Thursday, March 23, 2023

6T Ranch

by Dan Bolyard, Special to the Herald
| March 10, 2023 12:48 PM

SOAP LAKE — Darren Hinen, of Soap Lake, has been in the cattle business most of his life. He started as a teenager with a job feeding cows nearby, but by 20 years old he had his first two. He said he prefers ranching over farming, as there is “less equipment to break down.”

He said he credits his cattle interest to his grandfather, Irv Toler. Toler started Polar Lockers in Ephrata in the 1940s and was in the business of raising and processing animals for many years. In fact, Hinen used some of his grandfather's equipment for a time while getting started in his own operation.

Hinen's ranch is next door to his grandfather's place, providing a reminder of his roots, even though he is striving to take his operation to a higher level. As such, he's developing a web presence and is establishing a brand name for himself – 6T Ranch Beef, an extension of his 6T Ranch.

“Grandpa gave me the 6T brand when I was 7 years old,” Hinen said. “Later Grandpa asked for it back, but I kept it.”

His daughters, Savannah, Abby and Cassie are the reason he is in business, providing for them a loving home and perhaps a legacy to pass on to them in the future, he said. He said he’s been their biggest supporter in all they’ve done growing up.

“Savannah is now married and living far away in Japan. Abby is in Cheney and is coming home from school soon. Cassie is still at home,” Hinen said.

He also credits his parents, Paul and Jeri Hinen, for being supportive over the years. He wouldn't be where he is today without their help, he said.

Hinen’s main pasture is in the rural Grant Orchards area. Decades ago, Toler helped a neighbor finance the land Hinen now owns. Many years later when the neighbor wanted to sell, Hinen made an offer on it and it was accepted.

“My parents stepped in and helped me get the money to purchase it,” he said.

The land “was a rock pile,” Hinen said, from the catastrophic floods that created the Grand Coulee.

“There are some ditches on my land, probably dug just after the turn of the previous century, though I don't know how the water would get to this elevation,” Hinen said.

He also has pasture land north towards Coulee City and in Moses Coulee, he said.

The herd of cattle stands at about 80 head. During the summer, they are put on irrigated pasture, while part of his land also grew corn this last year. The cows were later turned out into the harvested corn field.

“I keep about 10 new heifers per year, in order to keep his herd from getting too old and unproductive,” he said.

This provides enough cattle for harvesting, for now. He also has taken on finishing cows for other operations.

His wholesale business has been growing exponentially in the last few months. Steaks and ground beef are being sold to a number of area restaurants that are interested in getting good beef locally, by someone prominent in the community.

“I've had to invest in new freezers and increase the number of cows being processed per month,” he said.

Cows are processed at the USDA facility in Odessa, before being shipped to local businesses or interested buyers. In addition, he's gotten all the equipment to cut and wrap meat for himself or his neighbors.

Hinen credits his growing faith in God for his business growth. He grew up in area churches but has gotten serious about doing what is right as God would lead him. He's been generous to those around him in need, when able, he said.

“I've even given beef to hungry friends and neighbors,” he said.

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