DIEHL FARMS EVENTS: Farming, Ranching, Quarter Horses Amid an Unbelievable Setting
An Unmatched Texas-Style Special Event Venue
By Jim Frankowiak
If you’re looking for a venue that blends farming and ranching with a real western atmosphere, Frank and Ora Diehl have the setting you simply won’t believe for your next event whether it’s a wedding, anniversary, birthday or special gathering.
Diehl Farms Events is not the result of a long term plan, but the culmination of a very successful tomato farming operation, a love for cutting horses that led to the establishment of Dunn Diehl Farms with locations at Wimauma and Texas and a granddaughter who asked about using the Wimama facility for her wedding four years ago.
Add to that Ora and Sister-in-law Patti Holloway’s love for “creative, crafty things and the opportunity to be part of someone‘s special day” and you have the ingredients for a truly unique venue and the ‘fixins” for a special event. “All we ask is that you bring your imagination,” said Ora.
It all began 40 years ago when Frank began farming in south Hillsborough County with his friend Doug Carter. His first crops were watermelons and squash, followed by some truck farming.
He planted his first tomato crop in the early 80s and he was successful. Frank now owns 1,600-acres where he continues his tomato operation that’s bolstered by leased lands. He also owns a successful tomato packing house which began operations in 1984.
Originally from Erie, Pennsylvania, Frank moved from the north to Florida at a very early age. While growing up he joined FFA and participated in many of these activities available to members at Manatee High School.
“I raised and showed steers at the Manatee County Fair," he said. His grandfather, Earl Gordon, was heavily involved in the development of the Homestead rodeo grounds and posse and that may explain Frank’s interest in horses, which manifest itself in later years. However, it was his sole decision to become involved in farming in the south county area.
Ora, who hails from the Parrish area, and Frank were married in 1991. It was the second marriage for both. Three of their sons are involved in the family businesses.
J. Cody and Doug work in the tomato operation, while Curry is a trainer with Dunn Diehl Farms. While courting in the late 80s, they attended the Florida State Fair and took in a cutting horse show at the fairgrounds.
“We were hooked,” he said. “Our first quarter horse was Dixie Darlin,” noted Ora. “She was buckskin color and with us until she was 34.”
Frank and Ora got into cutting and Curry did too along with lessons in other disciplines. That grew into competitions both in and out of Florida and ultimately led to the establishment of Dunn Diehl Farms with ranches in Wimauma and Millsap, Texas where the Diehl’s breed, raise and train quarter horses for participating in cutting events.
Millsap is located west of Fort Worth and that’s the genesis for the genuine western feel that’s been “bred” into Diehl Farms Events’ Wimauma venue.
Cutting is an equestrian event in the western riding style where a horse and rider are judged on their ability to separate a cow from a cattle herd and keep it away for a short period of time. A cutting horse is an athletic and willing animal that possesses an innate “cow sense” and ability to respond quickly and turn sharply to keep a cow from returning to the herd. The horses involved are typically American Quarter Horses.
In the event, the horse and rider select and separate a cow (typically a steer or heifer) out of a small group. The cow then tries to return to its herd, the rider loosens the reins and leaves it entirely to the horse to keep the cow separated, a task the best horses do with style and savvy.
“The young horses are raised here and then move on to Texas for further training,” said Ora. There are anywhere from 25 – 30 horses at the ranch at any given time plus cattle used to help train them. Those cattle are special, too, and they come from Texas or local markets.
Ira and Doris Davis were our first trainers and taught us a lot about how cattle tick. They were instrumental into teaching us the cutting game and how to read cattle. Since our first cutting lesson to today, we love this sport because you get to be around both, cattle and horses.
“They help train our horses and help hone the skills they need to excel.” The Diehl’s quarter horse stud DealNWithACoolCat is standing in Texas and his offspring are building an impressive and growing record in the cutting world. Son Curry is a full-time trainer with Dunn Diehl Farms, spending time at both locations.
Dunn Diehl Farms in Wimauma, which is also home to Diehl Farms Events, was built seven years ago and has six offices and eight suites. “We have visitors from out of the area and state who come to us to look and possibly buy our horses,” said Frank.
“Their entertainment lodging and comfort while visiting with us was what we addressed in the design of this facility,” said Frank. The three-story building with elevator comprises 10,000+ square feet and also offers a covered arena, cantina and stables. The Wimauma facility has hosted competitions this past Spring. We train young colts here and are set up to train at this location.
The multi-story structure functions as a farming/ranching office, bed and breakfast and Western decorated home. From the moment you drive up to the ranch to the time you spend walking through its elegant, multi-story interior it all says Texas with elegance from the color palette inside and out to the furniture and décor.
And that’s what got Frank and Ora’s granddaughter Deana Diehl Sparks to ask if she could have her wedding there. They said “yes” and that set the wheels in motion for Diehl Farms Events. “After hosting our granddaughter’s wedding at the ranch, we decided to share our facility with the public,” said Ora. But there’s more.
The Diehl-Sparks’ wedding introduced the Diehl’s to Olympia Catering & Events in Tampa, a third generation, Diaz family-owned business that has been in business since the early 1920s. Services range from staffed events with custom menus, on-site cooking, rental and décor options to a delivery service with an extensive, competitively-priced menu. Olympia is the exclusive caterer for the Museum of fine Arts in St. Petersburg and also operates the museum’s MFA Café, its in-house restaurant.
Olympia Catering is the exclusive on-site caterer for Diehl Farms Events, working closely with the Diehl Farms’ staff to “ensure your event is executed with perfection.”
“Our wish is to fulfill your dream event,” said Ora. “Our best kept secret is that no two events can be the same. Your vision as to the perfect experience is our mission. Your dreams ae our blueprint, and we are pleased to be part of someone’s special day.”
Since the Diehl’s decided to make their special facility available to the public, there have been a number of weddings, birthday parties, retirement events and others.
“Groups have ranged in size from 30 to about 1,000,” said Holloway, who oversees finances for the various Diehl operations, as well as serving as the primary liaison for groups and individuals seeking to plan and have an event at the facility.
“Though we have a very special place for hosting events, we work with the available budget of our clientele,” she said.
“Wedding groups have often taken advantage of our lodging either for the main wedding party or out of town guests,” noted Holloway. “Once they arrive, there is no need for them to leave, we have everything here they need.”
The Diehl Farms Events venue is available year round. “Late summer can be challenging from a heat and humidity standpoint,” said Holloway. “But the design of our facility is such that we experience continuous breezes and we augment that with fans in our covered arena.”