Woman is fifth gen­er­a­tion of Ok­la­homa ranch­ers

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - NEWS - BY BLAKE WIELAND For The Ok­la­homan Blake Wieland is with the Ok­la­homa De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture, Food and Forestry.

All 99 de­grees of the July sun beat down on the park­ing lot out­side the Stuart Ranch head­quar­ters. In­side, the walls of the log cabin-style build­ing are lined with awards and fam­ily pho­tos, most of which in­clude horses and cat­tle.

The sound of boots on a con­crete floor echo down the hall­way as Terry Stuart Forst rounds the cor­ner and greets a vis­i­tor with a smile and a handshake.

Forst is the gen­eral man­ager of the 46,000acre op­er­a­tion, a ti­tle she’s held since 1992 when her fa­ther handed her the reins.

She pulls out a bench and sits at a long din­ing ta­ble as she re­flects on mem­o­ries and sto­ries of the ranch.

Forst has had agri­cul­ture in her blood from Day One. Some of her ear­li­est mem­o­ries as a child in­clude go­ing with her sib­lings to play at “Big Daddy’s Play­house,” which was the scale house her grand­fa­ther used to weigh cat­tle.

“When I was grow­ing up, if I was on a horse, I was happy,” she said.

Upon grad­u­at­ing high school in Ok­la­homa City, Forst went on to at­tend Ok­la­homa State University, which she cred­its with giv­ing her some of the best friend­ships in her life. There she re­ceived her bach­e­lor’s de­gree and returned home to the ranch.

How­ever, be­fore she took the po­si­tion of gen­eral man­ager, she tried her hand in a few other roles across the re­gion.

“I got my real es­tate li­cense and lived in Dal­las for a while,” Forst said. “I felt like a duck out of wa­ter and re­ally was not happy.”

Forst de­cided to ap­ply for Texas Chris­tian University’s farm and ranch man­age­ment pro­gram on a whim. She re­ceived a phone call the next day for an in­ter­view.

“When things just start fall­ing into place per­fectly, you know it’s God’s plan,” she said.

Shortly there­after, she got her son Clay en­rolled in a lo­cal school and her youngest son, Robert, into a day care close by. When ev­ery­thing be­gan to fall into place, Forst knew she was headed in the right di­rec­tion. After grad­u­at­ing first in her class from the farm and ranch man­age­ment pro­gram in 1992, she and her sons returned home to the ranch for good.

“We will be 150 years old next year,” Forst said, ex­plain­ing the his­tory of Stuart Ranch. “I am the fifth gen­er­a­tion. My sons, Robert and Clay, are the sixth, and my grand­chil­dren are the sev­enth.”

The Chisholm Trail

The Chisholm Trail Her­itage Cen­ter in Duncan comes up in con­ver­sa­tion be­tween Forst and her vis­i­tor.

“Do you want to see it?” Forst asked.

“The mu­seum?” the vis­i­tor asked.

“No, the ac­tual Chisholm Trail,” Forst said. “It runs right through our land. I’ll take you to see it!”

She climbs into her white Ford Ex­pe­di­tion, look­ing over her grand­kids’ car seat as she backs out of the drive. Dixie, a brown and white Welsh Corgi and Forst’s chief trav­el­ing buddy, takes a back seat for the ride.

A white cloud of dust trails the car as Forst drives down Jef­fer­son County roads rem­i­nisc­ing on the his­tory of the ranch — a sub­ject on which she is a scholar.

The ranch, which was founded in Caddo in 1868, is the old­est in the state of Ok­la­homa un­der con­tin­u­ous fam­ily own­er­ship. To help the reader grasp the age of the op­er­a­tion, it was founded a few months be­fore Ulysses S. Grant was elected pres­i­dent, five years be­fore barbed wire had been patented and half a cen­tury be­fore World War I broke out.

“Caddo is the old­est part of the ranch,” Forst said. “Daddy bought this place (at Wau­rika) in 1993. When he died in 2001, we started re­align­ing to make this our head­quar­ters. It just made more sense and we’ve been here since 2004. It’s a very new move rel­a­tive to our op­er­a­tion.”

The op­er­a­tion of 46,000 acres has now ex­panded into an area just east of Wau­rika, where their head­quar­ters is lo­cated to­day. The ranch is sep­a­rated into three cat­e­gories: horse, cat­tle and out­fit­ting di­vi­sions. Much to Forst’s de­light, her two sons fol­lowed her foot­steps and made the choice to live and work on the ranch.

The horse di­vi­sion is man­aged by Forst’s younger son, Robert, and has a his­tory and tra­di­tion as deep as the ranch itself. The horse op­er­a­tion has had world­wide suc­cess over the past cen­tury, tak­ing home sev­eral world cham­pion ti­tles. Stuart Ranch re­ceived the Amer­i­can Quar­ter Horse As­so­ci­a­tion’s Best of Re­muda award in 1995 for their qual­ity of work­ing horses.

“We bred a lit­tle un­der 50 mares this year,” Forst said. “We do all of that in-house with ar­ti­fi­cial in­sem­i­na­tion.”

Ranch di­ver­si­fied, adapted

This is just one of many ways Stuart Ranch has di­ver­si­fied and adapted to en­sure suc­cess and growth.

The cat­tle di­vi­sion com­prises 60 per­cent Black Baldies and 40 per­cent Here­fords. Cows calve in one of two 60-day calv­ing pe­ri­ods; Fe­bru­ary through March and Septem­ber through Oc­to­ber. Forst over­sees the cat­tle op­er­a­tion and has four “camp men” who re­side on the ranch to en­sure things are taken care of prop­erly.

The hunt­ing di­vi­sion, Stuart Ranch Out­fit­ters, is an Ok­la­homa agri-tourism des­ti­na­tion man­aged by Forst’s old­est son, Clay. The out­fit­ting op­er­a­tion of­fers pack­age hunts at both Caddo and Wau­rika locations. Hunters have an op­por­tu­nity to hunt white­tail deer, turkey, wa­ter­fowl and feral hogs on 46,000 acres rang­ing from tall­grass prairies to rolling rocky hills.

Be­tween the three di­vi­sions of the Stuart Ranch, no one would ar­gue that Forst has a full plate when it comes to work. With 150 years of his­tory, you can bet that Stuart Ranch has weath­ered a few storms and fought its fair share of up­hill bat­tles, as well.

Forst has a way of deal­ing with those dif­fi­cult times in life.

“I told my boys at a young age that some­times all we can do is put one foot in front of the other, pray and keep truck­ing,” Forst said.

Forst goes on to talk about her love for the agri­cul­ture com­mu­nity. While that com­mu­nity en­com­passes thou­sands of fam­i­lies, she has never hes­i­tated to help her neigh­bors — even if they’re 300 miles away.

When wild­fires struck farms and ranches in north­west Ok­la­homa and south­west Kansas in March, Forst hurt with them. She rounded up 11 vol­un­teers, 11 miles of fence, skid steers, trucks and count­less tools and headed north.

“You’ve gotta help when you’ve gotta help,” Forst said. “The neat thing to me was see­ing thou­sands of trucks loaded with hay and then you see one old man with a stock-rack pickup haul­ing two bales. Ev­ery­one just gave all they could. I can hardly talk about it.”

Lead­er­ship skills

Forst has also re­ceived many awards and held po­si­tions that one sim­ply does not at­tain without a strong work ethic and impeccable lead­er­ship skills. She served as the first fe­male pres­i­dent of the Ok­la­homa Cat­tle­men’s As­so­ci­a­tion and was in­ducted into the Na­tional Cow­girl Hall of Fame in 2007, just to name a few.

But if you want to hear about Forst’s accomplishments, don’t go to her. Her hum­ble at­ti­tude can make ob­tain­ing in­for­ma­tion about her­self a chal­lenge. She will, how­ever, brag on and on about those who have helped her along the way and shaped her into who she is to­day.

“I have been very blessed to have some re­ally, re­ally, re­ally great friends,” Forst said. “The list goes on and on.” This is part of a con­tin­u­ing se­ries of sto­ries on Sig­nif­i­cant Women in Ok­la­homa Agri­cul­ture. The project is a col­lab­o­ra­tive pro­gram be­tween the Ok­la­homa De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture, Food & Forestry and Ok­la­homa State University to rec­og­nize and honor the im­pact of count­less women across all 77 coun­ties of the state, from all as­pects and ar­eas of the agri­cul­tural in­dus­try. The hon­orees were nom­i­nated by their peers and se­lected by a com­mit­tee of 14 in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als. If you would like to make a nom­i­na­tion, visit http://ok­women in­a­gands­mall­busi­ness.com/.

May 19, 2018, is set to be the ranch’s 150th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion. Some may won­der how the ranch not only stayed above wa­ter, but thrived through 150 years of tri­als and hard­ships. Forst is quick to at­tribute the ranch’s suc­cess to God’s grace and, as long as Terry Forst has any­thing to do with it, the ranch will be around many gen­er­a­tions to come.

“It’s in­ter­est­ing what God will do and how he’s or­ches­trated things in my life,” she said. “My whole life has been faith, to­tally and com­pletely. I tell Him ‘I’m not quit­ting, so don’t quit on me, Lord!’”


Terry Forst checks cat­tle on the ranch out­side of Wau­rika.

Terry Forst and her sons, Robert, left, and Clay, man­age all as­pects of Stuart Ranch and are the fifth and sixth gen­er­a­tions, re­spec­tively, to do so.

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