Cowbelles connect locals to their food.
WRITTEN BY JEANNE LAUF WALPOLE
PHOTO BY CANDICE NYANDO
Although she was raised in an urban environment in Carson City, Ruth Olsen embraced Nevada’s rural agricultural lifestyle at an early age.
“I was in 4-H as a kid,” she says. “I even met my husband at 4-H camp.”
Befitting their 4-H backgrounds, Ruth and her husband, Pete, along with their children and their families, have been full-time dairy farmers in Fallon for a number of years. The Olsens are typical of many farming and ranching families that pass the tradition down from generation to generation.
As a successful dairy farmer for about 40 years, Olsen also has been a dedicated member of the Churchill County Cowbelles, a more than four decades old group whose mission is to support the beef industry. She says she has especially enjoyed going into local schools to educate young people about agriculture through the group’s Ag in the Schools program.
“We need to promote this because the kids don’t know where their food comes from,” she says. “Some of them thought that lamb came from pigs.”
Today, Kathy Lofthouse, the Cowbelles’ president, and her husband, Lonnie, supplement their income by raising alfalfa on land near Fallon that has been in their family for several generations.
“I grew up with farming and ranching in my background,” Lofthouse says.
Lofthouse says she joined the Cowbelles because of her emotional attachment to the beef industry and her desire to better inform people about the role agriculture plays in our lives. She also believes it’s important to encourage young people to go into the beef industry.
“People are getting so far removed from the food source that they don’t know what’s involved,” she explains. “We’re finding that we need to have more information out there and to paint the picture bigger because people know less, and they’re just running to the store.”
With about 34 members, the Cowbelles support agricultural activities throughout the year with monetary donations and volunteer help. They award high school scholarships, select a teacher of the year, and also honor a junior cattleman of the year. They provide funding for 4-H groups, the Fallon High School Rodeo Club, and the Children’s Discovery Room at the Churchill County Museum. They also roll up their sleeves for their major fundraiser, the Fallon Bull Sale Dinner & Dance, in mid-February.
Membership in the group is open to any woman who is interested in promoting agriculture and the beef industry. For details, call Kathy Lofthouse at 775-426-8546.
A former resident of Fallon, Jeanne Lauf Walpole is well acquainted with the important contributions the Churchill County Cowbelles have made to the community over the years.