Iconic cattleman, entrepreneur and philanthropist Harvey Dietrich passed away on December 24, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona due to Covid -19 . Harvey was born on November 16, 1934 to Simon and Anne Dietrich in Boston, Massachusetts. The family lived in Boston until Harvey was eight years old. Simon’s health problems drove the family West, first to Phoenix and then to Los Angeles.
Simon was involved in the meat business in Boston and that is where he found work in L.A. By the time he was 15, Harvey was in the meat business too as a self-professed city kid in his first summer job. His employer’s son picked him up at 3 a.m. for a 13-hour work day at a packing plant. After finishing high school Harvey went to Pierce Agriculture College. During this time, Harvey worked for Globe Meat Packing owned by Victor Katz and the Krassen Brothers. Lou Krassen quickly saw Harvey’s potential, and started taking him on buying trips. Soon after that Harvey got his first full time job as a cattle buyer with Bernie Fineman, an independent Los Angeles meat packer.
In 1959 Harvey moved to Phoenix to replace a noted Jewish cowboy who bought cattle in Arizona for the company he worked for. That was when Harvey began making enough money to start his own side businesses, including owning cattle and launching Sun Land Beef Co.
During his 15 years with Sun Land, Harvey put together the Ralph’s California Grown Beef Program, the first ever program of its’ kind. When customers complained about toughness of the beef, Sun Land hired scientists to study cows and feed. That led to a change in the cattle being used and Holsteins came on the scene as a beef breed, which changed the whole beef industry.
Over the years Harvey created Cholla Livestock, and ran his cattle operation on his acquired Diamond A Ranch, largest ranch in Arizona, stretching more than 750,000 acres from Seligman to the north edge of the Grand Canyon.
Harvey was dubbed with several monikers during his lifetime ranging from Hard Hearted Harvey when he was a cattle buyer to Arizona’s Last Jewish Cowboy in a 2012 article. But the best was just plain Harvey. Everyone in the cattle business knew exactly who you were talking about.
There were also those Harveyisms, perhaps the best one was, “Always have a Plan A, B, C, and D. D is, don’t run out of money.”
Over the years Harvey was honored in many ways, including being inducted in to the Arizona National Livestock Show’s Pioneer Hall of Fame. In 2015 he received the coveted Chester A. Reynolds Award from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Some of the criteria for the award included honesty, humility, integrity, and unwavering commitment to Western ideals and values.
Making the award even more special was the presentation by long-time friend Gerald Timmerman. Gerald noted that Harvey was the kind of man who did business on his word. A rare breed in today’s world.
Harvey was never afraid to take on any challenge and believed in always doing what was right. He led the charge to educate the beef industry and the consuming public about the dangers of ractopamine, a controversial livestock feed additive that is banned in many nations around the world. As Harvey was quoted, “I am in the meat business, not the chemical business.”
In 2019 Harvey was appointed to the Arizona Beef Council by Governor Doug Ducey.
One thing kept under his cowboy hat, a little known side to Harvey and his wife Marnie. They were tremendous philanthropists. One of their most cherished honors was from the Arizona Jewish Historical Society. In receiving that award Harvey made a statement that defined him and his life’s work. The couple also were strong supporters of the Jewish National Fund, the Jewish community and many hospitals.
“The most important thing for me and the way I look at things is what you leave in people hearts and the quality of life if you have that opportunity to change people’s lives is extremely important.”
Harvey is survived by his wife Marnie, Phoenix; and his son and daughter, Steven and Lisa. A memorial service for Harvey will be held at a time in the future when it is safe for people to gather.