Ron Sali grew up in the hops capitol of the world, the famous Moxee Valley in Central Washington State. As a child, he worked for his father earning 25 cents an hour on his grandfather’s hop farm with dreams of someday owning his own ranch. Today, Ron now lives on a 240 acre ranch with his own private 94 acre lake that he built himself.
Ron spent his childhood working on the family farm after school and on weekends. He didn’t get a lot of time for sports or activities because work on the farm is never done. In fact, he missed the first few weeks of school most years because of fall harvest. In middle school, during harvest time, his mother insisted that he attend school but, for the first couple weeks of harvest, his grandfather would show up in the middle of class and take him to the fields to work.
After high school and only making a $1.25 an hour, Ron wanted to have his own farm but competition was tight in the valley and there wasn’t much room for expansion. He spent a lot time visiting Idaho for hop conventions and, seeing the row crops that were also well suited for growing hops, Ron made it his dream to save his money and move to Idaho.
As Ron says, “People that work hard and work smart get lucky!”
In 1978, Ron made his dream happen. With a modest 30 acres, Ron began his career as an entrepreneur in the hop farming trade. He built a house and planted hops in all of his fields. The impetus that catapulted his operation was an opportunity he found through the University of Idaho’s Experiment Station in the neighboring city of Parma. Ron undertook a project to grow new varieties of hops under commercial conditions at his own expense with the understanding that, should those varieties become popular, he would keep half the root stock for himself and the other half would be distributed to other growers in the state.
Two of his new varieties did become popular. So popular that they attracted the attention of brewing giants Anheuser–Busch and MillerBrewing. Ron signed contracts for the sale of several million dollars worth of hops, to be produced over the next several years, to brokers who would then sell to the two beer companies. This was a huge risk for Ron since the varieties of hops hadn’t even been produced yet commercially and now he had to figure out how to secure the land, buy the equipment and materials to build the trellis’ just to grow the product.
“I used every last penny I had and got a loan based on the contracts.” Ron was on his way.
At the peak of the market cycle, Ron sold the entire operation that he had built and moved to the foothills of Boise. Ron’s success in the farming business brought new challenges which included tax planning to avoid hefty annual income taxes. With only minimal formal education under his belt, he started studying investments, taxes, and real estate. In the mid 80s during the recession, Ron started buying residential real estate lots as an investment. Since Ron was more liquid than most, he was able to sell the lots while providing the builders the financial backing necessary to finance the construction of homes.
After living in the Boise foothills for a while, he decided it was time to get back to his roots and back to the land, so he started looking for another ranch property to buy. This is when he found the property now known as Three Rivers Ranch. Ron bought the property, (roughly 240 acres) near the end of the recession of the late 80s; knowing it had been neglected for many years. The ranch had the best water rights in the valley dating back to 1864; however, the land had been neglected for so long that the entire irrigation system was completely inadequate to do what Ron expected.
“When my Dad came for a visit and saw the property before I purchased it he just shook his head and said, ‘Man, it will take a lot of work to make something out of this place .’ But it didn’t matter to me; I bought it anyway.”
Since the land was fairly flat and required vast amounts of water to irrigate, he called in a contractor to talk about building his own 2 acre reservoir to use for irrigating the land. Ron assumed it was going to cost him to dig the sand and gravel out to have enough water for irrigation. After surveying the area and the location for the dig, the contractor turned to Ron and asked, “So, how much do you want for your gravel?” This was the beginnings of a new career for Ron.
Ron got the permit to mine sand and gravel on the first 2 acres at Three Rivers Ranch, then went on to get two more permits on the property that now contains two lakes that total 135 acres. Ron became the largest sand and gravel producer in the Treasure Valley for several years.
What started out as reservoir for irrigation, became two private lakes complete with properly sloped sides for fish, fish structures, and gradients on the the bottom for the optimal insect habitat to benefit numerous species of fish (but Rainbow Trout are his favorite). After 5 years of planting Rainbow Trout, he can step out his door and catch trout up to 8 pounds.
Ron topped off his beautiful new lake with his own private home in 2006. In 2007, Ron put a conservation easement on the 180 acres that surround the home, including the lake so that it will be maintained in its current state in perpetuity and never be developed further. He also restored many old buildings on the property and built a horse barn for his favorite animals.
On the second 35 acre lake built on the property he developed 4 large residential estate lots ranging in size from 10 acres to 21 acres.
“My friends have a running joke. They like to say I’m the only man they know that can sell land twice.” Selling the gravel in the land then selling the same land again that once contained the gravel and is now a lake.
Because of Ron’s experience with getting the mining permits, he has become a high commodity with other land owners seeking assistance in this type of dual development. Ron partners with land owners to assist them in getting the permits necessary to sell their gravel and then develop on the land. Once they get the revenues for selling the sand and gravel, they can use that for building and buying more land. Ron has developed a great rapport with the permitting agencies because he always has a master plan for the land, instead of leaving a big empty hole, and he is very environmentally conscious and incorporates streams and wetland habitat in all of his projects.
Ron believes that what he has done at Three Rivers Ranch may possibly be his accomplishment of which he is most proud; one that he feels is the optimal collaboration between man and nature that would be possible for this property.
Ron says that, the older he gets, the more ‘long-term thinking’ he becomes. He started thinking into the future and wanted a way to protect his land and the wildlife that live there so he attained the conservation easement. He also wants to aid in children’s education about wildlife, vegetation, and ecosystems and hopes to someday find a vehicle to accomplish that well after he is gone.
Ron takes great pride in what he does and says, “Life is a lot more enjoyable if you don’t wake up in the morning and consider it work.”
June 27. 2011 by Staff Writer Lacy Sereduk. NetworkingStar.com All rights reserved 2011
Leave a Comment
You must be logged in to post a comment.