Agriculture and especially cattle have always been a big part of our family’s history. In the late 1800’s Jeff’s Great Grandfather Prentiss Fred “Jack” Parker came west on a cattle drive to Montana when he was only about twelve years old. He served as a scout for the herd since it was thought that if the Indians killed Jack, he was an orphan and no family would miss him.
Jack later worked as a cowboy around the Great Falls, Montana area even spending a winter in a line shack with the later famous Western Artist, Charlie Russell. During the Great Depression, Jack’s son Clair married Clarice Rinehold of Granger, WA where her family built a thriving cannery that is now known as the “Eaton Hill Winery”. Clair and Clarice raised a family in the fertile Yakima Valley while operating a dairy, running a few beef cows, and growing grapes. Their son Dave Parker grew up milking cows, first by hand then with machines in a flat barn, all the while yearning to run more cattle but not having to milk them twice a day, every day.
Meanwhile, Jeff’s Great Grand Father Jens Borgesen was a dairyman who had moved from Denmark to Russia to manage the dairy on a nobleman’s estate. However, the family was forced to flee when the Revolution started in 1917. For one and a half years they were hunted from place to place eventually managing to escape on a Danish Red Cross ship whose captain refused to leave his countrymen behind. Knowing their fate lied in his hands he ordered anyone already on board to throw everything off but bread, water, and the clothes they had on so that more Danish citizens could board.
By way of Finland and then Sweden, the Borgesen family finally made their way back to Denmark, arriving at their cousin’s house in Copenhagen in poor condition and “in rags” on Christmas Eve, 1918. Their daughter Ingrid, (Jeff’s Grandmother & a founding partner in Highview Ranch) spoke seven languages, and was soon recruited to work in the Swedish Consulate in China because she could speak Russian.
In China Ingrid met “Pete” Peters. (Jeff’s Grandfather & a founding partner in Highview Ranch) Prior to the revolution Pete had been in the White Russian Army as a member of the Czar’s Elite Guard. Pete always had an obsession with horses. While Pete did not have a horse to ride as a youth in Siberia, he instead had a dog that pulled either a cart or a sled depending on the weather. In later years he often mentioned feeding his one loaf of bread to his big white horse during the very dangerous trek across a Russia in the midst of a horrible revolution. That nourishment allowed his very tall, long-strided white horse to outrun attackers. Finally, Pete managed to escape Russia via the Gobi desert and into China. He later suggested he much prefered horses to camels. Once in China, he met Ingrid who understood that there were always cows to milk, so she managed to get “Pete” a job on a dairy so he wouldn’t starve.
Many years later, after they had independently found their way to the U.S., Pete & Ingrid once again found each other and were married in Oregon. Their daughter Shirley (Peters) Parker grew up in the Seattle, WA area with her father Pete being in the fish bait and caviar business, along with farming a few berries, cherries, and daffodils. Pete continued his obsession with horses as Shirley rode and competed often throughout her youth.
Dave & Shirley (Peters) Parker met while both attended Washington State College in Pullman. Majoring in Animal Husbandry, Dave competed on the rodeo team while Shirley showed horses independently and barrel raced. Married in the fall of 1957, Dave then served as an officer in the U.S. Army for two years, started a family, then worked a year with his father Clair at Parker Farms near Granger, WA.
In 1960 Dave & Shirley Parker formed a partnership with Shirley’s parents “Pete” & Ingrid Peters and the search for a cattle ranch was on. Many locations were scouted but after a visit with Dave’s relatives in the Wallowa Valley of Oregon an effort to buy a ranch there began. Later that same year, in partnership with “Pete” & Ingrid Peters, Dave & Shirley Parker along with their two young daughters, Carol & Doreen, (Jeff was born later) moved to Enterprise to establish Highview Ranch on Alder Slope. Ingrid insisted that the ranch have a name and because of the incredible view “Highview Ranch” was born in November of 1960.
With the establishment of Highview Ranch, came the entrepreneural opportunity to combine the family legacy in Agriculture with a strong passion for private property and the freedoms that represented.
After a couple of years getting the ranch off the ground, the young Parker family added a son Jeff. While “Pete” & Ingrid stayed involved for many years, the Parker’s expanded the ranch raising a family in the process. The Parker kids were known to be very involved having a lot of responsibility at a young age. All three learned to A.I. breed cows at age 15. They also operated most of the haying equipment when they could barely reach the peddles because Dave was so busy irrigating and breeding cows for other operations during the continental breed import craze of the early 1970’s.
At a time before any of the Parker kids were old enough to drive, they did all the heat detection & A.I. breeding (with glass ampules) for not only the more than 300 head of Highview Ranch Females but another nearly 100 head of Simmental’s for a neighboring ranch. (who at the time even had the kids breed with some $100/unit imported semen) Jeff remembers the owner just smiling and saying “just think about it like any other bull” To the Parker kids $100 per ampule was a lot of money in those days.
Very active in 4-H & FFA, all three kids were named “State Farmers” in FFA. Carol & Doreen were the first two sisters in the U.S. to both receive their American Farmer Degrees while Jeff was a Star Farmer of Oregon nominee.
Of all their accomplishments, Dave & Shirley are most proud of their family. Ingrid Peters had always preached to her Grand kids about getting an education. Ingrid had witness first hand the destruction of anything and everything personally owned during the Russian Revolution. She very often said “Invest in your mind as your mind is the only thing that can’t be taken away from you” Both Carol & Doreen graduated from Washington State University at Pullman in Animal Science and Carol earned a Masters degree in Adult and Continuing Education there. Doreen added a Masters degree in Wildlife Biology from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. While Jeff (currently operating the ranch) graduated from Blue Mountain College in Pendleton, OR in Production Agriculture and Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, CA in Animal Science.
Currently Dave & Shirley’s daughter Carol (Parker) Jackson is the Customer Relations Manager for a large buying Cooperative, and is now living in Staples, MN with her husband Jerry (a former dairyman and current owner of Jackson Welding & Repair, a part time Farmer, and a part-time instructor at a Technical College) and daughters Julie & Brooke. Doreen Parker McNeill is a Wildlife Biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, and now lives in North Pole, AK with her husband Curtis (a former fish biologist, current teacher, & trapper) and their son Charlie. Son Jeff operates the ranch in Enterprise where he has continued the tide of innovation and change having completely converted the entire cow herd to Angus.