We had the good fortune of connecting with Dessa Watson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dessa, what’s the most important thing you’ve done for your children?
I am curious to see what my kids will say about this one day, but for me, I think one of the most important things I try to do for them is live my life is as a model for how to enjoy your life, appreciate your life, and share the fun of life with others, and of course with animals, I almost always find a way to make the animals involved too!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I spent my entire academic career struggling to maintain the bare minimum to pass my coursework. From the time I was in second grade, I can distinctly recall the fear and anxiety I felt about not being able to pass to the next grade level. I grant that if not for the privilege of a supportive and caring family, race, and socio-economic status, I might not have been able to forge on in my education. I worry about those who will not continue their education due to their inability to learn in the standardized school system. When you are a student struggling to understand concepts in school, you find yourself in a constant state of survival mode. Learning was never a positive experience for me, it was merely about hanging on long enough to get to the next level of education and never about personal growth or interests, and it darn sure was never fun. To anyone with children who struggle in school, don’t give up on them. We are all graced with treasures and talents within, some of our gifts just might not be realized in a traditional setting. Consider other sources of learning and personal growth to help them discover their assets and talents, and love them unconditionally.
My grandmother, who believed I was capable of more, gifted me entrance into an aptitude testing program at the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation in Denver. Through the extensive aptitude testing process, where I failed almost every single test, it was determined I had a learning disorder associated with low visual perception. In short, I was competent, but I needed more time for processing information. This discovery was the most pivotal moment of my life in how I perceived myself as a human. Up until this time, I was sure I was intellectually incapable, and I felt the only reason I had progressed through academics as far as I had was only a result of money, grit, and determination. Never had I felt smart, competent, or like I deserved to be there.
With the guidance of a Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation Counselor and a CSU Academic Advisor, I was able to make changes to what, why, and how I was learning that was cohesive to the way I learn. I transferred out of Animal Sciences into Agricultural Education and poured myself into the program’s curriculum (I had a lot of catching up to do) and the outcome of my efforts was astronomical. My GPA went from a 2.0 to a 4.0, just like that I went from surviving to thriving. The Agricultural Education department was a whole new world for me, a world where learning was a passion and a space I could strive for personal growth. Once I learned that learning can be fun, I decided then and there I never wanted to stop learning. Because of this, I feel a strong sense of urgency to identify strengths in others who may not see the strengths in themselves. This mentality is what led me to become an Extension Educator in 4-H and Positive Youth Development. 4-H is well known for delivering learning opportunities outside the realms of standardized assessments by inspiring life-long learning through hands-on education. Immediately upon completion of graduate school, I was hired as a 4-H Agent in Rio Blanco County, which just so happened to be the home of my future husband.
I enjoyed almost every moment of my public service as an Extension Educator in rural Colorado for eight years. Before the birth of our first child, my husband sustained a life-altering spinal cord injury. When our son was born, we were fortunate enough that my husband was able to be home with him. However, after the birth of our second child, we decided that the rigorous and time-insensitive schedule of an Extension Agent was not in-line with the parenting needs and dynamics of two young children. As the saying goes, when one door closes, another shall open, and indeed it did.
Upon leaving CSU Extension, I was immediately hired back into the College of Agriculture to serve as an Instructor for the Masters of Extension Education online degree program. For the last seven years, I have expanded my role from instructing one course each semester to my current position as a full-time instructor and advisor. Advising students and student engagement might be my favorite role to date. I love to help and be helpful. I enjoy building strong connections with the students and leading them towards paths that will help them discover the best in themselves.
I might be known by my peers for being a little bit “extra”. As I work remotely, I take any chance I can get to fold my farm animals into my work life. I love to dress them up for each holiday and snap pictures of them for Zoom and Teams meeting backgrounds. I have used my longhorn steer BoBo, as a backdrop to many course videos to highlight one of my favorite aspects of online learning… you get to do it in YOUR favorite space! I constantly am on the lookout for ways to integrate all my favorite things together as that’s what makes sense to me!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I LOVE Meeker, Colorado, this place IS my town! Yes, I said “my” town! I say that because growing up in a suburban area, I never felt connected to a certain place until I discovered that small-town life is where I feel at HOME.
The first place I would invite friends over is to my home to meet my Farm.ily! We would scratch the goat’s itchies, pick up ducks and feel how squishy they are, squeeze sheep’s tails, say hi to the pigs, feed BoBo the longhorn a glazed donut and talk about ruminant stomachs, we might even take the horses for a ride!
One of the perks to a small town is we aren’t overwhelmed with restaurant choices- we would try out each restaurant over the week! I always recommend the Meeker Cafe for an amazing breakfast, the High-Country Skillet with a pancake is my favorite! Wendell’s has delicious breakfast and lunches and a coffee lover’s menu for the am caffeine win! For lunch/ dinner we’ll have some old-fashioned fast food and shakes at Clark’s Big Burger and for dinner, we’ll head over to the Mexican house for Jalapeno Margaritas and tacos and then to Outfitters Diner for steaks! For an afternoon beer buzz we will stop by the new Smoking River Brewery to check out the latest in lagers. For my wino’s we will stop by Blanco Cellars for cheese, wine, and more! While we’re there we will pick up the latest samples of oils & vinegars at Off the Olive Branch!
Rio Blanco County is rich with outdoor adventure spaces. The White River National Forrest and the Flattops Wilderness areas offer fishing, camping, hiking, hunting, atv/snowmobiles, horseback rides, and more! Just outside of town the Eastern Rio Blanco County Recreation Center has a mountain bike flow course and miles of amazing hiking trails! I am hoping by the time you all read this that my “Walka-Llama” venture is in full swing and you can book my amazingly friendly llamas to join you and friends on a hike up China Wall for a lovely day-trip picnic!
Summer weekends in downtown Meeker are a great time to visit. Fridays are filled with Farmer’s Market booths, live music, and activities for all! Meeker hosts an impressive 4th of July festival, Meekerpalooza, and the world-renowned Meeker Classic Sheepdog Trials in September and the Mountain Valley Bank Fall Festival at River Park. Of course, we have to spend time soaking our feet in the White River! Bring your fishing pole, a floaty, and a towel and away we go!
Winter in Meeker is perfect for any snow-sport enthusiasts! Snowmobile rentals, snow-shoeing, cross country skiing, and sledding spots are a great way to soak up the sunny days of winter in NW Colorado!
If I had to pick a time for friends to come, I would definitely say a Farmer’s Market Friday where all our friends and family come with lawn chairs and just hang out, enjoy good people, good produce, and good music! Plus I almost always bring a farm animal to the concerts, just to keep things farmy!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
In 2018, Snoop Dogg was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in his speech he said some pretty awesome sentiments. He said, “I want to thank me for believing in me, I want to thank me for doing all this hard work. I want to thank me for having no days off. I want to thank me for never quitting. I want to thank me for always being a giver, and trying to give more than I receive,” he continued. “I want to thank me for trying to do more right than wrong. I want to thank me for just being me at all times. Snoop Dogg: you a bad motherf—er.”
I want to thank Snoop Dogg for giving me the courage to thank myself.
I want to thank Jen Sincero for teaching me how to BE myself and BELIEVE in myself. One of my favorite lines from her book is, “You are perfect. To think anything less is as pointless as a river thinking that it’s got too many curves or that it moves too slowly or that its rapids are too rapid. Says who? You’re on a journey with no defined beginning, middle or end. There are no wrong twists and turns. There is just being. And your job is to be as you as you can be. This is why you’re here. To shy away from who you truly are would leave the world you-less. You are the only you there is and ever will be. I repeat, you are the only you there is and ever will be. Do not deny the world its one and only chance to bask in your brilliance.”
― Jen Sincero, You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life
I want to thank the app TikTok, for offering a platform to all of us who love to express ourselves through music and sound. Shooting videos of my farm animals and pairing them with the music and sounds in my head has let me feel like a true artist for the first time in my life. It feels good.
Me & BoBo 2021 Range Call Parade- Photo Credits: Caitlin Walker, The Herald Times. The rest of the pictures I took.