Woody Larson Okeechobee, Florida – Dixie Ranch
a division of Family Tree Enterprises, LLLP
Founding Rancher, Woody Larson, was born and raised on a dairy farm. His father, Red Larson, started his dairy in 1947 shortly after WWII in Dade County, Florida. The family moved to Okeechobee in 1971 where Mr. Red bought Dixie Ranch – 3366 acres of the original Angus McKae 500,000-acre land grant. Woody and his wife, Grace, bought the ranch in 1992, and began growing the business. They now own approximately 10,000 acres of undeveloped land in South Central Florida where they operate two dairies (Basinger, and Gracewood) and their cattle operation – Dixie Ranch.
Woody and Grace raised three children on Dixie Ranch – Travis, Jacob and Ginger. All three children worked on the farm growing up. “Raising our children on the open land with the opportunity to foster family unit and values, a strong work ethic, and the importance of responsibility is the best part of our life on the ranch,” notes Grace. The legacy continues as their five grandchildren (ages 6-10) help in their families’ operations.
Dixie Ranch is primarily a cow-calf operation, but they also wean and background their calves for finishing. “We always had a small beef herd when I was a boy. I’ve always liked cows,” says Woody. “As owners of livestock we have the same responsibility as a pet owner…no, they aren’t all pets, but we are responsible for their care and well-being.” Dixie Ranch has an excellent herd health program and continuously strives to improve it. “I believe in low-stress cattle handling techniques, and have built good facilities to reduce stress, prevent injury, and give good results,” says Woody. “We work at having ‘gentle’ cattle”.
His low-stress program has paid off. In 2013, Family Tree Enterprises LLLP received the national Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) Award for Dairy Beef. Also, Dixie Ranch steers they have donated to the Florida State Fair youth programs have been awarded Grand Champion Carcass on several occasions.
“My father taught me that if I take care of the land and cattle, they will take care of me,” says Woody. Because of his father’s teachings, Woody is an early adopter of best management practices for water conservation and land quality. The ranch has also contracted with the South Florida Water Management District in their NE-PES Program, or Northern Everglades Payment for Environmental Services, to implement alternative water management practices that provide more water retention on their land. Just like his cows, Woody believes that the care and well-being of the land is his responsibility.
When asked his favorite memory growing up on a ranch, Woody said, “It’s hard to describe the feeling, the peacefulness of being on horseback early morning as dawn begins a new day. God gave us a beautiful world to live in. We just have to take the time to appreciate it.”