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Drive For Made-in-USA Olympic Uniforms Leads To Oregon Ranch

A piece of the Northwest will be on display when Team USA marches in the Opening Ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.

The wool in the sweaters the athletes will wear comes from a ranch in rural Oregon.

Ralph Lauren makes the ceremony and Olympic village apparel for Team USA. The fashion house took a whole lot of flak before the 2012 Summer Games when people learned the American uniforms were made overseas.

So for the next Olympics, Ralph Lauren is relying wholly on domestic suppliers. In particular, it's highlighting the wool it bought from Imperial Stock Ranch in north central Oregon.

Ranch co-owner Jeanne Carver says the Olympic sponsor called out of the blue last summer after getting a recommendation from a New York City yarn store.

Carver showed OPB-TV's Oregon Field Guide how it all starts on shearing day.

"We’re kinda the Old West here, not the New West," says Carver.

"It's amazingly hard work," she explains, describing the manual labor involved in shearing, trimming, cleaning and packing the raw wool.

"We do it the old way. We're very traditional here. You're in a building that has been sheared in (for) more than a hundred consecutive years."

Carver says "it's very exciting" to be associated with the Olympics. But she doubts it's going to change her business overnight.

"My hope is that we'll be able to work more" with Ralph Lauren and other big fashion houses on projects that according to Carver typically involve long lead times and complex supply chains.

Imperial Stock Ranch spreads across 32,000 acres near the town of Shaniko, Oregon.


Oregon Field Guide's Jule Gilfillan contributed to this story.

On the Web:

Video: Made in America - Ralph Lauren
Imperial Stock Ranch - official site 
Oregon Field Guide profile of Imperial Stock Ranch - OPB

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.