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What’s Richard Durrant cookin’?

By Dianna Troyer

For Idaho Farm Bureau Federation 

With modern farm families juggling myriad time commitments, how could the schedules of seven households coordinate to get the workday started early at Big D Ranch Inc. near Kuna?

During 2016, Richard Durrant came up with a culinary solution that added yet another hat – that of breakfast chef – to the many he already wears as the ranch’s general manager, Idaho Farm Bureau Federation vice president, a volunteer with numerous ag organizations, and a member of the Kuna Fire Department.

“It’s win-win-win for me personally as dad, granddad, and farm manager,” said Durrant, who cooks a hot breakfast and serves it at 6:30 a.m. for about 20 eager eaters during the workweek.

The Durrants are an example of a modern farm family finding innovative ways to increase productivity. They just happen to start their day an old-fashioned way – eating a hot meal together.

Whatever he does, Durrant’s trademark humor hovers over the family business.

“It’s exciting to have a fourth-generation family farming operation like this – just so I can run it to torment people,” he said. “Seriously, though, we’re blessed that six of our seven kids are still working with me on the farm. Before I started doing this, by the time they got their kids off to school, the workday here was starting at about 9. With everyone together, we get started at about 7:30 when the kids get on the bus here.”

Big D Ranch Inc. produces sugar beets, corn, wheat, dry beans, alfalfa and mint on 1,500 acres. The family also operates a 2 million bushel elevator and feed store for local farmers.

Durrant admits he has an ulterior motive other than starting the workday early.

“I get to start my day talking with the people who mean the most to me – and all it costs me is bribing everyone with breakfast,” Durrant said, laughing. “Knowing they’re coming energizes me to get up at 5:30 – well, on some days I call it my ‘necessary evil.’”

Life lessons

He admits that along with nourishing his family’s bodies, he tries to feed their souls, too, sneaking in a few life lessons with his actions as much as words.

“The grandkids see adults working and know we have high expectations of them, too, to help out as they’re able,” he says. “After school I always have something waiting for them – picking pumpkins or flowers, raking leaves, shoveling snow. We’re not the type to sit around indoors playing video games or looking at the internet.”

Along with teaching a work ethic and to do your best, he points out the power of teamwork and building strong relationships despite differences.

“We all have different personalities – don’t serve eggs to some and never blueberries to another – but we all come together when we find common ground, making the ranch productive,” he said.

Their business model has been successful. In 2016, the Durrants were named the Western Idaho Fair Farm Family and two years later were selected as the Leadership Idaho Agriculture Farm Legacy Family.

Innovation and flexibility have always run in the Durrant family, ever since Richard’s grandfather, Clarence, moved from Utah to Kuna in 1946 to start Big D Ranch. Richard’s father, David, was 15 at the time.

By 1953, the Durrants were raising 800 chicks and supplying eggs to local restaurants and grocery stores.

Farming heritage

By the time Richard was growing up in the family business, he was helping to care for 80,000 laying hens, 300 dairy cows, and farming 500 acres.

To shift to a less intensive and more profitable business model, the Durrant family eventually quit the egg business and launched a feed store where the chicken house once stood.

“You have to be flexible,” Durrant said.

All joking aside, Durrant said providing his children and grandchildren with many opportunities to continue their decades-long farming heritage is deeply gratifying.

“Off the farm, one of my goals is to advocate for a stable agricultural environment to enable farmers and ranchers to prosper and live an American dream,” he said.

While Durrant imparts life lessons in the morning, the obvious joy for the kids and their parents is eating a delicious breakfast.

Durrant gets a five-star rating from his family and chronicles his mouth-watering menus on his Richard Durrant Facebook page. Friends post messages that they “will be over soon” and want to become “his adopted grandchildren.”

He offers restaurant quality choices – omelets, burritos, oatmeal, fresh fruit, fried potatoes, pancakes, waffles, crepes, bacon, ham, sausage, breakfast casserole, even breakfast pizza.

His granddaughter Jaylee, a sixth-grader, said, “G-Pa’s hot breakfasts get me going – better than cold cereal would. French toast is my favorite. Starting the day here puts us in a good mood. He’s loving and makes us laugh.”

Simon, an eighth-grader, agrees with his cousin. “He seems to always make something new, like breakfast pizza. His breakfasts give me energy for the whole day.”

Durrant said his crepes are a frequently requested entrée. The grandkids slather on syrups, chocolate or butterscotch sauce, fruit and whipped cream.

“My wife thinks I’m too generous, especially with the whipped cream – just because I buy it in cases,” he said, laughing.

While he’s cooking breakfast, his wife, Denese, is getting ready for her job as a paraprofessional working with special education students at nearby Kuna Middle School.

“It’s the best way to start the day,” Durrant said after cleaning up.

Judging from all the Facebook photos, his appreciative children and grandchildren would agree.