Off-Farm Income



In six years of producing this show and conducting interviews, I have learned a lot about entrepreneurship.  For example, I know that I am not a natural-born entrepreneur and the only way I ever became one was to decide that was what I wanted to do and then teach myself how to do it. Of course, there are natural-born entrepreneurs who will never be able to work for somebody else and have no concerns about failure or risk.

Outside of those two categories, there are those people who find themselves entrepreneurs because some characteristic about themselves pushes them in that direction.  I am calling that characteristic, whatever it is, "The Entrepreneur's Attribute".

I believe that our guest today is one of those people with "the entrepreneur's attribute".  Dresen Ferschweiler is somebody who learns all the details about whatever she is doing.  For example, her father and grandfather farm hazelnuts in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  Dresen has grown up around this industry, and she can answer every question from why can't you graze goats and sheep in the orchards, to whether or not irrigation is needed to how tariffs against China are impacting the price of hazelnuts. Dresen is still just midway through her junior year of high school, and her supervised agricultural experience is actually about livestock but she has that much knowledge about hazelnut farming.

Dresen is making and selling sheep halters from her home in Gervais, Oregon.  He has now sold halters to people in eleven states, and her business continues to grow.  She has done little to no marketing.  She haphazardly entered an entrepreneurship contest through the National FFA and ended up having her halters being featured at the National Convention, and she still has never gone to the national convention.  As her reputation grew from being noticed at the national convention she eventually started an Instagram page with photos of her halters under the very practical but not flashy name, "sheep_halters".  Today she is selling more than ever, has different pricing programs, and is doing custom orders.

All of this started when Dresen was in the seventh grade.  She was showing sheep for 4H, and she saw that somebody had a custom halter with a piece of fleece over the lamb's nose.  She was interested in the halter and started looking at it more closely.  She recognized that the material that had been used for the piece over the nose had some flaws.  First, it would stretch out pretty quickly and stop looking and feeling good for the lamb.  Second, it was of a material that would collect debris from the show arena and pen and would be next to impossible to remove.

In a situation where most seventh graders would look at a product and declare, "I want that", Dresen looked at the product and said, "this won't work, and here is why.  I can make it better".  This characteristic of examining something and really studying it before the emotion of wanting it overtakes you is Dresen's "entrepreneurial attribute".  This ability to look at something, and instead of becoming excited to determine its shortcomings and then build a better product is the way that so many entrepreneurs get started.  To be honest, I wish that I had this attribute.

Looking into her future, Dresen is applying this attribute to career planning already.  She is interested in becoming a veterinarian, but she is already looking at the way things have traditionally been done in the goat industry and thinking that it can be done better.  She is interested in getting involved in artificial insemination and embryo transfer in goat, which is a developing field.

This attribute that Dresen has, in combination with her great attitude and strong work ethic has her set up for success in whatever field or business she chooses.