Doc Hatfield, who co-founded a ranching cooperative in Brothers in 1986 that helped create the natural-beef market, died Tuesday night at his family's loft in Sisters.
He was 74.
Despite the awards and academic interest he and his wife, Connie, earned for the Country Natural Beef cooperative they developed, Doc Hatfield never set aside his cowboy hat and boots or lost his love for ice cream bars.
Hatfield was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2009, he told The Bulletin earlier this month. He and Connie ceded leadership of the co-op's marketing in 2009 to Frenchglen rancher Stacy Davies.
Zhaohui Wu, an associate professor of business at Oregon State University who co-wrote a 2009 case study on the cooperative, announced the death.
He said Hatfield often quoted a line from “The Oregon Desert,” by R.A. Long and E.R. Jackman: “Many men in trying to change the desert only change themselves ... often for the better.”
In an email earlier this month, Wu wrote, “That is how each of us felt when we worked with Doc.”
The academic publisher Routledge published the case study last year in a textbook, which Wu and other professors use in business courses.
For their efforts, the Hatfields earned the Kerr Award from the High Desert Museum in 2001 and the Oregon Governor's Gold Award in 2007.
Country Natural Beef stands out for its style of decision-making, which gives a voice to all ranch family members, Wu said. It pioneered industry efforts to produce a consistent supply of antibiotic- and hormone-free beef and bridged the culture gap between ranchers and urban consumers, he said.
“As charismatic leaders, (the Hatfields') presence had strongly affected the culture of the co-op and played a critical role in establishing close relationships with the key customers of the co-op over the years,” the case study states.
From the beginning, Hatfield and his wife required that ranchers don their cowboy hats and boots and visit big-city stores at least two days a year to meet with customers.
“The concept is the direct connection between the rancher and the final consumer,” Hatfield said in an interview earlier this month. “That's where it's at.”
Patrick Dale Hatfield was born in Roseburg on March 17, 1938, and worked on his uncle's ranch in Douglas County. The nickname Doc stuck after he graduated from Colorado State University as a doctor of veterinary medicine.
He served in the U.S. Army and worked as a veterinarian in Enterprise and in Victor, Mont., before moving to Brothers in 1976.
He and his wife established the cooperative with 14 ranching families in 1986, after Connie learned that a Bend fitness instructor had directed his students to eat lean beef, with no hormones or antibiotics, which came from Argentina but wasn't always readily available.
Hatfield's veterinary skills proved useful for taking care of cattle, Connie Hatfield said. Inspecting meat for the Army also contributed valuable knowledge as Country Natural Beef got started.
In the cooperative's early years, Doc Hatfield called stores every week to take orders. Later, he went with Connie to visit ranches in the co-op and stores that sold their beef, she said.
“It's the key to the success, this personal contact,” Connie Hatfield said. “You can say a lot on computers ... but sometimes you can't see what the people are thinking unless you can look at their faces, if you know what I mean.”
Communicating to customers the work required to bring beef to market was a priority for Doc Hatfield.
“It's 27 months (from) the time you put a bull and a cow together until you have meat in the case,” he said. “It's a very long lead time.”
Today, 92 Whole Foods Market stores in 10 states stock Country Natural Beef products, in addition to 53 other grocery stores and 136 restaurants.
The meat comes from about 70 family ranches, including the Hatfields' 32,000-acre ranch in Brothers. Now their son, Travis Hatfield, manages operations there.
Doc Hatfield frequently stopped by the Brothers Stage Stop on U.S. Highway 20 during breaks or before driving to Bend to pick up the mail and eat an ice cream bar or ice cream cone, said Jerrie Hanna, a co-owner.
“They're very nice folks, very congenial,” Hanna said Wednesday of the Hatfields. “They have a lot of respect for the rest of the folks in the community, and they worked hard with the beef project that he had going. And they were just very good people, very well liked in the community.”
After Hatfield learned that he had pancreatic cancer, he said he wanted to exceed 100 mph on his motorcycle in every state west of the Mississippi, said his daughter, Becky Hatfield-Hyde, of Beatty. “He got to seven states,” she said.
Along with his wife, son and daughter, Doc Hatfield is survived by six grandchildren.
The family is holding a private service. Donations can be sent to the High Desert Museum in lieu of flowers, Connie Hatfield said.