The Sossaman Family, Steve and Sharla Flake, Ray Tyler, and Pete Brawley Win Arizona Farm Bureau Heritage Award
Arizona - This fall, The Sossaman Family of Maricopa County, Steve and Sharla Flake of Navajo County, Ray Tyler of Greenlee County, and Pete Brawley of Graham County recently received the Arizona Farm Bureau Heritage Award during the organization's 95th Annual conference celebrating farmers and ranchers throughout the state at the Wigwam Resort and Conference Center.
The Heritage Award is given to individuals and families that are involved in agriculture and have given extraordinary voluntary service to their industry and to their Farm Bureau.
Sossaman Family, Maricopa County
The first recipients were the Sossaman Family. Jasper and Nancy Sossaman, originally from Oklahoma, came to Arizona looking for a better life in 1914 after their pig farm near Galveston, Texas, was wiped out in a hurricane. Shortly thereafter, another tragedy hit in 1918, when Jasper passed away, leaving Nancy and three sons to manage by themselves. Luckily, homesteads became available in Queen Creek, and the family obtained two. Gradually, they extended the farm to 1,000 acres and grew cotton, watermelon, potatoes, Durham wheat, castor beans, corn and sugar beets.
One of the three sons, also named Jasper, married Faith Mather and continued farming. Their only child, Jamie, inherited the farm in 1962. Son Steven and wife Chris now manage the farm with innovative marketing of heritage grains. Jamie and Steve both served as presidents of Maricopa County Farm Bureau and on the state board. Besides farming, Jamie served 24 years in the state Legislature, both in the House where he served as Speaker, and in the Senate. In 1992, the Arizona Farm Bureau recognized Jamie for his Distinguished Service to Agriculture. His wife, Sue, was also active in county politics.
Over the years the farm has always been an innovative family-centered business run by people who cared not just for the land, but also for the community.
Flake Family, Navajo County
The second recipients were Steve and Sharla Flake. Steve and Sharla are fourth generation ranchers in Snowflake, Arizona. Steve spent his career ranching and farming, most of it with his brothers, Dean, Jake, and Jed. They spent most of their career raising purebred Beef Masters.
In the late 1980's the Navajo County Farm Bureau was struggling with membership, and Steve volunteered to be the county president. Over the next 10 years, he helped build county membership and county funds. He served on the State Board for many years, and he and Sharla have been on the Navajo County Board for the thirty plus years.
Tyler Family, Greenlee County
The third recipient was Ray Tyler. Ray was raised on a dairy farm in Fort Thomas and Tolleson and has always had a love for farming. He grew his first cotton crop while still in high school. After graduating from Tolleson High School in 1958 he served a two-year mission for the LDS Church in the Eastern States and served 4 years in the Army with a tour in Vietnam.
Ray met his wife-to-be, Janette Barney of Duncan, at Arizona State University while she was working as a secretary in the Chemistry Department. They married July 12, 1968, and moved to start their life and farming together. They purchased land from Janette's parents, and bought a few head of cattle. Besides farming Ray owned a chemical and fertilizer business, Duncan Valley Growers, for many years.
Shortly after moving to the Duncan area, Ray and Janette joined Farm Bureau. They have been active members since that time. Ray has served several times on the County Farm Bureau Board and as Vice President. At 77, Ray farms is actively farming 500 acres. Through the years he has raised cotton, alfalfa, oats, wheat, corn and maize. He also owns and partners on 20 sections of ranch land in the Black Hills.
Brawley Family, Graham County
The fourth recipient was Pete Brawley. Pete was born in 1930, and in 1935 his family moved from Oklahoma to Duncan, Arizona. He attended Duncan high school graduating in 1948. He was given a partial scholarship to play basketball at the University of Arizona, but left after his first year and enrolled at Eastern Arizona College to continue his education. There he met Loretta John and the couple married in 1950. It was Loretta's father that introduced Pete to ranching when he invited Pete and Loretta to move to Colorado to help take care of a ranch.
In 1962, Pete left Colorado and returned to Arizona to manage ranches for Rex Ellsworth. Pete managed several ranches after that, including the Hackberry Ranch, the One Hundred-Eleven, the Slick Rock Ranch, and the Three Links Ranch west of Willcox. In 1977, he and Loretta bought the Tanque Ranch outside of Safford, which they still operate.
"We're proud of all our award winners and all that they've achieved on behalf of agriculture," says Arizona Farm Bureau President Kevin Rogers. "Our awards banquet is an opportunity to extend our appreciation to those who make a difference in our industry."
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