Guiding a historic ranch into the future

Steva Dooley

He had a small herd of cows when he was a youngster, his dad was the FFA advisor at his high school and now, he has become the manager of one of the oldest ranches in this part of the state. 

The beginnings of the Pitchfork Ranch reach back over 100 years ago to 1878 when Otto Frank Von Lichtenstein broke ground on his fist cabin. After Frank met an untimely death in 1903, L.G. Phelps purchased the ranch from the Frank estate. The Phelps-Belden family then owned the ranch for six generations. 

This is the ranch that Ben Anson, a 2011 graduate of Riverside High School is guiding into the future of beef production.

“The history is here to keep us grounded,” said Anson. “The stone house, which was built in 1917, is still here and in use, as is the original Pitchfork Post Office, [which] has been converted into a cabin.”

But the future of the ranch lies in doing what it has always done: raise beef. At its peak, there were nearly 10,000 head of cattle on the ranch. Today, the focus of the ranch is not in big numbers, but a concentration on ethically-raised meat, some of which is marketed direct to consumers. 

“I don’t know if it was really a dream [of mine] to manage a ranch like this,” Anson admitted. “But I am glad the opportunity has been given me. I didn’t really take a long hard road to get here, but I did have to study.” 

Anson attended the University of Wyoming after high school, graduating from there in 2015 upon completing his studies in Wildlife, Fisheries and Range Management. He then went on to study Ranch Management at Texas Christian University. 

A friend who knew the owner of the Pitchfork suggested he try to get a job there. 

“Dan Flitner knew the owner and called me. [He] told me I needed to call them at the Pitchfork,” recalled Anson. “ I did and [they] hired me on the spot. It felt almost wrong somehow. I was hired before [they] even saw my resume. I did send it to [them] later. I worked as a cowboy and ranch hand for a few years, and then in 2019, the owner asked me to if I would like to move into managing the ranch.”

The ranch’s main income comes from producing calves that go on to feedlots, but they also entered the direct-to-consumer market area in 2020.  

“We started offering direct-to-consumer sales in 2020, but our main focus is still selling good calves that we ship all over the country,” Anson explained. “Direct marketing gives us a little more control over the profit, and our beef is ethically-raised and finished.” 

Of course, no ranch would be complete without horses and the Pitchfork Ranch has had a reputation over the years for producing some amazing horses. 

“We are starting to raise and sell Quarter Horses again, too. We had a some sell at the T.J. Clark horse sale in 2022.”

The ranch has many acres of hay ground, but since the cattle are on the range most of the time, most of the hay is sold. 

“We don’t feed much hay because the cows pretty much take care of themselves,” Anson said. “So the hay we put up on the ranch is sold to feedlots and other producers.”

Anyone interested in buying locally raised beef from the Pitchfork ranch can contact Ben by calling him at the ranch office (307) 868-2610. Or they can be reached by e-mail at