Historical Perspective and Overview of Gibbs Ranch
Gibbs Ranch has been a prominent ranch in Walker County for many decades. Once owned and managed by local businessman, rancher and community leader, Mr. W.S. Gibbs, the property was later leased to local ranchers for a period of about 10 years following his death. In 1993, Mrs. Ruth Farrington Farris, Mr. W.S. Gibbs’ widow, deeded a 124.94 acre tract, known as “the home place” to Sam Houston State University. In June of that year, the remainder of the Gibbs’ property, 1459.95 acres, was deeded to SHSU by the Sam Houston Foundation. The ranch was then put under the administration of the Department of Agricultural Sciences in replacement of the previous Agriculture Center Farm (current location of Raven Nest Golf Course) and Country Campus, which had been sold to Sam Dominey, along with the entire beef cattle herd.
At the time Gibbs Ranch was acquired, many of the perimeter and interior fences, facilities, and roads were dilapidated or non-serviceable. Hence, some funding was allocated to the department to improve the facilities, purchase breeding cattle, develop a classroom and offices, and renovate publicly accessible areas. During the initial renovation phase, the department made significant enhancements to the property:
- Razed several unsafe or unserviceable structures, re-constructed a USDA swine research facility
- Contracted with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to clear brush and rebuild some of the fences
- Located and purchased two young herds of cows and used capital equipment funds to assist in purchasing equipment and upgrade the facilities
- Renovated pastures using weed and brush control plans developed under the guidance and supervision of agronomy faculty
- Established hay pastures and implemented an aggressive pasture improvement plan involving the integration of legumes, small grains and ryegrass
- Diversified the beef enterprise into commercial, registered Angus, and registered Brangus herds after receiving a generous donation of registered Angus cows from Circle A Ranch in Missouri
To date, the cattle herds are the primary revenue generating enterprises on the ranch with supplemental income generated from goat sales, grazing leases, and timber sales.
Under the management of the Agricultural and Industrial Sciences Department, Sam Houston State University’s Gibbs Ranch has remained financially solvent while serving as a teaching and research facility for our faculty and students as well as a demonstration farm for continuing education programs sponsored by the Texas Cooperative Extension Service. Although renovations of Gibbs Ranch have been ongoing over the past 12 years, progress has been slow due to rising costs, the extensive project scope, and negligible revenue available for capital improvements.
Through private and public financial support, the department has established a number of goals aimed at making Gibbs Ranch into one of the premier agricultural teaching and research facilities in the U.S. Plans are currently underway to construct a variety of laboratory instructional units on the property.