, seeding and applying fertilizer on the fields, as well as tending to about 40 trees in an orchard.

"That's the main reason for the position, because it's a lot of work," she said.

She said the opening closes Wednesday.

Winkelman, 56, said he's lived in Dayville for 25 years and before working for the monument he was a logger, rancher and a carpenter. The skills learned at the other jobs helped him during his days as a farmer.

While Winkelman would make sure the hay grew throughout the summer, a rancher would bring equipment to harvest it. He said ranchers used to lease the land from the monument but there were conflicts about how to manage it so the Park Service opted to have its own farmer.

Like other workers at the monument, Hoh said, the farmer is required to wear a uniform so visitors know he or she is a Park Service employee.


Information from: The Bulletin,

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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