By Cameron Barnes
Have you ever sat down 30 minutes after eating a fast-food hamburger and wondered, “Where does this crap come from?”
If it’s not advertised as Wood V Bar X Ranch meat, it’s a question worth asking. Patties from some fast food empires in town could potentially have sailed via cargo ship from as far away as Australia. On the other hand, Wood’s takes the guilt out of these guilty pleasures. Since its start in 1973, the family business has grown to sell their prime cuts and services to well over 100 locations in Sandpoint, Spokane, Coeur d’Alene and elsewhere.
“You’ve got to remember, we’re a small operation,” said Steve Wood. “Sure, we have our own cattle, we have our own retail market, and we supply a lot of local product to the local community … but I think we would probably play a very small part in that.”
Whether you want to call it “pasture-to-plate,” “farm gate-to-dinner plate,” or “conception-to-consumption,” it’s all good at Wood’s. This cowboy empire covers many different business angles and operations. Included in the fold are Wood V Bar X Red Angus (operated by Leonard and Naomi Wood), Wood’s Meat Processing (operated by Steve and Louis Wood) and newcomer Wood’s Hay and Grain (operated by Ben and Dana Wood).
While each clan in the greater Wood family operates different businesses, their ties still run deep. They each raise and tend their own cattle herds timed to provide cattle of perfect age for the Wood’s Meat Processing facility all year round. Ben, Dana, Leonard and Naomi’s calves are born in February and March, while Steve and Louise’s are born in April and May. Still other new herd additions are born in August and September. This provides an ample population of the ideal 15- to 20-month-old calves at all times. In fact, the numbers are too great for the Wood’s processing facility to handle, meaning other cattle supply the Columbia Basin, Moses Lake, Pasco and Ellensburg regions.
“Bigger is not always better,” said Louise Wood. “You can’t do a quality job in a little mom-and-pop place if you get too big.”
For many, it’s hard to imagine a job where you so vividly see the circle of life before you. But in my visit alone, I watched Leonard and Naomi in perfect sync giving hundreds of cattle their vaccinations, gathering a blood sample and applying a topical de-worming fluid all while operating a sort of funnel that channels each cow into a holding facility in the matter of 30 seconds.
“Our mother cows raise their calves on open pastures free-range,” Leonard Wood said. “That’s what we do is free-range the cattle, and they forage. That baby calf is raised up on that mama until weaned, then they go into a sustained maintenance contemporary group and can then be wintered, followed by next spring when they can start having calves. That’s the cycle.”
Wood’s Meat Processing knows how to do it right. While the mainstay of their business is harvesting and processing raised animals, the plant also offers hunters services for field-dressed meat. According to the Wood family, that portion of the business is about to reach its seasonal peak.
The business is also an important pillar in the local food system, the development of which was identified in 2013 by the Idaho Community Review Program as one of five major opportunities for sustainability in Sandpoint.
“[We] depend on the community to keep us in business, but at the same time, it’s an honor to think that other people think that it does keep this area more sustainable and more attractive,” said Leonard Wood.
The newest venture in the family is Wood’s Hay and Grain, which launched after Ben Wood’s family shop burnt down in 2012. After realizing from word of mouth around town that there was a market for grain, the family jumped on the opportunity. Certified by the Idaho Department of Agriculture, Wood’s Hay and Grain recipes are honed by a nutritionist to provide just the right minerals. The non-GMO grain has been purchased in seven-ton bulk and by customers from as far away as California. In the tri-state area, customers buy the product in 50-pound bag portions at the newly constructed feed store.
“That’s a business that just started, and I think has a lot of potential,” said Steve Wood. “That’s an example of where the operation is expanding. We’ve found our niche. Our goal is to provide the service to the local community.”
The Wood family roots go back to the early 1940s when the family’s founders left Colorado and purchased a 96-acre plot in Gold Creek, which now extends throughout the Selle Valley for over 3,000 global acres. The initial property now houses yet another Wood family venture, the Western Pleasure Guest Ranch. More than 70 years later, Wood businesses are still a family affair.
“I guess we do take a lot of pride in our family legacy,” said Leonard Wood. “It’s taken over 75 years to develop what we have. I’ve been doing this since I was old enough to get my hands dirty. The legacy has been our land, and what we have become is part of the land. Taking care of it and what’s on it is how we make our living and our legacy. We were born into the ground, we take care of it, and it takes care of us.”
For more information:
Wood’s Hay & Grain visit, woodshayandgrain.com or call 208-255-4270.
Wood’s V Bar X Ranch visit, woodvbarxranch.com or call 208-263-5246.
Wood’s Meat Processing call 208-263-3077.
Western Pleasure Guest Ranch visit, westernpleasureranch.com or call 208-263-9066.