Arizona Farm Bureau Continues Celebrating Its Century Farms and Ranches
Arizona Farm Bureau celebrated three families during its Annual Meeting in November that earned Century Farm and Ranch recognition, an evergreen program the organization will celebrate each year. We launched the Century Farm and Ranch Program to recognize those Farm Bureau members who have a Century farm or ranch. In our inaugural year and during our 100-year celebration in 2021 we recognized seven families, and in 2022 one family.
This year, Arizona Farm Bureau features three families, and they are all from the ranch side of the equation: Groseta, Klump and Ritter ranching families.
The Groseta Family
The Dart W Ranch, in Yavapai County, belongs to the Groseta family and has been for over 100 years. The ranch celebrated its centennial anniversary in 2022 and held an event to honor its long history in the Verde Valley.
In 1922 Pete Groseta Sr. quit working at the mine in Jerome and purchased the ranch in Middle Verde, raising cattle, sheep, chickens, turkeys, vegetable crops, and fruit trees, including alfalfa hay. In the 1920s and 1930s, their family ran cattle on the Verde River, between Cottonwood and Camp Verde.
Andy describes his grandparents and parents saying, “They were raised with a strong work ethic and that is the way they raised us.” Both sets of grandparents came from Austria-Hungary through Ellis Island with only the clothes on their backs to chase the “American Dream,” not speaking any English. They eventually ended up in Jerome working in the copper mines.
In June 2000 Andy purchased the W Dart from his parents. After graduating from the University of Arizona, he went on to teach Vocational Agriculture and FFA for eight years at Amphitheater High School in Tucson. Mary Beth is the daughter of Montana Ranchers. He and Mary Beth raised their three children Paul, Katy, and Anna at the old ranch headquarters in the Old Jordan house which was built in 1913.
Andy and Mary Beth have continued the family tradition of adding land holdings to the W Dart, and in 2003 they purchased the Aultman Pasture and are in the process of acquiring the Jerome Grazing allotment formerly known as Quail Springs Ranch.
Presently the W Dart consists of over 26,000 acres of deeded private lease, State Trust, and National Forest lands in the Verde Valley. With the addition of the Quail Springs Ranch, the ranch holdings increased to 45,000 acres of rangeland.
The Klump Family
After serving in the Civil War, John Walter Klump and his partners, William Hurst, George Black, and August Kiehne drove cattle from Fredericksburg, Texas to Reserve, New Mexico in 1885. He wrote to his brother to tell him that he had moved his family there and to write to him as J. W. Wiley, and signed the letter “your brother, John Klump.”
The partnership of Hurst, Black, Kiehne, and Wiley owned the “Y” Cattle Co., one of the largest ranches in New Mexico. Then, all was lost during the long drought of 1891 and 1892 and the Panic of 1893. Their ranch went into receivership and all their cattle had to be rounded up and sold in 1897.
J. W. was able to build up another herd of his own. He decided to move to a warmer climate and chose the Dos Cabezas mountain area in Arizona. He and his sons and some other cowboys drove one thousand head of cattle from Reserve, New Mexico to Willcox in 1904. Then in 1905, the wettest year on record to this date, it rained so much that the whole area was flooded for months. By the time the rains quit, only 100 head of cattle could be found. In 1906, he brought his wife, Ruthie Belle, and most of their eleven children to property east of Willcox.
Only two years later, J.W. died of pneumonia. They were known as the Wiley family when they arrived and for many years afterward. Interestingly, most of them went back to the original last name of Klump. Over the years, Ruthie Belle and her grown children filed homesteads in the area. She remarried and was the head cook at the Mascot Mine.
J.W. and Ruthie Belle and many of the children in their large family began ranching and farming in the area, continuing the strong work ethic that started so long ago.
They even experienced a rough tragedy when their son, Roy Wiley, was shot and killed by the bartender in the Midway Saloon in Willcox in 1912.
Descendants of the four brothers, who had children, still live and work on the ranch. The Klumps are now in the fifth generation to still be operating the ranch.
The Ritter Family
The Ritter family’s Ritter Ranch has been in their family for over 100 years. The Ritter Ranch officially began in 1913, though the family started ranching as early as 1868.
Their route to Arizona took some turns. It all began with a planned migration to California in the late 1860s from Texas, a stop in Arizona’s Kirkland Valley and ultimately a permanent home there that lasted until the present day. Yavapai County’s Ritter Ranch dates to 1868 when Jacob Ritter established his headquarters ranch along the old freight road, between Prescott and Ehrenberg, about five miles Southeast of Hillside, Arizona.
The Ritter Ranch brand began as the upside down “T” and approximately 80 head of Shorthorn cattle he brought with him from California.
Originally from Illinois, Jacob Ritter’s family moved to Texas while he was a boy. It was here that the family went into the cattle business near Amarillo, Texas. In 1858 he married Elizabeth Chowning of Amarillo. They were drawn to migrate further west because of the stories of fabulous wealth, especially on the West Coast in California. En route to California, they passed through Prescott and Kirkland Valley and first discovered the possibilities in Arizona. Though they made it to the West Coast they discovered they didn’t like California, thus returning to Kirkland Valley. He ran his Arizona ranch until 1906 when he sold out to a syndicate and retired to live with his son, Will.
Presently the Ritters run a cow-calf operation raising American Wagyu beef, in addition to Registered Hereford Bulls.
Editor’s Note: This program of Arizona Farm Bureau (AZFB) is evergreen. The organization will release the application every year and ask our Arizona farm and ranch families to apply if their family runs a century farm or ranch. Or go to azfb.org and look for the Century Farm and Ranch page under News and Resources. The application is available online. This article first appeared in the January 2024 issue of Arizona Agriculture.