February 1999 // Volume 37 // Number 1 // Ideas at Work // 1IAW2

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Century Farm and Ranch Program Honors Historical Farms

The Century Farm and Ranch Program (CFR) provided recognition and honor to farm families that had operated the same land for one hundred years or more. The program was initiated in 1996 as part of the state Centennial celebration. A total of 433 farms and ranches have been honored to date. The CFR recognition includes a gold embossed certificate and a 2 ft. by 3 ft. metal highway sign. The CFR program was also an important tool to tell the non-farm population about agriculture in the state.

Shawn Olsen
Davis County Extension Director
Utah State University
Farmington, Utah
Internet address: shawno@ext.usu.edu


As part of the Utah State Centennial celebration in 1996, the Century Farm and Ranch (CFR) program was initiated to honor Utah farms and ranches that have been in one family unit for one hundred years or more. The program had two main objectives:

First was to honor farm and ranch families. "One of the first things we must do as we celebrate 100 years of statehood is honor and remember our agricultural past," said C. Booth Wallentine, chairman of the CFR state committee.

Second was to increase public awareness of the contribution of agriculture to the state. "People throughout the state should be made aware that Utah's agricultural sector has been in the forefront of building our state economy and has touched more lives than any other industry over our first century of statehood," according to Gerald Olson, former Associate Vice President for Utah State University (USU) Extension. The CFR designation was intended to highlight the commitment of Utah farm and ranch families to the state's agricultural industry. Utah has 13,500 farms which generate almost $3 billion dollars in economic activity annually.


Sponsorship and funding of the CFR program was provided by the Utah State Centennial Commission from commemorative centennial motor vehicle license plate sales. A state CFR committee was organized with 18 representatives from farm and ranch organizations, Farm Bureau, Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, Utah State University, Brigham Young University, Southern Utah University, and state legislators. Local county committees were organized with the county Extension agent as chair, a representative from the Soil Conservation District Board, and one farmer/rancher at large.

The CFR program was initiated with a news conference and designation of the first Century Farm in the state at a 122-year-old farmstead in Utah County. County committees contacted potential recipients of the CFR award by personal visits, newsletters, and local news releases. The program immediately received media attention and was widely publicized via television, radio, and newspaper.

The CFR application form asked for items such as historical farm/ranch name, applicant's name and address, farm/ranch description, and lineal descent of farm/ranch ownership. Lineal descent must be traced through either a son, daughter, grandson, or granddaughter, including in-laws, of the previous owner. The farm must meet the definition of a farm as set forth in the Utah Farmland Assessment Act (5 acres or more used for agricultural operations). Applications were reviewed by the local county committee for completeness and accuracy and then forwarded to the state committee. The state committee reviewed the applications and then formally approved them. With minor editing and proofreading, all applications were approved.

The CFR application forms contained some interesting comments. Two applicants from Davis County indicated that the family still had in their possession a land grant document for the farm which was signed by U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant in 1875. Another farm was homesteaded in 1890 and included a patent letter signed by U.S. President Benjamin Harrison. The Miller Farm in Farmington City, Davis County, was identified as the oldest continuously owned farm in the state, dating back to 1848. This is just one year after the area was settled by pioneers in 1847. The farm remains in the same family today.

The CFR recognition includes a collectors-edition gold embossed certificate signed by Governor Michael O. Leavitt, an attractive 2 by 3 foot metal highway sign bearing the logo of the Century Farm and Ranch program and a personalized nameplate for the sign. The nameplate could include a livestock brand or the farm/ranch logo. These items were presented by the governor, county commissioners, and other officials during special recognition programs held during county fairs and centennial celebrations.

All statewide recipients were honored at a dinner and program held during Century Farm and Ranch Day at the state fair. In Davis County, the signs were presented by the county commission at the start of the county fair rodeo with an audience of 500 people.

The farm and ranch families receiving the CFR award were pleased with the honor. Usually the whole family attended the ceremony--grandparents, children, and grandchildren. Many had worked for years on the farm with little or no recognition Now, they were being recognized by the highest levels of county and state government in front of a large crowd. It was a real thrill for them.

Presentation of the signs and certificates received wide coverage by the media. Many newspapers printed a list of all recipients in the county. Several feature articles were written about the history of individual Century Farms and different crops and livestock they had produced over the years. Six different newspaper articles were published in Davis County about the CFR program. This is the most media coverage that an Extension-sponsored program had received in several years.

The highway sign was the most visible recognition received by CFR recipients. An interesting thing happened as farmers placed their highway signs; they also cleaned up the farmstead, painted fences, and planted flowers around the sign. Many farmers developed unique posts and structures to hang the sign. There was an informal competition to see who could be the first in the area to put up their sign.

In 1998, a telephone survey was conducted in Davis County of CFR recipients. They were asked if they felt the program was worthwhile and if they had received any comments from neighbors or visitors about the highway signs. All those surveyed felt that the CFR program was worthwhile. Some comments include: "The program was a very good thing and has made my family more appreciative of their heritage, especially the grandchildren." "It is a wonderful program. People can't believe that a farm has been in the same family for so long." "Visitors come by our home and ask about the sign all the time. I explain the CFR program to them and tell them about the farm's history."


In the Centennial year of 1996, a total of 433 Century Farm and Ranch applications were approved. In 1997, the program continued on a smaller scale with 33 applications. In Davis County, a total of 35 CFR awards were presented. The program is intended to be on-going. The county Extension agent continues to receive and process applications.

CFR was a real success. Larry Lewis, spokesperson for the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food said, "The program was an outstanding success. It provided an opportunity for farmers and ranchers to take pride in their operation. The program was also an important tool to tell the non-farm population about Utah agriculture."

Bob Gilliland, director of USU Extension, said, "The CFR program recognizes the farm families and provides a message to the broader public of the importance of sustaining the agriculture industry in the state. For example, Century Farm signs were used as leverage to relocate a proposed new state highway to another location that would have less impact on agriculture."