BEATTY, Ore. — “I grew up with my feet and fingers in the dirt.”
With that type of childhood, it was no surprise that as a young woman, Bev Mallams was eager to have her own ranch. She and her husband, Tom Mallams, made that desire a reality in 1978, transitioning from city life, where he was a grocery store manager and she worked in newspaper advertising, to a ranching lifestyle. They purchased a 480-acre hay and cattle operation 3 miles outside the small, remote town of Beatty.
They named their ranch, the Broken Box Ranch, “because we figured we’d be broke the whole time here,” said Bev Mallams.
It didn’t turn out that way for the couple despite 40% of their first calf crop from 50 heifers being aborted due to a disease.
A major benefit for the Mallamses in those early years of ranching was their operation was adjacent to the ranch owned by Bev’s parents, Bert and Margery Goff.
“Dad taught Tom the ranch business and I listened and learned even more,” said Bev, who had grown up feeding livestock, changing irrigation pipe and hauling hay on her parents’ property.
The Mallamses and Goffs shared their time and labor on the two ranches.
The Mallamses slowly built their own cattle herd and grew their own hay. They increased their herd to 210 commercial mother cows by the mid-1980s. They expanded their workload to custom haying in the Beatty, Bly, Bonanza and Dairy areas.
Bev’s specialties in the hay process were irrigating, raking, baling and helping load trucks.
“It’s been a very good life and we love it, but it’s also a hard life,” said Bev, now 69.
Tom said the hard work didn’t faze his wife of 47 years.
“She’s the hardest working person I’ve ever been around,” Tom said. “She looks out for others before herself. She’s the most compassionate person I’ve ever known. I wouldn’t be here without her.”
Bev said she made some good friends with other women in the ag industry. She added that women in ag don’t get enough credit for the roles they play in their family operations.
“There are so many things that women do. … Most ranches and farms can’t run without a very good hard-working woman involved,” she said. “That might mean working off the ranch or farm that is then tough on the husbands, but financially they don’t have options because they have to supplement the family’s finances.”
Bev was able to work alongside Tom through the years. They raised a daughter and son, and several of their kids’ friends on the ranch. For several years in the 1980s, there were four generations in the hay fields at once — the Goffs, the Mallamses, their two grown children and a couple grandkids.
Bev also experienced the ag industry in politics when Tom served a four-year term beginning in 2013 as a Klamath County commissioner.
“I enjoyed the political side of issues,” Bev said. “There’s lots of really, really good people working in that area.”
They are now easing up on their workload. They sold most of their ranch in 2020 to a neighboring family, but retained their hay equipment with plans to continue doing custom haying.
“We’ll try that relaxing thing, but I’m not sure how that is going to work out,” said Bev, indicating she’ll be back on a tractor in a hay field this summer.
“I think we have to have faith in agriculture,” she added. “It’s who we are. We cannot be dependent on someone else to feed us. We can’t be dependent on other countries to feed us. We have to do the work to feed ourselves.”