On Aug. 14, 2021, Carl and Nessie Zitlau, of the Zitlau Valley Farm and the Granite Creek Ranch, received the Idaho Century Farm Award and the Idaho Century Ranch Award. These awards honor and recognize families that have continuously owned and actively farmed or ranched the same land their ancestors did 100 years ago or more.
Carl remarked on his up-bringing on the Zitlau family farm. Born in Aug. 1941, Carl worked closely with his father, Fred, as the only son on the farm.
Carl stated, in the 1940’s, they were still using horses to pull some of the machinery.
“I participated in driving teams, pulling wagons and hay rakes in my early youth,” said Carl. “In those days, grain was harvested with grain binders that cut and tied the grain in bundles to be stacked in shocks to dry, and then loaded on wagons, often pulled by horses, and hauled to a stationary threshing machine. This was an annual event where all the neighbors got together to help each other thresh their grain, this served as a social event as well.”
According to Carl even though the teams were replaced by tractors, trucks and other equipment, they still use saddle horses for handling cattle today; even into the late 1960’s, they were driving cattle by horse on the highway for 27 miles.
Carl stated, while growing up, he and his two sisters helped on the farm and ranch, while at the same time getting a college education. Carl attended Idaho State University for a Bachelors in Chemistry, and then went on to Utah State for a Masters in Physics. After college, Carl taught chemistry for a few years at Ricks College, but was always involved in the farm work, expanding the farm and ranch like his father and grandfather had done before him.
Carl and Nessie have both put their life’s work into the farm and ranch. When they married in March 1975, they continued to work on the farm, latter adding on the Granite Creek Guest Ranch.
The Granite Creek Guest Ranch; a two homesteader cabins and a large shed that was renovated into four log cabins. Changes have been made over the years to make it a Bed-and-Breakfast destination, where guests can prepare their own meals in a shared kitchenette. The ranch offers mountain trail rides, canoeing, fishing and hiking.
“The farm and ranch has been a great place to raise a family, as it fosters work ethic, responsibility, learning to work with others, and family bonding,” said Carl. “Along with my wife Nessie, we raised 7 children on the farm and ranch with several of our children still involved in the farm and ranch operation.”
According to the family’s history, Carl built his wife and him their own home, cutting down the logs and drawing up his own plan.
Peter Zitlau, Carl’s great-grandfather, left Poland when he was 14 years old, sailing into New York in 1891. He worked in the shipyards there for about five years, then traveled West to the frontier in the Twin Falls, Idaho area. Peter came to Jefferson County to purchase a deserted homestead when he was 29.
Peter later met Amelia, and together went on to purchase the Zitlau Family Farm in 1915. They raised hay, grain, potatoes, sheep, cattle, pigs and chickens.
In 1921, Peter and Amelia purchased another 320 acres on Granite Creek, near Swan Valley. In 1922, Peter purchased another 40 acre homestead that bordered the Granite Creek land. In the early days, there were about 11 homesteads.
Peter and Amelia later had three children, Fred, and the twins Telia and Amelia. Fred is Carl’s father. Fred helped his father get the farm in working order. They worked together on raising sheep, but as Peter got older, they bought the sheep and worked on cattle because “they were easier to heard.”
Fred took over the family farm after his father’s passing, where he and his wife Athene raised their four children; Yvonne, Judy, Carl and Kelly (Kelly passed away at the age of four).
Carl continues to work on the family farm, as the only son of his father.
“They were both raised as only sons [Fred and his son Carl],” said Nessie. “They had a good relationship and shared many happy and enjoyable experiences on and off the farm.”
The Century Farm and Ranch program, a partnership program with the Idaho State Historical Society and the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, was created as part of Idaho’s Centennial Celebration. Since the Century Farm and Ranch program began in 1990, over 450 farms and ranches statewide have been designated Idaho Century Farms or Ranches.
Pattie Hoffman, the Century Farm Program Coordinator, stated in her article about the Zitlau Valley Farm and Granite Creek Ranch, that the Idaho Century Farm and Ranch program encourages families in agriculture to share their family stories and their century-long connections to Idaho and farming.
“All this became a reality because a young 14 year old German boy was inspired to leave his family and home to seek a better life in a new country- the United States of America,” said Carl. “A new country, inspired of God, where you had freedom to worship as you wish, follow your dreams, enjoy the fruits of your hard work, and pass on your property and possessions to your descendants. As some of our children love farm and ranch work, the farm and ranch will stay in the family for the foreseeable future.”