Henry focuses on ag’s next generationWritten by Christy Hemken
Karen grew up in Wyoming’s Bridger Valley, not far from where she now lives. “As a youth I spent my time horseback with my grandparents, who raised cattle and sheep on the prairie and in the mountains of southwestern Wyoming,” she says. “I grew up knowing that agriculture is the backbone of America.”
“Garie and I were high school sweethearts and we married right after I graduated from high school,” she says of her husband. “We started our family after a few years and we’ve been on the ranch for most of the time since.” Garie and Karen are the sixth generation on their cattle ranch.
Garie and Karen have four grown children. Their oldest son is a full partner on the ranch and their youngest daughter lives on the ranch. Their other two children live in Manila, Utah and Lovell.
The Henry family runs a cow/calf operation on deeded and federal land in Wyoming and Utah. “Ranching is a bright spot in my life. I love helping the boys, and they rely on me to help out,” says Karen, commenting on the value of a good horse. “I try to fill in when I can. When they call and ask me if I can come help move or gather cows, they never put me on a stick horse. They put me on a good horse because they expect a lot of me and I expect a lot of them. I want to ride a good horse.”
“Our winter days are spent hauling hay and feeding cattle, and the biggest delight in that is when we have our five-year-old grandson Dane along with us for entertainment, fun and frolic,” says Karen.
“The nicest part about ranching is raising your family on the ranch,” she notes. “It’s such a perfect opportunity. You go without a lot of things, but it doesn’t matter because you have the lifestyle.”
In the 1980s Garie and Karen built their ranch home from logs harvested on their ranch land in Utah. “During that same time my mom and I refinished over 50 pieces of antique furniture that we’ve used to decorate our home, along with some of my original landscape oil paintings,” says Karen.
Another of Karen’s hobbies is creating and collecting porcelain dolls. “Some of the first dolls I made and for which I designed clothes were inspired by Garie’s maternal grandparents’ 1800s wedding photo,” she says. The dolls were a birthday gift for Garie’s mother, Karen’s best friend.
Not long after they were married the Henrys became Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation (WyFB) members and began roles of leadership as county and district officers. “I didn’t ever consider running for president, but I was asked to be the vice president and from there I ran for president, not expecting to get it,” says Karen, adding her involvement was a very worthwhile portion of her life. “I met a lot of wonderful friends across America and had a lot of opportunities.”
Serving for 11 years as president of the WyFB, from 1994 through 2005, Karen’s travels with the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Trade Advisory Committee took her to France, South America, Mexico and even an extensive face-to-face meeting with Cuba’s Fidel Castro.
“Our goal was to visit with the governments and to hear about the products they produced and talk to the producers and see if there were opportunities to open trade,” says Henry. “We knew that was the only way to ever trade with Cuba – individually.”
Of the current trade situation in the U.S., she says, “Trade has to keep increasing, because the world needs to eat. Hopefully we’ll continue to open all the markets we can for our American products because they’re vital to American ag producers. If trade doesn’t continue to grow the whole world will be in a world of hurt.”
“My work with Farm Bureau has allowed me to speak out and fight for agriculture as it becomes more and more apparent that folks across America have an uphill battle to preserve our industry with all the negative pressure from anti-ag activists, stringent and sometimes unnecessary federal regulations and escalating production costs,” she says.
After retirement from WyFB leadership, Henry now works with Farm Bureau Financial Services and helps with estate planning and business transitions for producers. “I continue to work with state federation folks in the 15 western states, and I like that because I feel like I’m working for the producers,” she says.
Although her work with Financial Services still keeps her on the move, she says one of her biggest hobbies – and the one that takes up her time more than anything – is her grandkids. “Our grandkids are good help on the ranch, and we couldn’t do it without them. They’ve been in 4-H and FFA and they’re very active and do a lot of work,” she says. She also enjoys traveling to see them participate in various sporting events.
“Through hunting and collecting Indian artifacts I’ve been able to get away from the phone and all the other burdens that creep up on us at times,” says Karen, adding that she tries to interest her grandkids in the hobby. “It takes too much bending, walking and staring at the ground for most of them, but there are three that go every chance they get!”
Because her collection is invaluable and exquisite, and because she enjoys sharing it, she’s been invited to a museum of natural history in central California to lecture and share her collection.
“We have been blessed in so many ways, so I begin each day by thanking God for all of our blessings,” says Henry. “Our kids and our grandkids are God’s greatest gifts. I’ve always been told, ‘Having someplace to go is home, having someone to love is family and having both is a blessing!!’ There’s no place on earth quite like home at the ranch in Robertson, with the family.”