A Bar Ranch
Photos by nathan harmon “There’s nothing better than a campfire and food always tastes better when you’ve cooked it on the ground,” says Martha Armitage. Along with her husband Mike, Armitage owns A Bar Ranch, a cow-calf ranch and marketing company with operations in Rogers and Mayes counties in northeast Oklahoma. In addition to running a successful ranch, they’ve gained more than a bit of local fame for their chuck wagon cooking. Armitage says she’s always enjoyed campfires, so when she and her family encountered a chuck wagon at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, it wasn’t long before they bought their own wagon and outfitted it for cooking. Things really got going when they entered a chili cook-off organized by Hammett House Restaurant in Claremore. After winning that event for several years, they started getting requests to cook at special events such as the Christmas Train at Dry Gulch, weddings and family celebrations. The A Bar Ranch chuck wagon might well be a booming business of its own, but Armitage says it takes too much time away from the nonstop business of a working ranch. However, food is an integral part of this business and lifestyle. “Sometimes we eat dinner late,” Armitage says. “In the summer, it may be 9 or 9:30. When the work is done, that’s when you get to eat.” A Bar Ranch employs four full-time ranchers and is a family affair. Their son Merrit manages the family’s Squaw Creek Division in Mayes County, and son Turner, a junior at OSU, pitches in when he’s on break. Even Merrit’s wife Michelle is drafted during cattle sales. “[Meals are] the way we stay connected, both as a family and for the business,” says Armitage. “We discuss what went on during the day and what are the plans for the next day.” Like most ranchers, Armitage is a tireless evangelist for the benefits of beef, and she’s quick to point out that despite being hearty, stick-to-your-ribs food, ranch cuisine is healthy. “Beef is healthy and quick to prepare,” says Armitage. “People think it takes a long time or is hard to cook, but it’s really not, and there are a lot of simple, economical recipes. If you take a little time to prepare, it’s so much healthier than getting something at the drive through.”
NOVEMBER 2013 | WWW.OKMAG.COM
Oklahoma Magazine saddles up for a look at life on the ranch.