Steamboat Springs Stepping into the Community Agriculture Alliance's executive director position hasn't been a leisurely walk through a hayfield for Jean Morrow, even though walking through a hayfield is part of the job.
When hired at the alliance in June, Morrow knew the challenges. Along with running the financial side of a nonprofit agency, she also needs to be versed in the agriculture industry from fencing to market issues of livestock or hay and everything in between.
And Morrow helps steer the agency toward its goal of maintaining agriculture as an economically viable industry in the Yampa Valley. That's a daunting task in a place where resort business has taken a toll on the ranching lifestyle in the valley.
But for the bright 28-year-old woman, the challenges are more like opportunities to learn.
"I just like getting out and talking to people," she said. "I'm constantly learning from people."
It's what she wants to be learning, too.
"I wouldn't have applied for it if it wasn't something important to me," she said.
Morrow became a friendly, familiar face in the community while working in Routt County's Agriculture Extension office for three years. She met many local families in agriculture and was introduced to some of the realities of the culture and business of modern ranch life.
"That was huge," she said. "I loved that job. I loved the office and I loved the work. It's got me to where I am today."
Morrow credits Extension Agent C.J. Mucklow as being a big part of her learning.
"He's one of those directors that wants you to develop your skills and develop what you want to do," Morrow said.
Morrow wanted to learn as much about agriculture as she could. So it's not surprising to hear that some of Morrow's first memories come from living on a farm in Tyler, Texas. Her great-grandparents on her father's side were the first to farm roses in that rural area of Texas, which today is full of orchards and rose farms.
Morrow's parents didn't work on the farm but built a home just two miles down from the original farmhouse her great-grandfather built. Her great-uncle still lives in the old farmhouse.
Living in the country isn't conducive to a big social life for a child, so Morrow's childhood memories are mainly of exploring the world with her younger brother, Eric.
"Eric and I would tromp around the pine trees and tromp through the fields," she said.
They tried to dig to China in their sandbox and had contests of how high they could fly on an old tree swing.
But her time in the country was limited. Morrow's parents moved to Waco when she was in junior high school, but rural life always stuck with her.
Another main reason for that is Grandpa Clarence Boysen on her mother's side of the family.
"He was the hunting bug," she said.
Grandpa Boysen loved nature and animals, and that rubbed off on Morrow.
"He doesn't say very much, but when he does, I remember it," she said.
He lives in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
"Sitting on his front porch in the morning and watching the birds come in, I wouldn't trade it," she said.
After graduating from high school in 1992, Morrow enrolled at Colorado State University. In school, she managed to pursue two of her passions: writing and animal science. She studied journalism and took animal science elective courses.
Upon graduating college in 1996, Morrow worked for a publishing company in Denver, commuting from Fort Collins. It inevitably led her to have to make a life decision.
"I love the culture and the diversity of Denver, but it just didn't feel right," she said.
After spending time with friends in Steamboat Springs, Morrow decided it was time to throw caution to the wind and move to the Yampa Valley.
"It was kind of typical. I got stuck in a snowstorm. My friends said, 'If you love it here, why don't you move here?'" she said.
It was 1997, and Morrow headed to Steamboat and got a job with Parks and Recreation when she came to town.
A couple of years later, she was hired at the Extension Office.
Today, Morrow rents a home on a working ranch with her dog, Calamity, and two cats, Kersey and Belle.
Morrow also writes poetry and children's books. She recently completed a book she hopes to get published.
"Writing is just something that I've always done," she said. "In a lot of different ways, I really can't express myself. It's a release for me."