Tulare County CattleWomen Educate, Engage and EncourageMar 25, 2020 04:06PM ● By Melissa Mendonca
Beyond the Beef
By Melissa Mendonca
Photo courtesy of the Tulare CattleWomen
The long, rich history of cattle ranching has been championed by the Tulare County CattleWomen since 1949. A combination of ranchers and advocates, the group reveres the history and traditions of the industry while changing with the times to assure it stays relevant to a modern world.
“You don’t have to have cattle to support,” says Judie Church, a fourth-year president of the organization. “It’s all about education. We try to educate, inform. We take care of the land. We take care of the animals. We want to promote agriculture and ranching. We enjoy the lifestyle.”
The message of the CattleWomen is clear, but it competes in a fast-paced world where people are bombarded with information from an array of sources. Rather than bemoan the difficulty, the group has changed with the times and developed innovative ways to reach their target audience: children.
“We’re trying to reach kids because they are so far removed from agriculture these days,” says Church. “We’re always working on an educational project.”
The most recent is the newest exhibit at ImagineU Children’s Museum in Visalia titled Cattle Country. “Everything had to be very top-notch, very durable,” she adds. “It’s all going to be very hands-on. It gives them an idea of what it’s like to be a rancher, a cowboy.” The exhibit is designed to last at least 15 years and shares the message through play, movement and interactivity.
Knowing that children are often in front of screens, the CattleWomen also created a web-based computer application called Wow! That Cow! (www.wowthatcow.com). The site features games and interactive text that follows a cowgirl named Sara and a cowboy named Chris through their adventures in the beef industry. It teaches about beef nutrition and by-products, as well as day-to-day life on a cattle ranch. The endeavor has been supported by groups of CattleWomen and Cattlemen throughout the state, as well as the Beef Council, for its potential to reach large numbers of children. The website is loaded in computer kiosks at the Agventures Museum at the International Agri-Center in Tulare.
“Little did we know what it would take, how expensive it is, how much time it would take,” says Church with a chuckle as she describes the process of developing the site, which started as a smartphone application and morphed into a website. But when she and other CattleWomen noticed people engaging with phone applications throughout their experience at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas one year, they knew they needed to use the technology for their own messages. “Sometimes we think bigger than our brains,” she says with a laugh. “But it’s been fun to go all the way through the process.”
While Church says the CattleWomen strive to be “as technologically forward” in their educational endeavors as possible, they also don’t leave out the basics. If you want people to eat beef, you have to make sure they know how to cook it properly. The Beef in the Classroom program targets culinary arts programs in high schools across Tulare County and provides them with about $300 worth of beef to create popular recipes, such as pot roast and carne asada. “If you don’t know how to cook something, you’re not going to eat it,” says Church. “We’re pretty proud of that program because it really educates older kids.”
Church’s own education began as a child. “I’ve always been in agriculture through FFA, 4-H, raising animals,” she says of her upbringing in Calaveras County. It was a good friend who invited her to join the group about 20 years ago. While her family runs commercial cattle in Strathmore, she says it was the “common goal, common purpose” that persuaded her to join the CattleWomen.
While the group has never shied away from large, complex educational projects, Church says with a laugh, “maybe we’ll do something a little smaller scale” when looking towards the future.
She reflects on the long history of the organization and the women that came before the current members. “All the things the ladies did without technology was pretty amazing.”
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