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Retired Manufacturer Donates $1.8 Million Ranch to WSU

PULLMAN, Wash. — Max Baxter, founder and former chairman of Baxter Manufacturing in Orting, has donated his 360-acre ranch near Centralia to Washington State University to conduct beef cattle research and provide students with an internship experience.

The gift, worth nearly $1.8 million, was announced Thursday by James J. Zuiches, dean of the College of Agriculture and Home Economics.

“The gift of the Baxter ranch gives the department of animal sciences a major resource to expand its on-farm research in animal genetics,” said Zuiches. “It provides long-term support for the teaching and research programs in animal sciences, improving the quality and the range of the programs.

“The Baxter’s gift recognizes the importance of the animal industry to the state and will have a long-term impact on WSU’s contribution to the industry.”

Under terms of the gift, Max and his wife Thelma will live at and retain an interest in the ranch as long as they wish.

WSU animal scientists are setting up a breeding program at the Baxter ranch to cross WSU’s Wagyu cattle with Baxter’s 400 head of Murray Grey and Limousin cattle.

The project’s aim is to identify specific genes that are related to superior carcass traits with a goal of developing USDA prime beef for restaurants and the Japanese market.

Baxter said, “The WSU program is an opportunity for me to see a quality of beef developed that everyone has asked for but nobody has done, beef that is good eating and tasty and cattle that are practical to raise.”

Baxter learned about WSU’s Wagyu research at a workshop in Pullman about two years ago. “When I found out they had a good program going with the Wagyu cattle and WSU expressed an interest in working with me, it gave me a sense of destiny,” he said.

The Wagyu, a Japanese breed, is known for its extreme marbling and tender beef. It commands high prices in Japan. WSU animal scientists have been breeding Wagyu in Pullman since 1989.

“Not many research organizations have 400 cattle to devote to a single study,” said Charles Gaskins, WSU animal geneticist. “This puts us in a category with a couple of other major research programs that are doing genetic work.”

WSU has about 200 cattle in Pullman for both teaching and research.

Undergraduates in animal sciences will get an opportunity to intern at the ranch beginning this summer. They will be paid a small stipend and earn up to three college credits participating in most aspects of the operation.

“They’ll get practical experience working with animals and working on a ranch,” Gaskins said. “A lot of them don’t have that opportunity.”

In recognition of its new role, the Flying T Ranch (named in honor of Thelma) will be renamed the Flying T-WSU Research and Learning Ranch.

Baxter, a native of Cove, Ore., was a salesman in the restaurant supply industry and later the owner of restaurant supply businesses in Boise, Idaho, and Portland, Ore. He founded Baxter Manufacturing as a sideline in 1960 to build steel tables for supermarket bakeries.

The company now makes a full line of bakery equipment, including a variety of high-quality, commercial rotary and rack ovens that dominate the U.S. and Canadian markets.

Max and Thelma, who was secretary-treasurer of Baxter Manufacturing for many years, were named Washington’s Small Business Persons of the Year in 1986 by the Small Business Administration. In 1993, Baxter Manufacturing received the Puyallup Area Chamber of Commerce Business Achievement Award.

Baxter sold the company in 1995.

The Baxters were honored in Pullman Thursday night at the annual recognition banquet of the animal sciences department. They received the department’s Distinguished Service Award.

“This is a tremendous gift,” said WSU President Samuel Smith. “It benefits the entire state of Washington by advancing beef research and animal science teaching significantly.”

Private donors have contributed more than $221 million to WSU since 1990 as part of Campaign WSU, the university’s comprehensive fund-raising campaign. In the College of Agriculture and Home Economics, $15.6 million in gifts and $29.1 million in private grants have been given for teaching, research and scholarships, representing nearly a quarter of the total contributions.

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