Rural Oregon Artisans Survive and Thrive

Jessica Hedges cowboys and runs Branded In Ink

Editor’s Note: Jessica Hedges is the wife of a cowboy, mother to two buckaroos in training, and a day-working cowboy every chance she gets. Through her business, Branded in Ink, Jess helps cowboy gear makers and western lifestyle brands fulfill their photography, graphic/website design, copywriting, networking and strategy needs. She is a self-proclaimed recovering workaholic who enjoys reading, running, and traveling as long as she can return to the high desert of eastern Oregon where she calls home.

Jessica writes:

Towns are scarce in southeastern Oregon as our communities scratch out a living in lava rimrocks and high desert forests. Trips to town are scheduled out in weeks and months to the rhythm of pay checks or seasonal supply requirements. Distances are communicated in hours, not miles. There are no freeways in Harney County.

Here in Harney, a county that is larger than six US states, cattle outnumber people by a ratio of 14-1. Ranching, farming, and forestry are our economic life blood. There are also many enterprising individuals who have started businesses that support these industries and their families. That’s where I come in.

Local cowboy with rig by Brad Mastre Saddlery

I help cowboy gear makers and western lifestyle brands become more profitable online. Oregon has had a Shelter-in-Place order and, at the time of this writing, is in Phase 1 of re-opening.

On May 15 – Phase 1 start date for 31 of our 33 counties –  I wrote an Instagram post as a nod to my clients who had not slowed down despite the many unknowns our country was facing. I wanted to recognize their courageous leadership through action where they did not defy our current restrictions but found ways to prosper despite the state-mandated limitations.

Alden’s School of Leather and Alden Leather Supply spent time creating video tutorials and rolling out new templates to support leather crafters at home.

Farmshoppe, a primitive to present lifestyle brand and custom beader, updated her online knife offering for branding season and launched a Mother’s Day Sale.

Brad Mastre Saddlery, a father and sons tack supply, was sustained by a long list of custom orders and their phone continued to ring with essential requests from area cowboys’ looking to fill out spring works supply needs.

Farmshoppe offerings

Previous photography, web design and social media strategy help my other clients to maintain their online sales quotas. Another client is anticipating her jump to full time, self-employed status as a Western artist one month early, in June!

It is undeniable that our country is struggling physically, economically, and emotionally. But why is there little effect to makers and agriculturalists?

  • Their work is socially distanced by nature. They enjoy their time alone, working on their own schedules. They built lives around these principals long before Covid19 was on the radar of humanity.
  • They understood the need for an online presence before it was required. Their rural lifestyles and niche markets were well suited to e-commerce. They use a website to not only make sales but streamline the backend of their businesses for maximum efficiency.
  • They understand no one is coming. This land breeds survivors: men and women who pivot to the next plan in the alphabet because failure is not an option. They will not fail.

Leather work by Tim Alden

I’m thankful our county is regaining its economic center. But I hope these hard working, American artisans are not forgotten. They pivoted, finding new ways to serve their customers, their families, and their communities through crisis. I am honored to work digitally and socially distanced from these leaders now and into the future as we all find our new rhythm in life.

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