story and photos by Bryan Painter
OKARCHE – What is it that for decades has made a child’s ear or nose itch so bad right when a sale barn auctioneer kicks into gear?
Meg Stangl’s father John Murphy, well aware of this mysterious power, had a rule when he took one or more his children to the sale.
“Dad always told us to sit on our hands,” Meg remembers more than 45 years later. “He didn’t want us to look like we were bidding.”
Stangl, who was raised on the Murphy Ranch in the tallgrass prairie up in the Osage, lives in Kingfisher County near Okarche where she and husband Greg Stangl have a wheat farm, with an emphasis on stocker grazing, along with a starter/grow yard.
The joy and the experiences within some trips is more the journey than the destination. Stangl’s story is a lot like that. What she lived and what she learned along the way is certainly a factor in who she is.
Early in the trip
The ranch Stangl grew up on was established in 1896 by her great-grandfather Frank Murphy, in which the small town of Frankfort (where the ranch was located) was named after. His grandson John Murphy would take over in 1954 and four years later marry Linda. There they would raise four children Suzanne, Francis, Chris and Meg, who was born in 1963. On that cow/calf cow operation – which also included horses and a hundred or so ewes – Stangl learned that hard work was “non-negotiable.”
“Growing up it was just known that we all got up at the same time, had breakfast, and headed outside with Dad,” she said. “I had a chestnut mare named Rosie. She was special as my Granddad had bought her for me. I fondly remember the early mornings saddling up. Those early mornings were good times just visiting and watching the sun come up while heading to the pastures. My favorite times were when we worked the calves. I was in charge of giving the vaccinations and keeping syringes full.”
Then there were the sale days. It wasn’t just going to the sale barn café for burgers, fries and homemade pies that made them special. Those days taught Stangl about not only raising cattle, but taking pride in those cattle.
“Not to brag, but Dad usually did very well with his black baldy calves and the auctioneer always announced that the calves selling were from the Murphy Ranch,” she said.
The children weren’t just observers in raising cattle.
“When I was young, we fed cattle small square bales of hay and 50-pound sacks of cubes that we loaded on the back of a flatbed pickup,” she said. “Daddy would put the truck in first gear and tell one of us kids to head towards a certain tree or fence post. We sat on a vinyl covered wooden box that Mom had made so that we could see over the steering wheel.”
Besides the hands-on work of the ranch, Stangl became active in 4-H, showing sheep, cooking, sewing, judging livestock and taking on leadership roles. That passion for agriculture carried on to Oklahoma State University where she worked at the OSU feed mill learning about animal nutrition and in the Agricultural Economics computer department.
“By my senior year, I knew I wanted a career in the agriculture industry and also be an ambassador for agriculture by volunteering with the youth,” said Stangl, who graduated with an Agricultural Economics degree with an option in Farm and Ranch Management.
After OSU she went to work for Stillwater National Bank where she eventually became a lender of small business and agriculture loans. In 1999, Meg married Greg Stangl and moved herself and her, at that time, two young daughters, to his family farm in Kingfisher County.
“I started my own business of packaging SBA (Small Business Association) and USDA B&I (Business and Industry) loans to be able to have time to be with our girls and help Greg on the farm,” she said. “During this time, I also worked with the OSU Extension IFMAPS (Intensive Financial Management and Planning Support) program, doing farm and ranch plans and budgets for farmers and ranchers.”
In 2012, Stangl’s father passed away, and the ranch was passed to Meg and her siblings, with her brothers actively operating the ranch today.
Part of the journey
“Marrying a farmer was all new to me,” said Stangl, having grown up in a different area of the state on a ranch. “I had to learn a lot.”
Again, it’s part of the journey. This is a journey they have taken with their three daughters, Molly, Amy and Catherine.
This is a journey of taking quarters of land that they own and renting other acres of a Centennial Farm from Greg’s dad, who recently retired. This is a journey of implementing no-till or minimal tilling on much of their land for not only conservation purposes, but to reduce equipment wear and fuel costs. They also have their own feed mill and raise a variety of silage crops during the summer months. They retain ownership of some of their stockers sending them on to feedlots, while others are sold at local markets. They have varied their operation in many ways and continue to evaluate those approaches and look for others if needed.
Staying the course
“As I stated earlier, I knew in college I wanted to be an ambassador of the agriculture industry to the youth,” Stangl said. “I feel it is important that all youth, whether rural or big city, have a general understanding of agriculture. Therefore, when the girls got active in 4-H and FFA, so did I.”
As if there is any time left in her days, Stangl is a member of the Holy Trinity Catholic Church, a member of the Oklahoma CattleWomen, a Meals on Wheels volunteer and a coordinator for the Okarche Girls State Delegates.
In many ways this dedication to the family, to the farm and to the community – whether in business or as a volunteer – traces back to the start of the trip and the belief instilled by her father that hard work was “non-negotiable.”