Cattlemen from around the state traveled to the Western Slope earlier this week to celebrate a landmark event, the 150th anniversary convention of the Colorado Cattlemen's Association.
Cattlemen from around the state traveled to the Western Slope earlier this week to celebrate a landmark event, the 150th anniversary convention of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association.
The group holds the distinction of being the oldest cattlemen’s organization in the country, formed in 1867, when Jesse James was robbing banks and the light bulb was still just a glint in Thomas Edison’s eye.
During three full days of meetings, members discussed the latest in production technology, marketing and policy, but also took time to pay tribute to a colorful and storied past.
CCA president Tim Lehmann said he felt honored to return to his hometown of Grand Junction to serve out his term on behalf of an industry that welcomed him with open arms as a young college kid still figuring out what he wanted to do in life.
“I did not grow up in the business. My wife Michelle’s family had the business,” he recounted. “She brought me home to meet her family, and I stayed, and she went back and finished school.”
Lehmann credited his father-in-law with quietly and patiently teaching him the ropes on the historic spread near Powderhorn, south of Gunnison, where the couple has lived and raised their family in the years since.
“I just fell in love with it,” Lehmann said. “That was 26 years ago now. So to be here presiding over the 150th convention of this organization means a lot to me.”
The importance of mentorships to advance the legacy of the cattle industry was a prominent theme throughout the convention, with many multi-generational ranch families in attendance for business meetings, area tours and a special block party.
Before the convention was out, Tim Lehmann passed the president’s gavel to Todd Inglee, of Arvada, who also expressed appreciation for longtime members who helped pave the way.
Inglee owns Ralston Valley Beef, a branded beef company and runs cattle on his family’s small ranch near Evergreen. He feeds out the calves at a feedlot operated by Harold Yoder of Karval, who has been a mentor to him.
“It’s been critical to the life I have today,” Inglee said.
During the morning’s general session, past president Tom Compton, of Hesperus, remembered back to the time an older member took him under his wing by inviting him to the Dairy Queen in Walsenburg for ice cream.
“He made me feel welcome, and he made me feel valued,” he said. “If you see a young member standing around, give them a little help, a little leg up so they can get in the saddle and get going.”
He expressed enthusiasm at seeing so many young people in the audience. “It warms my heart to see that,” he said.
One of those young faces belonged to Tim Lehmann’s son Wyatt, who now attends West Texas A&M University.
Wyatt said pride in the family’s agricultural history was something he and his sister Jessica inherited and are carrying into the fifth generation on the ranch.
“I’m very proud to be a part of it,” he said.
The cattle industry’s determination to tackle tough topics like sustainability while continually striving for self-improvement made a strong impression on him.
“If we’re not trying to better ourselves and stay relevant, it’s just going to become increasingly difficult to produce a product,” he said.
He also reflected back on the three young people who perished in the Texas panhandle this spring while trying to save their stock from a deadly wildfire.
That example of concern, dedication and self-sacrifice is something the general public rarely has a chance to see, he said, but it is part of ranching’s rich heritage.
“It was so inspiring to see how everybody came together after the fires. Within the agriculture industry, that’s just something you can count on,” he said.