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MEEKER | International Women’s Day is Monday, March 8. This global celebration first took place on March 8, 1911, honoring women’s economic, political and social accomplishments.
In Rio Blanco County, one of the areas women have had significant impact throughout the years is in agriculture. This agricultural community is home to many women who have made a name for themselves in the industry. One rancher in particular has been in the valley for 48 years, marking a solid stand in the cattle business.
Mary Strang’s story started back east. Bart Strang, Mary’s future husband, was attending Princeton University after getting out of the military. The two connected while Mary was attending Smith College. They married in 1958.
After their marriage, the newlyweds joined Bart’s parents at their ranch in Golden, Colorado, where Bart’s father bred and raced thoroughbred horses. While in Golden, the couple’s first daughter, Mary, was born. Shortly after, the couple started their journey to Meeker, with a stop in Carbondale, Colorado, first.
In January 1961, a partnership formed between Mike Strang (Bart’s brother), Tom (their dear friend), and Bart himself. This partnership led to Bart and Mary moving to Carbondale. The Strang brothers continued the program started by their father for East Coast teenagers to come work at their ranch for the summer. The program spread by word of mouth and the parties involved met lifelong friends.
This partnership was the start of the signature Strang Hereford cattle. Bart and Mary started with 10 registered heifers. Their line-bred herd started from here, with the intent to keep up with the breed’s genetic improvement.
In 1968 the partnership with Mike and Tom was dissolved, and Bart and Mary moved up West Sopris Creek, their final move before coming to Meeker. With half of a herd they bought from Bart Lambers; the couple could continue their line of Herefords. They continued to sell purebred and commercial Herefords for five years.
In 1973 the couple — and their four daughters: Mary, Ellen, Lisa, and Sarah — moved to Meeker. Initially, they bought the old Penrose place down County Road 33. While occupying this property, the Strang family hosted one more summer of teenagers from the east before deciding to disband the program. Shortly after that, the family made their final move to County Road 8, selling the CR 33 ranch to Ed and Bonnie Coryell.
From there, the Strangs continued their work with purebred Herefords and became known for their bull sales in the fall of every year. They used the higher altitude to their advantage as their hardy cattle’s sale mark. In the ’90s, the couple expanded their herd to include black Angus to develop the Angus line to fit their high-altitude customers’ needs.
The Strangs worked side by side until 2009, when Bart passed away. After this, Mary had to take over the business herself, with the help of her daughter and son-in-law Tom and Lisa Walsh, who live on the ranch, and her other kids.
In the 59 years Mary has been a part of Strang Herefords, it has flown by with little changes. The most recent, however, was the switch from the annual bull sale to private treaty cattle. The last couple of years have been an adjustment, but she has managed to make it work in her favor.
Mary’s mark on Rio Blanco County isn’t limited to the ag industry. She was a member and president of the Meeker School Board for 20 years before she became the chairperson of the Meeker Education Foundation. She can also be found volunteering at different local events during the year, always finding different ways to give back to the community.
In the 12 years Mary has been heading the ranch herself, she has maintained the original goal from 1961. From selling bulls to being a leader in local education, Mary has had an impact on several different fields.
By Sophia Geodert – Special to the Herald Times