Alan Klages is a local boy, born in Enterprise at the Wallowa County Hospital –– one of three babies that day. His parents were ranchers Harold and Ardis Klages, also lifelong residents of the county.
He went to school in Joseph and then on to Oregon State University to study agronomy. Although he thought he might go on in some other agricultural direction, he came back to the farm in Joseph and worked with his dad until Harold semi-retired and leased Alan the farm.
That farm is one of the few Red Angus farms amidst fields of Black Angus holdings in the county.
The first time he met his wife Daarla Seymour, daughter of Dick and Sally Seymour of Wallowa, was at Chief Joseph Days Rodeo “way back” when she was on the Molalla Buckaroo rodeo court. He met her again in 2003 at Ferguson Ski Ridge, and the couple married later that year.
It was a second marriage for Daarla, who is now a rancher’s wife, working side by side with Alan in addition to working full-time at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife as office manager. The couple have two children, Jessica Howard, 31, and Caleb Howard, 29.
Alan helps out at Ferguson Ski Ridge outside Joseph, is a member of Lions Club, is a member of the Oregon Cattleman’s Association and has served as president of the Wallowa County Stockgrowers Association, continues to help raise scholarship money through the Wallowa County Agriculture Education heifer program — those donated heifers are sometimes bred to his Red Angus bulls –– is a member of Wallowa County Haygrowers, has worked closely with the Natural Resources Conservation Service improving soil health, serves on the Natural Resources Advisory Committee for the county, revived his father’s Klages Barley to grow a crop for Tyler Hays’ brewery idea and donates beef to the food bank.
He loves the outdoors, still skis (when his knees allow), hunts whenever he can, fishes for trout, kayaks and enjoys spending time in Imnaha and the high desert parts of Oregon.
Q. Why did you come to be a Wallowa County rancher?
A. Part of it probably was traveling in the footsteps of previous generations. And, I enjoy that type of work. It’s rewarding to see the fruits of your labor and you really get a wake up call if you mess up. It’s a challenge to stay in business and keep it profitable. It’s a lot of work, but it’s enjoyable. I especially like calving and seeing the calves grow through the year. You are your own boss and you’re outdoors. For me, being successful is not a desk job — I don’t like being cooped up.
Q. Why Red Angus instead of black?
A. Our family had always had primarily red cattle, whether it was Hereford or Shorthorn. My dad bought his first Red Angus back in the mid-60s, and when he started using artificial insemination, he used Red Angus bulls. We’re a commercial operation (beef cattle), not a breeding operation (that raises and sells bulls). We tried to maintain a red hide because we liked it, and the red cattle perform well. We have around 250 cow and calf pairs and run them on leased pasture on the Zumwalt Prairie and keep a few here at home.
Q. What was the first book you recall checking out of the library?
A. It was probably one or several of the Charles Schultz Peanuts comic strip collections, and I was probably in the second grade. If I didn’t have them for Christmas or birthdays, I checked them out from the Joseph City Library.
Q. Can you recommend a good read for us?
A. I like reading a lot of local history books. I read Miles F. Potter’s “Oregon’s Golden Years: Bonanza of the West” quite often, at least once a year. It’s about the mining history of Oregon. You can glean a lot of information — it’s interesting information. A lot of the information is almost forgotten history, as some of those mining places are in wilderness areas now and people don’t know that wasn’t always the pristine wilderness they believe it was. Another good book I try to read every few years is “The Oregon Desert” by E.R. Jackman and R.A. Long. It was printed in the ‘60s. Long was an outfitter and rancher and Jackman was extension agent in Harney, Malheur and Lake counties.