Livingston retires from Colorado University Extension in Kit Carson County
January 11, 2019
Mick Livingston has imparted a great deal of knowledge to 4-H youth while driving down the road in his signature Forest Service green Tahoe. While driving to camps, leadership retreats, outdoor camps, livestock judging contests, state conventions, and a host of other events around the state, young passengers have learned about livestock production, the outdoors, collegiate athletics, history, leadership, and what a life of service well-lived looks like first hand.
Livingston retired from Colorado State University Extension in Kit Carson County after a 17-year career, though his volunteerism with the program dates back much further as a 30-year volunteer leader. He has been a longtime Colorado State Fair fixture, serving as a superintendent and making sure all of the behind-the-scenes tasks are completed and the event goes off without a hitch.
Currently living on the original 1920 homestead, Livingston grew up on a farm and ranch operation, exhibited pigs, beef and chickens in Kit Carson County 4-H, and attended Colorado State University. While in college, Livingston would sneak to the sale barn on Thursdays to buy calves to feed at home before returning for Monday classes. He worked in the animal physiology lab in animal reproduction, washed dishes for $1.60 per hour, and worked at the stallion lab to pay for school. Following graduation, he worked at the CSU Bull Stud and later managed a ranch in Parker, Colo., before returning home to teach farm and ranch accounting at Morgan Community College and Northeastern Junior College and eventually opening a consulting and computer business. He exited the cattle business in 1991 when his father passed away and he said it made sense to sell both his herd and his dad's. When he retired and began working for Extension, it was a part-time position but Livingston never treated it that way. It eventually became a full-time position though it was never merely a 40-hour-per-week career.
A DRIVING FORCE
Morgan County Extension Agent Marlin Eisenach has worked with Livingston throughout his career and said Livingston has been the driving force behind providing high quality, hands-on learning opportunities.
One of the projects the two launched was the Meat Quality Assurance trailer that is used to teach 4-H members about livestock production and best practices therein. Livingston said his original intention was to use the trailer for one year's training and then rotate between that and an oral presentation of the material, necessary for members in market projects to become certified and eligible to sell in their junior market livestock sales around the state. After one year of utilizing the trailer — complete with scale model facilities to learn about facilities upkeep, bananas on which to practice safe and proper injections, videos, and other activities for members to touch, feel, and learn from — he said he'll never go back to kids listening while he presents the information.
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"His teaching method is, 'come on, kids, let's go learn,'" Eisenach said. "He's so reliable. If he said he was going to do something, you can count on it, you don't have to worry. I've never seen a time in all the years we've worked together that he had to cancel for some reason."
In addition to MQA training, Livingston has been the force behind the Western Heritage Camp, WildBug Fish Camp, and AgFest, among other events and programs through the years.
That dependability shined through following his diagnosis with Stage 4 prostate and kidney cancer. Livingston flew to Arizona several times for treatment, returning to Denver and driving directly to the Colorado State Fair following a radiation treatment. Livingston is awaiting a final appointment and said he and his doctors are all extremely optimistic about his recovery. He said he plans to stay retired until his appointment before launching into a new adventure.
Livingston was honored by the All State Livestock Judging Team with the first honorary coach award, recognizing his contributions to the livestock judging program. He is also the longtime livestock judging coach for the county and Golden Plains Area, as well as playing an integral role to hosting livestock judging contests, one more opportunity for kids.
"One of the things I'm really proud of is the number of state vice presidents, district presidents — we never did get a state president — but in my 17 and a half years we've had four state vice presidents, we've had three FFA state presidents who went through our 4-H program, and we've had 12 out of 17 district presidents. I'm really proud of that, I don't want to brag but I think we've done things to build leaders and that's just giving them opportunities and pushing them toward those opportunities."
When Travis Taylor began his career in Extension, he said he took the opportunity to work alongside Livingston and Eisenach. He said it is Livingston's behind the scenes dedication that makes State Fair enjoyable for all exhibitors.
"He's the one who hangs the banners and moves the panels," Taylor said. "That's Mick Livingston. He's a road warrior. He's the happiest with a van full of kids where he can impart to them history and education of agriculture and conservation."
Taylor said Livingston's stories from the road are many and hearing them is one of his favorite things. Taylor said Livingston makes a point of making trips educational and memorable whether it's attending the Fiesta Bowl while exhibiting at the Arizona National or treating campers to a Dairy Queen breakfast after a night of heavy rains leave campfires snuffed.
"He's very charitable with his time when it comes to making fun and educational opportunities for kids," Taylor said.
Taylor said he and other agents around the state have come to appreciate Livingston not only for his expert computer skills, but prize his cooking skills, especially his peach cobbler. Cooking for a group, Taylor said, seems to be one of Livingston's gifts having cooked for various 4-H camps and events, extension gatherings, Marshall Cattle Company's annual bull sale, family weddings and other events.
"I don't think he ever knew how to do anything halfway," Taylor said. "If we ever needed anything, he made sure we had it, He might even have it in the Tahoe."
Scott Stinnett, Kit Carson County 4-H Youth Development agent, said he drove the very recognizable Tahoe this week and had never had so many people wave at him.
Logan Henry, an alumni of the Kit Carson County 4-H program who is currently student teaching agriculture in Worland, Wyo., is one of the young men who has reaped the benefits of Livingston's lessons. Under Livingston's direction, Henry was a successful livestock judge, state 4-H officer, and state FFA officer, all positions he said were made possible through Livingston's guidance. However important and well-deserved those honors were, Henry said the most valuable lessons came when he and Livingston were just busy.
"That man's life is dedicated to service," Henry said. "Without expecting any reward, he'll do anything for anyone without thinking about it. I've spent time with Mick from junior high all the way to my first couple of years in college and whether that be traveling with him to 4-H leadership camp or officer retreat all the way to after my football games, taking a drive to Rocky Mountain National Park to go spend some time outside and out with nature."
Livingston introduced Henry to photography, homemade hot chocolate with ice cream, livestock judging, collegiate sports at Colorado State University, archery and shooting sports, how to pour concrete into forms, and hunting. Livingston stalked an antelope buck for years with no luck, Henry said, so it was a proud moment when Henry harvested the trophy his junior year.
"He's been a second dad, a mentor, you name it," Henry said. "He has helped shape and mold me into the young man I am today." ❖
— Gabel is an assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at email@example.com or (970) 392-4410.