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Oklahoma Agriculture Hall of Fame welcomes first female inductee

Terry Stuart Forst knew she was going to be a rancher.

“There was never an indecisive moment at all,” Terry said. “ I always knew what I wanted to do. Always.”

Forst is the manager of Stuart Ranch, Oklahoma’s oldest continuously family-operated ranch. The operation is over 156 years old and covers about 45,000 acres.

Terry Stuart Forst set out to become qualified in what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. "I've always said during that I grew up in a time when it wasn't all right for women to be as good as men, we had to be better than," she said. "So, you had to work really, really hard to prove yourself."
Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry
Terry Stuart Forst said she worked hard to become a rancher. "I've always said... I grew up in a time when it wasn't alright for women to be as good as men. We had to be better than," she said.

She is the 2024 recipient of the Gov. Kevin Stitt’s Outstanding Achievement in Agriculture Award and is the 27th inductee into the Oklahoma Agriculture Hall of Fame — the first woman to earn the distinction.

She said the award is humbling and an honor. For her, it’s recognition of hard work and passion.

“Being the first woman is not that big a deal to me,” Terry said. “I think if you're either qualified or you're not. Doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman, you just seek to be the best you can be.”

After graduating from Oklahoma State University with an animal science degree, she worked on the ranch’s horse program and later became its manager in the mid-1990s. Now, she runs the outfit with her two sons, Clay and Robert Forst.

Over the years, the business diversified into four divisions. There is a Seven S Quarter Horses breeding program, Stuart Ranch Outfitters guided hunting, Seven S Cattle and Stuart Ranch Meat Co.

“Times change so rapidly that we don’t want to get caught behind,” Terry said. “We had to diversify to stay relevant because running a cow-calf operation was not going to provide for my family. So, we had to think out of the box.”

Daily, Terry runs the quarter horse breeding program. Clay developed the outfitting division and Robert is the ranch’s horse trainer and moved the family’s cattle division to packaged beef products.

Terry, a fifth generation Oklahoman, said the operation is about her family and passing on a legacy. She said having a family-owned ranch is a source of pride.

“I'm very honored that I've been blessed with a family who cares a lot about what we do,” Terry said. “And truthfully, I mean, just a lot of faith in God that we can meet the challenges of the agricultural industry and persevere and be successful.”

She said another part of the ranch’s focus is conserving resources. She incorporates land management practices such as using prescribed burns, implementing a spray program, helping develop waterfowl habitat and holding feral hog hunts. Terry has worked with outside partners like the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation to make a program to improve pasture and rangeland.

The Stuart Ranch won the Best Remuda Award from the American Quarter Horse Association. A remuda is a horse herd that ranch hands will pick from for their work.

Terry’s accomplishments also include serving as the first female president of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, the OSU Distinguished Alumni Award and as an inductee of the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and Oklahoma Hall of Fame.

She will be formally honored at an event this summer, but before then, she’s looking forward to weaning fall calves next week.

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Anna Pope is a reporter covering agriculture and rural issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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