AgNext at Colorado State University is celebrating Women’s History Month and the vital role that women play in agriculture both past and present. Many women have led throughout Colorado’s rich agricultural history, our team is excited to continue that work and stand on the shoulders of some of the most incredible agriculturists in history. There are many women making history today in Colorado agriculture, including those who belong to our research team and Industry Innovation Group. We are grateful for the opportunity to share the stories of such accomplished leaders such as Dr. Kim Stackhouse-Lawson, director of AgNext and rancher and CSU Alum Robbie LeValley, CFO of Levalley Ranches in honor of Women’s history month this year.
Even from an early age Dr. Kim Stackhouse-Lawson had a passion for agriculture. Her parents worked as foresters, but she did not get her start in livestock production until the age of eight, when she saw her first sheep at a county fair.
“I joined 4-H and got my first lamb, an ewe named Dolly. By the time I was 11, I had 200 sheep and had forced my parents to move to a 460-acre property to support my sheep habit,” Stackhouse-Lawson recalled with a laugh.
She grew this dedication to animal agriculture into adulthood, where she studied the topic in college. After receiving her Ph.D. from University of California, Davis, Dr. Stackhouse-Lawson directed sustainability programs at major production companies such as National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and JBS USA. She now works at Colorado State University as a Professor of Animal Science and the Director of AgNext.
Dr. Stackhouse-Lawson’s most recent accomplishments as Director include testifying before the House Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture and featuring in accredited publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Western Ag Reporter, and Beef Central. Dr. Stackhouse-Lawson was also listed as an honoree in the Denver Business Journal’s “Who’s Who in Agriculture” list.
Another incredible female leader who supports the work of AgNext is Robbie LeValley, CFO of LeValley Ranches. LeValley had committed her time and talent to AgNext and serves as a member of our Industry Innovation Group.
Growing up on a cow-calf ranch run by her whole family, LeValley’s dedication to animals started early on in life. Working on a ranch takes dedication and grit, two things that LeValley coupled with determination, and continued her family’s ranching legacy in Hotchkiss, Colorado.
“My commitment to agriculture continued in college and my career choice. Our family ranch in Western Colorado has been in the family for generations and the commitment to the land, our family, and our animals remains the priority,” LeValley reflected.
After graduating from Colorado State University and working briefly for the University of Wyoming, LeValley spent 23 years in the CSU Livestock Extension position in the Tri River area of Western Colorado. One of her accomplishments includes expanding CSU’s extension program to include to include a focus on rangelands. Robbie currently serves as the Delta County Administrator and CFO of LeValley Ranches, where she continues to support her alma mater by offering a valuable industry perspective for AgNext and the Animal Sciences department.
The agriculture industry has come a long way since these women started their careers, and we can see great strides have been taken in our industry, there is still room to elevate women in leadership roles in agriculture.
Dr. Stackhouse-Lawson noted, “There are still considerable pay gaps that exist, but I think it will change. I think the industry is committed to developing young talent ensuring that young talent includes women.” AgNext is helping to elevate young talent and currently has 4 women working as Graduate Assistant’s under Stackhouse-Lawson’s leadership.
Both LeValley and Stackhouse-Lawson are hopeful that the future generation of female agricultural experts are empowered to follow their dreams. When asked to offer advice in this area, Dr. Stackhouse-Lawson encouraged current and prospective women in agriculture to take every chance to improve so that they can get better in their fields.
She said, “If you have the opportunity to get an advanced degree, go get it because it does make a difference. It helps to gain respect in the field and establish yourself.”
LeValley emphasized the importance of leaning on others while pursuing these dreams.
“Strong women help build strong women. Build that support group to help you get better each day. The resources now are incredible and that includes all who are involved in agriculture and those that benefit from production agriculture,” LeValley offered.
We’d like to thank Dr. Stackhouse-Lawson, Mrs. LeValley, and other trailblazing women for their contributions to the agricultural community and to this program. AgNext is grateful to have collaborations such as these in our pursuit of sustainability in animal agriculture and look forward to maintaining these connections in the future.