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Home on the Ranch

Rocky Dixon holding a fish
Home on the Ranch
Home on the Ranch

Rocky Dixon ’74, of Asotin, WA, is the co-founder of a successful private-equity fund, Endeavor Capital, based in Portland, OR. While he’s at home around spreadsheets and corporations, “my passion is agriculture,” he says.

Dixon maintains business interests in about 27 companies the private-equity fund has in its portfolio of investments. But his preferred pursuit in semi-retirement is raising thousands of beef cattle—his own and for other operations—without antibiotics or growth hormones, for “people who want to know where their food comes from.” 

The Whole Foods grocery chain is a big customer. “They want to know how happy the cows look,” he says with a laugh.

On a much smaller scale, Dixon also has a vineyard that produces a variety of Malbec wine, and he also does a lot of hunting and fishing.

He describes the region around his Rock'n J Ranch as, “where Idaho, Washington, and Oregon run together.” He said he put the ranch together by acquiring 13 contiguous properties.

Outside the region, Dixon said it’s not widely appreciated that most ranches are small mom-and-pop operations with an average of 50 head of cattle. A lot of older ranchers are retiring,
he notes.

“Each cow eats two and a half tons of hay in the winter. Hay costs $350 to $400 per ton. It’s really expensive,” Dixon said, but the operation is profitable because the high-quality beef commands a premium.

However, it’s hard hiring and retaining workers, he says. “This life out here, it’s seven days a week. You might be able to get Sundays off. The climate can be tough. It’s physical,” Dixon says. “We provide housing. But the nearest grocery store is a half-hour away, and somebody probably goes into town once a week.”

To be a rancher, he says, “You’ve got to be kind of a self-starter.”