Cattlewoman Nancy Mucklow is clear about the mission of her organization.
"We champion this because it's our lifestyle and it's our industry," Mucklow said.
That's why about 60 women in Routt County take time out of their busy weeks many raising families, working in town and helping out on the ranch that they live on to promote the beef industry and agriculture in general with the Routt County CattleWomen.
The group sets up information booths at public events to tout beef and agriculture, organizes fund-raisers and gives out $5,000 to $8,000 worth of college scholarships to local high school graduates with an agricultural background, Mucklow said.
Most recently, the group organized the Boot Scootin' Branding Ball March 3.
The dance was meant to bring back the old local tradition of the family dances, where locals of all ages stomp their boots and dance into the evening.
It was also a time to honor the Routt County Cattlewomen's best 2000 member and best new member, the Cattlewoman of the Year and the Rookie of the Year.
This year, two women with strong Yampa Valley agricultural ties were honored. Laurie Hallenbeck received the Cattlewoman of the Year and Adonna Allen picked up the Rookie of the Year award.
Hallenbeck has been with the Cattlewomen for nine years and was raised in south Routt County. She said she was surprised and humbled to receive the award.
Her agricultural roots run deep in Routt County. Her great grandfather was the original owner of Casey's Pond and ranched in the Stagecoach area and in Pleasant Valley, on the land where Lake Catamount is today.
Today, she and her husband, Dennis, own and operate a ranch near Hayden. They run cattle and lambs and grow hay. Like many modern ranching families, the couple works jobs off the ranch to support their lifestyle, while raising their two children.
For the Cattlewomen, Laurie Hallenbeck passionately heads the scholarship committee.
"The scholarships are important," she said. "Those kids have got to go to school. Only a handful of them will be able to come back to ranch."
Hallenbeck said she is concerned about the thousands of acres of agricultural land that go out of production every year. The result is children that are raised in agricultural settings and learn it as a trade may not have the chance to use those skills.
"It's real sad when kids can't go back to their agricultural roots," Hallenbeck said.
Along with supplying students with scholarships to help give them options, Hallenbeck also said she is a big believer in educating children and adults about the importance of agriculture to the community in hopes to help preserve it.
"I've seen kids who think that their milk just comes from cartoons, not a cow," she said.
Among many of the activities that she participates in, Hallenbeck goes into schools to talk about agriculture with local children, participates in ranching tours for the public and attends an annual Cattlewomen's meeting with the Colorado State Legislature to put the word from the agricultural world in the ear of state officials.
This kind of proactive work is what drew Adonna Allen to join the Cattlewomen in August 1999.
"This is not an organization that you just meet once a month to have coffee together," Allen said. "The best part about the Cattlewomen is that it's such an active group."
Allen said she enjoys the hard work, which is what earned her the Rookie of the Year honor.
The rookie's ag roots also run deep in the Yampa Valley. Her great-grandfather homesteaded the Rocking C-Bar Ranch west of Steamboat Springs. The ranch, where Allen and her husband, Troy, live today, is still in the family. It's owned and operated by her grandpa Raymond Gray and her parents, Don and Marsha Daughenbaugh.
Allen, who was born and raised in the valley, went to college at the University of Wyoming, in Laramie, where she met Troy. The two then moved to Cody, Wyo., and then moved to Steamboat in the summer of 1999.
She joined the Cattlewomen right when she got back and volunteered to be the editor of the Cattlewomen's monthly newsletter. But Allen now is setting her sights on a new goal with the Cattlewomen. She and a fellow member are working to put up a sign on each end of Steamboat Springs to show the importance of agricultural here.
"To let people know that we are a community, we have agricultural roots and it's not just skiing here," she said. "The open spaces here are from the farmers' and ranchers' hard work."
If all works out, Allen said she hopes to have the signs up by fall.
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