Tehama County CattleWomen Educate, Engage and Encourage
By Melissa Gulden
Beyond the Beef
By Melissa Gulden
Photo by Alexis LeClair
In 1953, the Tehama County CowBelles burst onto the scene – 74 women who were interested in promoting the beef industry. Now, nearly 70 years later, the Tehama County CattleWomen continue to raise awareness about beef and agriculture.
According to Beth Chaney, site coordinator and a member since 1980, the Tehama County CattleWomen Association’s primary purpose is to help promote beef as a valid industry. Chaney says that in the ‘50s, when the Cattlemen were busy and off doing things, the women, who tended to be very social, wanted to help promote their product and have some fun. The CowBelles were the official auxiliary of the Cattlemen’s Association, helping the Tehama County Cattlemen promote the welfare of the livestock industry. Today, the unit is made up of ladies interested in the promotion of beef and the cattle industry, not unlike so many years ago. They have the same goals as in 1953, but the organization has expanded into community events and helping kids in school.
According to their creed, the CattleWomen believe the livestock industry is of basic importance to world existence, and they dedicate themselves to support and encourage it, while they instill in future generations a love of the land and life. They focus on three main categories in terms of service: Beef promotion and education, community engagement and fundraising, and social activities.
The CattleWomen hold three main fundraisers each year: the Annual Winter Dinner and Ag Scholarship Fundraiser with the Tehama County Cattlemen, the Red Bluff Beef ‘n Brew in Downtown Red Bluff, and the Garden Party and Fashion Show, where they honor the “CowBelle of the Year.”
The CattleWomen also attend many community events to promote beef, including the Dairyville Orchard Festival, Tehama District Fair, Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale, the Red Bluff Round Up Mixer, the Gold Country Cutting Horse Association event and the Corning Olive Festival. They also hold trail rides, sortings and help at all Tehama County Cattlemen Association events.
Each year in the spring around Earth Day, the CattleWomen visit Tehama County kindergarten through fourth-grade classrooms to talk to students about the cattle industry. It is a key part of beef education for their membership. Students watch a video about life as a ranch child and learn about the three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle. Cows eat what big ranches reuse, such as almond hulls and sugar beet pulp. According to Chaney, cattle are natural gardeners – they transfer seeds on their feet and spread them through their manure. Cows are sort of like superheroes, she says: “They can eat whatever and turn it into a T-bone steak. They’re pretty efficient animals.”
In addition to Ag in the Classroom, the CattleWomen are also proud of their scholarship program. Every year, the Association awards around $15,000 to two students who have completed one year of college: an ag major and a non-ag major from agriculture families. The CattleWomen recently started a vocational scholarship, as well. After all, Chaney says, “We need welders and electricians. These careers are vital to the industry, so we started the vocational scholarship for a non-college student.” Tehama County students are eligible for the scholarship as long as they come from an ag household.
“We are very proud of the events we do,” says Chaney. “It’s all about education. We need to educate our youth. Even today, many kids don’t know where food comes from. Just agriculture in general – they get a lot of misinformation. We have a really supportive community to help us raise our funds. We are really lucky.”
The CattleWomen, part of the Chamber of Commerce, hold monthly meetings, as well as state meetings and a state convention. “I love helping out,” says Chaney. “We’re promoting our product and doing things for our community.”