SILVER LAKE, Ore. — Sam Dinsdale came to Central Oregon without a whole lot to his name or in his wallet.
That was back in 1974, when he was 25.
He was not scared of hard work and through the years he turned his efforts into a diversified agricultural business, Dinsdale Farm & Equipment LLC. The operation includes 3,000 acres of irrigated hay ground and pasture, 800 head of cows and plenty of equipment. In addition, the business has property near Grants Pass where there are more hay fields, pasture, grass sod and a winegrape vineyard.
“Work gives me purpose,” said Dinsdale, who is now 69. “And there is some satisfaction when things go well.”
Alice, Dinsdale’s wife, agrees that her husband is a hard worker, adding he has a knack for making decisions that eventually lead to positive results for his expanding business.
“He can look at something, figure the hay and cattle prices, and then decide whether he can pay for whatever change he is considering,” she said.
One of those changes was many years ago when he had some hay that wasn’t marketable. He decided the only way to get a financial return on that hay was to buy some cattle of his own and feed it to them. He’s had cattle ever since. The cows summer in Silver Lake and winter on the Grants Pass property.
“In years past, Sam was willing to take some calculated risks and most of the time they paid off for him,” said Scott Duffner, the farm manager for Dinsdale Farm.
Dinsdale was raised on his family’s dairy in Cornelius, Ore. He and his younger brother, James, came to Central Oregon looking for “affordable land.” Their first purchase was 515 acres of what was abandoned alfalfa ground.
“It was relatively cheap land,” Dinsdale said, explaining that 160 of the acres were dryland with sand dunes that needed a lot of work.
Sam and James were able to file for and secure water rights for that acreage for “a minimal fee.” They worked hard and turned all of their acreage back into productive hay fields.
In the early 1980s, the brothers had a mutual parting. Sam stayed in agriculture and James went into the construction business.
Through the years, Sam added properties to his business, building it up to about 3,000 irrigated acres.
The acreage is at 10 locations, all within 20 miles of each other.
“My goal was to have 3,000 irrigated acres,” he said. “I don’t know why that was my goal, but it just seemed possible.”
Dinsdale bought property when other landowners wanted to retire or were leaving the ag industry.
Neighboring rancher Alan Parks has known Dinsdale for the past 37 years.
“He’s been able to successfully expand because he’s been more ambitious than the rest of us,” Parks said. “I would describe Sam as having a lot of smarts and a lot of stamina. He’s been blessed with ability and has never been afraid of a new challenge.”
Dinsdale Farm & Equipment has a major economic impact on the Silver Lake, Christmas Valley and Fort Rock area because during the summer hay season the company employs up to 45 people. The business is one of the largest hay operations in Oregon.
To help their industry improve, the Dinsdales have donated money to the Oregon Forage Research Endowment. Mylen Bohle, an Oregon State University forage agronomist for Central Oregon, said the couple has donated about $100,000 over the past 10 years.
“They’ve had the foresight to help with research in the hay industry,” Bohle said. “The university is greatly appreciative of what they have done for the endowment.
“I think everybody respects Sam for what he’s done over the years,” Bohle added.
Starting with abandoned hay ground, the Dinsdales have succeeded by turning those acres and many more into productive ground for both hay and cattle.