Community Ag Alliance: If you want to get something done, enlist Routt County CattleWomen
Steamboat Springs — One of the county’s longest-running and consistently active nonprofit organizations is Routt County CattleWomen, a deep-rooted agricultural organization that supports the beef industry through education, outreach and marketing.
This volunteer organization promotes the importance of the agricultural industry in our everyday lives and maintains our Western heritage. Early records indicate that Routt County CowBelles was founded in 1955 by Florence Hudspeth, Evelyn Semoten and Hazel Wheeler. While membership consistently has averaged 45 members annually since then, our scope of activities has grown considerably.
The Routt County CattleWomen organization has been ingrained in my family for generations, beginning with my grandmother Alice Gray, who dragged my mother, Marsha, with her to each event, who in turn dragged me along, and now the cycle continues as I drag my daughter with me.
Routt County CattleWomen are involved with no less than 20 events every year — a variety of activities that allow each CattleWoman to choose the ones that she feels particularly passionate about and strive to make a difference.
Some women host beef promotions in the grocery stores. Some women speak to CMC classes about land stewardship and sustainability. Some women educate eighth-grade girls about “Careers in Agriculture” at the annual Girls to Women conference each year.
Others design, stitch and create handmade denim pot holders and brand quilts for sale as fundraisers for our annual scholarship fund. Some women prepare and serve beef samples at the Winter Carnival street events every year. Some women ride horses, gather cattle and drive trucks with trailers for the National Cattledog Championships. Some women travel to speak with our legislators and policymakers about the importance of water and local agriculture to sustaining our food and fiber chain.
In particular, Routt County CattleWomen sponsor, plan and implement Ranch Days each spring. This unique program offers each third-grade child in Routt County an occasion to have classroom and on-the-ranch learning opportunities about the importance of agriculture in our valley.
Ranch Days begin with CattleWomen coming into classrooms to speak to students about why cowboys dress the way they do (do you know four different uses for the handkerchief?), the different names and roles of a beef animal (do you know the difference between a heifer and a steer?) and how a cow is more than hamburger and milk (did you know that 99 percent of each beef animal is used?).
The classroom sessions are followed by full-day ranch visits. Each Routt County locale is an actual working ranch with beef and hay production and, in most cases, is a multigenerational operation that has been in existence for several decades (in fact, three of our ranches are even centurions).
Once on the ranch, the kids get to see how real cowboys (and cowgirls) feed and care for livestock and wildlife as well as operate the corrals, pastures, gates, alleyways, scales and tractors. The ranches often bring a veterinarian, farrier or Division of Wildlife officer on site for the day explain what he does and that it’s more than a job — it’s a way of life.
Routt County CattleWomen has a long history of agricultural outreach in our community and is an active group of women proud of our Western heritage. It’s the same drive that resulted in women founding the organization more than 50 years ago and the one that will keep us going for another 50 years.
Adonna Allen is the 2014 president of Routt County CattleWomen.
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