President Nolan Stone shares his thoughts about the future of the livestock industry and of the Association.
Nolan Stone, President of the Colorado Livestock Association, is a fifth generation Colorado cattlemen who was raised near Karval, 17 miles southeast of Punkin Center. For the past 17 years, Nolan has worked for JBS Five Rivers Cattle Feeding, LLC and is the General Manager of the Kuner Feedyard near Kersey. When he isn’t working, family time for Nolan and his wife, Jodi, means watching their two kids Shae and Dylan play softball and baseball, watching Shae show steers and spending time managing their family’s cattle business; a diversified spring and fall calving cow herd and stocker operation on leased ranches throughout Colorado.
What is your favorite part of the cattle business?
My favorite part of the cattle business is the people. For the most part, the industry is made up of people with a high degree of integrity and pride. Folks are passionate about this industry, and at our foundation, we are all stockmen, which allows us to interact daily with a group that have this common thread.
Given the career choices you may have had what made you decide to go down the path that you did?
I have always had a love for cattle and have been enthralled with the cattle business. When I graduated from CSU, I knew I wanted to be in the cattle business, and specifically the production side of things. The cattle feeding business offered me the opportunity to be outside and around cattle, and at the same time develop my cattle business knowledge. I have been fortunate to work for a good company that invests in my professional development, and continues to challenge me and encourage professional growth.
If you had 15 minutes to spend with a consumer what would you tell them about their food and the people who produce it?
First, I would assure them about the safety of their food, and how the producers who grow their food are people with deep roots in agriculture and care about the future of their operations. The protein producers in this country are determined to produce food that is safe and plentiful, and the United States government provides oversight that ensures that the proper steps have been taken to provide the consumer with safe healthy food. Next, I would spend some time discussing the importance of meat in the diet, and the health benefits of eating a balanced diet. The last thing, but possibly the most important, I would want them to know is how much producers care about their animals, and the efforts that are put into the feeding and care of the animals we are entrusted with.
What, in your opinion, is the greatest benefit of membership in the Colorado Livestock Association (CLA)?
As society evolves, it is becoming more important to have a unified voice representing our message to the public and in the government arenas. CLA does a great job of opening doors and allowing its members to deliver their message wherever it might matter the most. As a group of diversified protein producers, we might not always agree on the detail of every message, but we all understand that a message coming from our broad membership packs a harder punch than each of us individually. I hope to continue to grow membership and seek more opinions and ideas from the producers of Colorado.
In what areas would you like to see the Association improve and what is your vision for the future of CLA?
I think CLA can continue to improve by growing membership and increasing involvement. This is challenging due to the busy schedules that people pack with them nowadays, so I think we need to get more creative with how we seek input and schedule meetings. The new regional meetings are a great start, and it’s my goal to continue the evolvement of these meetings. My vision for CLA is to continue to be the unified voice of the livestock industry in the state, and work hard to serve our membership in the regulatory and legislative spaces. We will continue to manage the relationships that are already in place and cultivate new ones that might help us in the future.
Based on your vision, what do we need to do differently to be more impactful as an Association?
Again, I know I sound like a broken record, but we need more involvement from the membership. We are a membership organization, and I want to make sure we are utilizing our membership to the greatest extent. When issues arise, we need to be agile, and prepared to react. Our membership is our toolbox, and we need to be prepared to use the right tool for the right job. Our membership is diverse, talented, and smart, and I want to be sure that we are leveraging this for our own benefit.
If you were king for a day, what would change about the livestock industry in Colorado?
I’m going to take creative liberty while answering this as it doesn’t pertain necessarily to just the livestock industry. I think the most important change that needs to happen in Colorado is to change the ballot initiative process. We need to allow our elected officials to perform the jobs they were elected to do. The way these initiatives are written, it is very dangerous to place them in front of the public for vote. Most people don’t have time to become familiar with all of the initiatives that are on the ballot each election, and probably may not realize the impact that an initiative might have. At the CLA Board of Directors meeting in April 2016 the board voted to support Initiative #96.
What is the single most important issue facing the livestock industry that keeps you awake at night?
Consumer confidence and education is something that I think about a lot. People will believe what they want to believe regardless of the facts. How we, as 2% of the global population, impact this is very important. Accomplishing this is complex, and I’m not sure how to go about it, but I think there is great risk if we do not put forth a tremendous amount of effort to tell our side of the story.
At the end of your term as President of CLA, when you look back at the previous two years what do you hope to be our greatest accomplishments?
I hope that we have represented the industry to the best of our abilities, and that the membership is proud of how we have conducted ourselves and of the decisions that we made.
History has a way of repeating itself. If you had the opportunity to help guide future generations of livestock producers by learning from your own mistakes what would you tell them?
I’m not sure we have time to list all of my mistakes that others could learn from, but there are a couple that are highest on the list. The first would be to learn more about business management. I think as livestock people we immerse ourselves into the science and production of livestock and overlook basic business management. Even though our operations are a way of life to us, we need to continue to hone our business acumen in order to survive. The other thing I would want the next generation of stockmen to learn sooner rather than later is leadership. Leadership is a skill that needs to be studied constantly. The earlier in life that you can begin developing these skills, the easier it is to become a good leader and teach others to be leaders.
Nolan will serve as President of Colorado Livestock Association for two years. He will complete his term at the 2018 CLA Annual Meeting in Loveland and will become the Immediate Past President.