“We couldn’t have done all this without Texas Farm Credit...They’ve always been there for us.”
A steady stream of loyal customers makes a pilgrimage of sorts to the 76 Cattle Company, in the heart of South Texas ranch country, to buy the Flores family’s cattle. They come for animals that 4-H and FFA members will nurture and exhibit at stock shows. For more than four decades, the operation has relied on Texas Farm Credit for their operating capital. The family relationship goes even deeper.
“My daddy relied on Farm Credit in Laredo way back in the 1940s and ’50s,” says Elda Flores, who introduces herself as “La Patrona del Rancho,” or The Lady Boss of the Ranch.
“She’s a real cowgirl, a good cowgirl,” says her husband, Noe Flores.
Elda and Noe married in 1955, and by 1967 they had built a comfortable ranch-style house on 32 acres. Over the years, their spread grew to 500 acres of rolling ranchland midway between Laredo and Corpus Christi. The beauty and solitude can be intoxicating.
“Once people get used to living on a ranch, they’ll never go back to the city,” says Elda. “Some leave to go work elsewhere, but after they retire, they always come back.”
The Flores family and surrounding neighbors can trace their lands to the 1700s, when the king of Spain doled out huge land grants for European pioneers to settle the area. “I traced our property and ancestry back to at least 1832,” says Juan Flores, Elda and Noe’s oldest child. He and his brother Pete work to keep the 76 Cattle Company thriving.
The family manages the property and cares for 80 cows expected to drop calves in September, timed for show season the following year. After three months of pampering, they are sold by private treaty or direct sale.
The operation began when Juan couldn’t afford to purchase suitable show calves for his children. He decided to start raising calves. Eventually, other parents became interested.
“We decided to name the business the 76 Cattle Company because that was one of my grandfather’s brands,” Juan says. “He never wanted to burn too large of a brand on his cattle. And, ’76 was the year my wife and I got married, so it just felt right.”
Work and education define the Flores family. Patriarch Noe, a Korean War veteran, worked for Trinity Gas Company for 46 years and ranched after hours. Elda stayed near the home, raising their sons, tending cattle, farming watermelons and standing up to any bull that got in her way.
“I’ve never been afraid of these large animals,” she said. “My daddy had a large dairy operation all his life. I was born in the middle of cattle. They were just part of growing up.”
Mary Herrera, senior loan officer at Texas Farm Credit in Hebbronville, says the Flores family exemplifies the backbone of the South Texas ranch economy.
“Family unity is the key element in their lives,” she says. “I admire their work ethic and have very high respect for all the family members.”
Elda, the family matriarch, acknowledges that hard work alone doesn’t guarantee success. “We couldn’t have done all this without Texas Farm Credit in Hebbronville,” she says. “They’ve always been there for us.”