Barthle Brothers Ranch

October 2000

Twin sandy lines haphazardly cut the rugged Palmetto and tree studded terrain in two. These trails are remnants of one of Florida's early stagecoach lines, from a time gone by. Removed from the crowds and development so typical of Florida, you can imagine the jingling harness and sweating horses lugging a stage through the deep sand.

Enchanted Forest

This ranch has been home to the Barthle family since the 1930s. Joseph Albert Barthle Sr. was born in North Dakota. His family settled in San Antonio, Florida, in 1897 when he was 12 years old. In time, he became a versatile businessman whose enterprises included a sawmill, a grocery store, a road construction company, and a cattle herd grazing Florida's open range.

He purchased 7,500 acres in the 1930s, sensing an end to Florida's open range era. He eventually acquired additional parcels to make up the 18,000 acres that formed the J.A. Barthle and Sons Ranch. This wilderness area contained native pasture, cypress strands, oak scrubs, palmettos, cabbage palms, ponds and lakes. It was a land abundant with a variety of wildlife, some beautiful and some quite dangerous. In later years the vast ranch would be split into more manageable portions. Today, many others from the original Barthle clan are still ranching in adjacent areas as well.

His son Joe Barthle Jr., his wife Jeanette and their four children, formed the Barthle Brothers ranch from their share of the original ranch. Four generations of this family have called the ranch home, and made their living from its bounty. Joe Jr. inherited his father's love for the land and cattle. He worked hard to maintain the ranch's original state, while improving ranch practices. These efforts helped the operation remain profitable even in volatile economic times.

The Barthle Family
The Barthle Family

Larry, Mark, Brant, Clint & Randy Barthle
Larry, Mark, Brant, Clint & Randy Barthle

Randy Barthle ahead of a group of cattle
Randy Barthle ahead of a group of cattle.

After the passing of Joe Barthle Jr. last year, the ranch is now managed by Jeanette, sons Randy, Larry, and Mark, daughter Jan, and their spouses and children. Each has a particular area of expertise within the corporation. Jeanette Barthle serves as the matriarch of the family. Besides being a mother of seven and grandmother of 13, she is a well-known business leader, industry spokesperson, community leader and journalist. Randy and his wife Patty specialize in Quarter horses. Jan, married to Ed Dillard, is heavily involved in water management and conservation issues for the ranch. She also managed greenhouse operations for the ranch through the 1990s. Larry and his wife Lynn are heavily involved with the purebred Brahman operation. Mark, married to Tammy, handles all of the field operations. Although each has special responsibilities, everyday operations require that they all work together as a team. When the cattle are worked in the spring, or calves are shipped in the fall, the entire family works together. Spouses and children pitch in to accomplish these important tasks.

According to Larry Barthle, the first Brahman cattle came to the ranch in 1942. "The family originally ran native Florida cattle after they first fenced the ranch," he said. "A little later in the forties they bought a set of cattle that had two Brahman bulls in them and they just fell in love with the calves." Brahman bulls were in short supply then so the family decided to get registered heifers and produce their own bulls.

Larry Barthle with a Brahman calf

The Barthle family involvement in the purebred Brahman business goes back nearly as far as the Brahman breed itself. Various members have held leadership roles in state and national breed associations and served as international Brahman judges. They have established a reputation in the "Brahman business" and are known internationally, from Thailand and the Philippines, to many countries of South America.

The commercial cattle share time between pasture and native woods pasture while the registered Brahmans are run on improved pasture only. The ranch currently has about 3,000 acres of improved pasture and 4,500 acres of native woods. The family has no plans for any future clearing. They are willing to take the lower productivity of the native pastures to keep the land in a more natural state. Increased hay production has allowed them the freedom to leave more of the land natural. They first experimented with hay in the forties. Now they harvest and feed almost one thousand bales of pangola and bermuda hay annually.

The ranch is modern and uses the latest industry technology, however, the cattle are still worked the old-fashioned way; by horseback. Joe Barthle Jr. had a penchant for raising Quarter horses and kept a broodmare band on the ranch for years. Because of his "eye" for a quality horse, and the hard work required of these animals, Barthle Quarter horses have developed a reputation as strong work horse. These horses have also been marketed internationally. Many times customers have come to the ranch looking for cattle and have discovered the Quarter horses and become customers.

Since the 1940s, they have run about 20 mares in the broodmare band. While the emphasis has been placed on producing working cow horses, these horses perform admirably in many other disciplines as well. Today the ranch is a diversified purebred Brahman, commercial cattle, Quarter horse and timber operation.

The family is active in many other facets of their community, beside food and agriculture production. They are involved in church, school activities and sports, they continue to hold local, state and national leadership positions in the National Cattlemen's Association, National Cattle Women's Association, American Quarter Horse Association, Future Farmers of America, Florida Cattlemen's Association, Florida Cattle Women's Association, Florida Farm Bureau, Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and many local interest groups. The accomplishments of the family have been recognized by many local, state, national and international organizations.

The ranch is also important for its abundant wildlife and green space. The Barthles' have found unique ways of blending the best of their heritage with modern technology. This allows them to make a living and enjoy a special lifestyle at the same time. Through perseverance, faith and determination this lifestyle has been passed on to four generations.

Larry Barthle at Fish Lake

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