In the early 1900s, Earl Ourada's young grandfather left Missouri and headed west - to Idaho, where he heard the work was plentiful and the climate mild, and the soil would grow anything.
Emmett Stiff found work with the electric power company in Boise, and in 1904, he sent for his young wife and three children. In time, the couple looked at their growing family - there would be nine children eventually, seven living past childhood - and felt the urge to have a place of their own.
The Homestead Act made that possible. In 1911, Emmett and Stella Stiff filed on a homestead in the Boise Foothills, tucked into a rugged valley just south of Stack Rock. They built a home, cleared the land, planted a garden, herded cattle and raised their children, including Earl's mother. They planted roots that took deeply and firmly - and remain, 102 years later.
"You just don't think about people staying in one place that long anymore," said Earl's daughter, Suzanne Dobyns. "My kids are so lucky that they can (still) go back there."
Acknowledging the early settlers who pioneered the state's agriculture, the Idaho State Historical Society and the Idaho Department of Agriculture honor farms and ranches that have been owned and farmed continuously by the same family for 100 years or more.
In Ada County, five Century Farms have been honored. Not all have survived. The Wroten Farm, founded in 1875 along the Boise River at Eagle Road, is now subdivisions.
Two farms founded by Angus Hill in 1891 at Eagle and Amity roads, plus the Ourada Ranch at the end of Cartwright Road, remain. The fate of the fifth is unknown.
The Ourada Ranch passed through the generations. Earl bought it from his parents, and has since sold it to his son, Steven Ourada. A civil engineer in California, Steven comes for two weeks every year to help with haying. Earl still lives on the ranch, raising chickens and hay.
"There is such a love for the ranch in our family," said Dobyns, Steven's sister. "Even the ones who moved off of it, there's such a love for it. We all have it in our hearts."
Although the family begins the story with the Stiffs, another branch begins with five Ourada brothers, who came from Czechoslovakia by way of Minnesota to homestead in the Boise Valley, near the Stiff farm. The youngest, Matthias - called Mike - caught the eye of the eldest Stiff daughter, Gladys. After they married on June 4, 1917, Mike and Gladys acquired 200 acres adjoining the Stiffs, which would eventually be combined into one 800-acre ranch in 1939. The family still affectionately calls those 200 acres "the other place."
Mike and Gladys had 12 children. Their youngest son, Earl, born in 1931, would be the next generation to continue the Ourada Ranch. He and his wife, Kathy, raised another crop of 10 Ourada children. (They divorced in the 1980s.)
"I spent my childhood milking cows, feeding chickens and hauling hay," wrote eldest daughter Colleen Lockwood. The family supported a milk-and-egg delivery route in town, and also sold chickens and turkeys.
The boys played football at Capital High School, and Dobyns maintains that there wasn't a coach who didn't buy turkeys from her father. Others throughout the Valley remember the turkeys, too, which Earl gave up around 2008.
"There's lots of different ways the whole Boise Valley benefited from the ranch being there," said Dobyns.
The Century Farm designation means "that people have sunk their heart and soul into that area," said Kelley Phipps, Earl's niece. "It's a little sad that there are not a lot of Ouradas left in the Valley. But there is a lot of Ourada legacy.
"I appreciate the fact that Uncle Earl was able to sell to Steven, because there will always be a place I can take my kids and they'll know it's a part of their heritage. And they can talk with their children, too. ... It's just a piece of my heart."
Katherine Jones: 377-6414