Bio: Wayne & Bonnie Shortís Fur Farm Closing
Contact: Stan

----Source: Brett Sigurdson, Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI, January 30, 2008, Front Page, Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.  Short Family Photo Album

Surnames: Short, Quinnell

 

 

The End of an Era

 

As Shortís Fur Farm prepares to close its doors, Wayne and Floyd Short look back on a family tradition born of hard work and ingenuity

 

By Brett Sigurdson

 

After 70 years and three generations, Clark Countyís sole remaining mink ranch will soon close its doors.  For Wayne and Bonnie Short, proprietors of Shortís fur Farm, this means retirement.  For a once-thriving American industry, this means the loss of one more in an ever-shrinking business.

 

 

Wayne and Bonnie Short in front of mink pelts at their facility near Granton

 

As the Shorts and their employees worked diligently to prepare the pelts of the farmís final mink herd last week, one could not help but think of the passing of an era, one that, perhaps, began to pass a long time ago.

 

According to Fur Commission USA, an organization that represents American fur farmers, the number of mink ranches in the U. S. has dropped from 1,222 in 1974 to 271 in 2006.  Whereas the United States was once the top mink pelt producing country in the world during the 40s, 50s, and early 60s, its stature has been supplanted by China and Denmark.

 

Of course, this is not to say business hasnít been good.  Shortís Fur Farm has done quite well the last four or five years, Wayne noted in a break from work last Friday, but gaining success has meant mink ranchers have had to rely on ingenuity and hard work, two practices that were established by the original owner of Shortís Fur Farm, Wayneís grandfather Eugene Short. 

 

 

Eugene Short, founder of Shortís Fur Farm, with his 1948 Buick Super Eight.  After 70 years in the business, Shortís Fur Farm prepares to close.  (Contributed Photo)

 

A successful dairy and chicken farmer, Eugene entered the fur business in 1936 upon purchasing five silver fox - four females, one male - from a local farmer named Robert Quinnell.  A few years later, mink fur - used in coats, collars and hats - came into fashion and Eugene began to raise the small, furry, carnivorous animals.

 

In 1943, Eugene divided the farm, which is located on Hwy 10 west of Granton, four ways, and joined in the business with his sons Glenn, Floyd and Dale - Wayneís father.  With business doing well, the Shorts then diversified to include an animal foods business; in part to feed the growing number of mink they were raising.  That business, picking up dead or disabled cows and horses from farms to feed the mink, has continued to this day and is now operated by William Short.

 

"With a large increase in numbers of mink to feed - 10,000 pounds per day - it was soon realized another source of feed would be needed," said Floyd, the only one of the three brothers still alive.  The Shorts began to purchase the unused parts of chickens from several processing plants in Wisconsin and, because they found they had a surplus of food, began to market the feed to other mink food suppliers.

 

 

Second generation mink rancher Floyd Short, the last of the original three

Short brothers who established the early success of Shortís Fur Farm

 

At the heart of the businessís success was a division of labor based on the talents of each of the brothers.

 

Floyd focused his energy on the preparation and processing of the feed.  Dale was the Shortís representative in various mink associations and at one time was the president of the Wisconsin Fur Breeders Association and a delegate to the National Board.  Glenn was the ranch engineer, a wiz at design innovations - including an electrical switch system that, like a modern-day garage door opener, opened outdoor gates automatically - which saved time and cut costs.

 

Eugene Short passed away in 1966.  Soon after, the American mink industry took a hit from Denmark, which offered large government subsidies to mink farmers, a move that increased the countryís standing in the world fur market.  Russia would later enter the market, taking away even more business from American mink ranchers.  Stateside ranchers had to get bigger or go under.  Many did.

 

But Shortís Fur Farm remained in business, and thrived, because of the way Floyd, Glenn, Dale, and later cousin Tom Short, practically approached the business.

 

"The reason we survived and others didnít was because we picked up dead stock and provided our own food," said Wayne, who joined the family business as a partner in 1976.  "We were big enough to be self-contained."


Both Floyd and Glenn retired in 1987.  By 1990, Wayne and Bonnie became the sole owners of Shortís Fur Farm.  Since then they have continued the tradition of keeping the ranchís operations as self-contained and productive as possible.

 

"We try to do all the work ourselves to keep the costs down," said Wayne.  Having good employees helps, too.

 

"Much of the success was due to dependable and dedicated help through the years," said Floyd.

 

Shortís Fur Farm currently employs 15 people.  At one time, though, Wayne noted, it employed up to 65.

 

The Shorts have seen a lot of changes in the business, specifically the shift from manual labor to mechanization, which helped many mink ranchers to maintain larger operations.  The advent of computers helped organize breeding assignments, diets, and rations, which made it easier to breed and maintain top-notch mink.

 

"Itís easier now than it was then," Wayne said, though adding that itís still a job that requires work every day of the week.

 

But that will soon end for Wayne and Bonnie.  When the last of the Shortís final mink herd is processed, mink farming in Clark County will be but a memory.

 

And as the American fur industry continues to do quite well despite the drop in mink ranchers, Wisconsin will likely remain the top mink exporter in the country, as it has for many years, thanks in large part, no doubt, to the hard work represented in the three generations of ranchers that has made Shortís Fur Farm a success.

 

 


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