Dudley Ranch honored with 150-year award

A local cattle ranch in Tulare County was recently recognized by the California Agricultural Heritage Club for keeping its operations running for over 150 years

VISALIA— There are not many small farms left, in particular those who have a 151 year legacy to their name. But the local Dudley Ranch of Tulare County has been in operation for that long, and after years of long term dedication the ranch was recently recognized by the California Agricultural Heritage Club as a longstanding family farm.

The owners, Sally Dudley Baker and Terry Baker, were honored at a special breakfast and award presentation on July 20, where they were presented with a plaque honoring their family and business.

“I know it means a lot to my family that we just keep going on here and we don’t become another housing development,” Dudley Baker said. “And we have so much wonderful wildlife out here besides the beef cattle that we raise, so it means a lot to our family.”

The California Agricultural Heritage Club began to recognize long standing family farms and other related businesses in 1948. It originated in 1948 as a way to recognize people in the business for at least 100 years. According to the California State Fair website, the club is dedicated to preserving the heritage of agriculture as well as moving the farming industry forward, keeping California a proud leader in food production and agriculture. 

Farms, ranches and other related businesses are able to join the heritage club when they reach 100, 125, 150 or 175 years of ongoing operation. 

Dudley Ranch was one of the three farms recognized for 150 years of continuous operation running beef cattle, along with Steamboat Acres of Sacramento County and Hindley Ranch of Humboldt County.

According to Sally Dudley Baker, her great grandparents and first owners of the ranch, Moses Dudley and Sarah Bristol, were two New York natives who met and married in Minnesota. The state isn’t well known for ideal farming conditions, in particular during winter months.

“If you’ve ever been to Minnesota in the winter, which I have, it’s horrible [for farming],” Dudley Baker said.

After he heard of California’s milder climate from his brother John, a physician who joined in on the excitement of the California Gold Rush, Moses and his family took the train to California in 1870. 

The ranch was purchased by Moses and Sarah in March of 1871. According to Tulare County Farm Bureau’s 1917-2017 Centennial Book, the family purchased over 2,500 acres in Elderwood from the Moon family and obtained the brand which is an ampersand, the “&” symbol, on its side. Moses made improvements to the ranch while raising livestock and built a new home in 1878. 

Moses traveled to San Jose to visit his brother and died there in 1897. His son, John Guilford, stayed on the ranch and ran it for his mother until she died in 1908. The ranch was divided amongst their children, John, Edmond, Frances and Benjamin, but the younger siblings eventually sold their portions. John purchased what he could and bought another 4,500 acre ranch in Badger, Calif.

John married Julia Weston in 1919, a member of a Visalia pioneer dairy family that came to Tulare County in the 1860s. Their only child, John Weston, was born in 1921 in Visalia. After he served in World War II, Weston returned to the ranch to help his father run it.

In 1953 Weston married Sara “Sally” Dunaway of Visalia. The two built a home on the ranch and had three daughters, Anne, Sally and Jill. Weston ran the ranch and Sally managed the books for his parents until their deaths in 1964 and 1975. After Weston’s death in 1992, his daughter Sally Dudley Baker and her husband Terry Baker continue to run the ranch. 

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