Please note: this is republished from my column in the Gunnison Country Times.
The CattleWomen have been an integral part of Gunnison ranching for many years. A local group of ranch women in 1951 started planning ways to help their husbands with the business. They were chartered as the Gunnison Valley CowBelles in May of 1951. They came together to promote beef and handle more of the public relationships side of ranching. They organized with the following mission statement: to promote and encourage the cooperation of all those women interested in the welfare and improvement of the cattle industry. The original charter organization was thirty members and included many Gunnison legends including Sue Field, Agnes Redden, Dora Mae Trampe, Marian Hicks, and many more. The first president of the CowBelle’s was Sue Field, and she helped the group of women start out strong. Sue also helped Grand County organized their CowBelle organization. The Gunnison Cowbelle’s held essay contests, sold beef promotional bumper stickers, hosted the Haymakers Ball, hosted picnics, fought for ranchers’ rights in the legislation, and helped with the National Western Stock Show.
The CowBelles then disbanded in 1959 and were later reorganized in March of 1966 when a new curiosity spread through the community. The first president of the newly revived CowBelle’s was Polly Spann. When the CowBelle’s were first organized, the membership was limited to women who were ranch owners, but the reorganization changed that. The reorganization allowed any women who was actively interested in promoting the cattle industry – this allows them to have members from many occupations. This still rings true today, and they always welcome new members.
In March of 1987 the CowBelle’s changed their name to the Gunnison Valley CattleWomen. The membership decided that the name change better described their interests of the group. The group of women exist to educate the public and promote beef consumption as part of a healthy lifestyle. With this is mind, the CattleWomen today, with current president, Melody Roper, host a variety of activities – many of which you may already be familiar with.
The Small Animal Show is famous in this valley, especially among kids. The CattleWomen bring preschoolers to first grade students to tour through animal exhibits to learn more about those animals and the role the play in the ranch – and of course, pet them. AgVenture Day caters to an older age group – 2nd – 5th graders tour educational stations that explore agriculture, western heritage, and local history. The CattleWomen also host the annual Christmas Beef Promotion, which some of you may have seen around town. The local grocers hold drawings, and the cattlewomen give a basket of meat cuts to the winner. The group also gives a donation of beef to the food pantry every year, to help those experiencing food insecurity by providing quality, nutritious beef, especially around the holidays. The CattleWomen also helps the community by providing a scholarship to graduating seniors.
The CattleWomen are a crucial part of the valley’s ranching heritage. They might have changed their name, but they are still as essential for ranching and beef promotion as they were in the 1950’s.