BANDON — A gravel driveway winds up through the pastoral land of C & S Waterman Ranch, a vista of green hills in the distance.
In a covered wagon bound for Bandon, Frank and Mabel Waterman headed to the Fourmile area after hearing talk about a beautiful valley there.
At first, Frank Waterman worked for a neighboring ranch, but eventually he started his own.
That was 100 years ago.
On Aug. 26, Charlie and Sharon Waterman traveled to the Oregon State Fair in Salem to be awarded the century ranch status.
The Oregon Century Farm & Century Ranch Program is a statewide recognition program honoring farmers and ranchers who have worked the same land for at least a century.
Since the start of the program, 1,181 farms and ranches across the state have been registered.
This year, 19 farms and ranches were added, including two in Bandon: the Waterman Ranch and Kranberry Acres cranberry farm, owned by Dave and Marci Kranick just south of Bandon. Kranberry Acres is the first cranberry farm to receive century farm status in Oregon. Read their story here.
The Waterman's ranch will join three existing century farms/ranches in Coos County.
“It’s a historic thing,” Sharon Waterman said, “It’s something you work for because you’re family has been involved in agriculture.”
Understandably, things have changed since Charlie Waterman’s grandfather started the ranch all those years ago.
“We grew to keep up with the times,” Charlie Waterman said.
What started out as a 120-acre ranch is now 2,700 acres, complete with cattle, sheep and timber.
Pulling up to the house, an exuberant Sharon Waterman greets visitors with a grin.
One of the dogs just had puppies, so there’s extra excitement in the air.
To be awarded the Century status, the Watermans said they had to go through an application process that required them to find historic documentation like deeds and pictures.
Sharon Waterman said finding the old pictures was a lot of fun.
There are many black and white photos, some of sheep, one of Charlie’s grandmother horseback riding.
“We had horses and dogs and now we have four-wheelers and dogs,” Charlie Waterman said.
Sharon and Charlie Waterman got married 46 years ago after meeting at Oregon State University.
After college, they moved back to the ranch, eventually building the home they live in today.
Sharon Waterman describes working on the ranch as a labor of love.
“It’s hard to describe how farmers and ranchers feel about the land,” Sharon Waterman said, “Nothing’s more exciting to see a hay field empty of hay.”
Charlie Waterman said ranching provides a basic commodity – food.
“We’re contributing to the basics of life,” he said.
Back in his grandfather’s day, Waterman said you didn’t need as much.
Most of the food was produced on the farm and people didn’t need commodities other than flour and sugar.
“Everybody was glued to the land,” Charlie Waterman said. “Today that has totally changed.”
It’s a business now, he says.
“Farming’s risky all right, but you have to be diversified and run it as a business,” Waterman said.
He said his ranch is known as one of the founders of the sheep industry in the area.
There’s a lot of work involved with raising sheep, plus there’s the predators.
He had stories of coyotes and cougars going after his animals. He remarked that somehow they always seemed to find the best one to kill.
In a way, the couple has to be tied to the farm in order to tend to the animals and take care of predators.
In 46 years, the couple said they’ve gone on vacation three times, twice to Hawaii and once to Alaska.
All of their other traveling is Farm Bureau-related, they said.
“We vacation, we retire, we work here,” Waterman said.
They’re pretty active in the farming community, serving on several boards like the animal damage control advisory committee, Coos County planning commission and Oregon Farm Bureau.
Charlie Waterman said the ranch has kept up with best practices in terms of conserving the land.
“We put effort into today’s way of farming versus what grandpa did,” Waterman said.
Sharon Waterman said attaining the century status would’ve made Frank Waterman proud.
“Grandad would’ve been thrilled that we’re a century farm, because he loved the land more than anything himself,” she said.