Todd Inglee, who lives in the suburbs west of Denver, brings an unusual background to his new role as president of the Colorado Cattlemen's Association, including years spent working as a professional communicator and interacting with urban consumers on a daily basis.
Todd Inglee, who lives in the suburbs west of Denver, brings an unusual background to his new role as president of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, including years spent working as a professional communicator and interacting with urban consumers on a daily basis.
Inglee is serving as CCA president during a historic year for the group. In addition to celebrating its milestone 150th anniversary, the association is also taking some fairly radical steps to refresh and modernize its membership structure and activities.
“Over the 23 years I’ve been involved, the industry has changed, and the technology is different now too,” Inglee said. “A lot of the issues are the same, but there are some neat opportunities now that we didn’t have before.”
Following an extensive strategic review process, CCA plans to decentralize by holding more local and regional events, enact greater use of distance communication technology like webinars and build on a partnership with Colorado State University to foster next-generation leaders and offer more professional development opportunities.
Inglee appears to be the right person at the right time to lead the charge. He is the first CCA president to have previously held a staff position with the organization and has also been involved in many facets of the industry as an employee, business partner and natural resource manager.
“I’ve lived my whole life with one foot in town and one foot up in the mountains,” he explained. “Over the last seven years or so, I’ve taken over the management of my family’s ranch west of Evergreen, so I’m doing that full-time now, and running my own branded beef business.”
Inglee grew up in Golden, Colorado, where his father operated a property management company. Back in the late 1950s, his parents started piecing together a small hay and stocker ranch up in the mountains west of town.
“Over time they had enough property to background calves up there during the summertime,” Inglee recalled. “I think that’s when I fell in love with agriculture.”
While attending college at CSU, he was part of the Farmhouse fraternity and active in the Ag Council and similar clubs. “That was my world, being with those people,” he said.
After obtaining a degree in speech communication and broadcast journalism, he went to work for CCA as their membership and staff communications director, which included editing the magazine and doing some lobbying work at the capitol. From there, he moved on to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, where he assisted with NCBA’s Cattlemen to Cattlemen television program among other projects. In the ensuing years, he also worked for eMerge Interactive and Colorado Serum, an animal health company.
Along the way, he built a strong network of friends and colleagues. One partnership in particular stands out.
He credits Harold Yoder, of Karval, with pulling him off the sidelines and giving him a bigger stake in the industry he so admired.
“One day Harold sat me down and said, ‘Todd, if you want to stay in this industry, you need to have a little skin in the game. I’m working on a deal with a partner of mine, and if we can get some cows that we could own together, would you be interested?’ At the time my wife (Kim) and I didn’t have the opportunity to do anything like that at our place, so I jumped at the chance,” Inglee recalled.
He has been partnering with Yoder on various business enterprises ever since.
When it came time for Inglee to leave the corporate world and strike out on his own, he was already following several big trends that seemed to be converging.
“There was a growing interest by consumers to know more about their product,” he recalled. “The packers were trying to add value with prepared products and trying to make their product more convenient in response to what consumers wanted. A lot of packers started putting their name on the product.”
Inglee would routinely process one of his own steers for his family, but soon that grew to include extended family, then friends, then a widening circle of contacts at church and the school his three children attend.
“We had a chef come in to talk to CCA, and the light bulb went off in my head,” he recalled. “We’d had a couple of bad years of selling through auction barns, and I started thinking about how I could capture more value for my cattle.”
At that point, Inglee began “chasing his dream,” as he calls it, or more specifically, direct marketing his own beef. Establishing Ralston Valley Beef set him on a journey that has been extremely challenging but also rewarding.
“We’re in our eighth year with this and still learning,” he said. “I am more intimidated now than I was when I started. It’s been a difficult nut to crack.”
All of the cattle that go into his program are sourced through his partnership with Yoder, which involves buying Longhorn-cross calves from other ranches across southeastern Colorado.
“I’ve been teased about how big they don’t get, but it fits with what my consumers like,” Inglee said. “They grade mid-to-upper choice, and you don’t end up with 17-inch rib-eyes.”
Inglee started out selling everything as quarters, halves and wholes, but eventually switched to having the carcasses broken down into smaller packages at a USDA-inspected facility — Innovation Foods at Evans, Colorado — which also allows him to sell commercially to retail markets and restaurants.
Small chef-owned restaurants like Block and Larder and Freshcraft, both in Denver, have become some of his best customers. “Chefs are artists. They love to do different things with unusual cuts,” he said.
As the rare cowboy in a mostly urban setting, Inglee is a source of fascination among friends, neighbors and business associates and constantly fields questions.
“Generating relationships, that’s what my business boils down to,” he said.
Inglee will serve out his term in the shadow of more than 20 past CCA presidents he has observed in action since he first got involved with the group years ago.
“Each one had a different personality, with different strengths and weaknesses, but over the course of the year, there was always at least one area where they would really shine,” he said. “I witnessed how each of them brought a unique little twist to their place in history.”
Inevitably that has led Inglee to reflect on the legacy he will leave behind when his own term expires.
“Since I find myself in that unique place of having one foot in town — living on the outskirts of Arvada — and one foot in the country, I’m hoping that maybe what I can bring to the association is a connection with, and understanding of, the urban-rural interface,” he said.