Sarah Thorson, GENEX™ Beef Marketing Manager, lifelong Simmental breeder, and mother, exemplifies modern leadership in the beef industry.
Born and raised on Lassle Ranch Simmentals in Glendive, Montana, Sarah (Lassle) Thorson grew up like many ranch kids, with plans to go to college and either become a vet or go back to the family operation. It wasn’t until she was attending Montana State University (MSU) for a degree in Animal Science that she discovered how many other beef industry opportunities are available.
“I was working part-time for the ASA, and I had a requirement to have an internship to fulfill my degree. I was hoping to get my internship credits while at ASA, but Jerry Lipsey, CEO at the time, refused to sign my paperwork. He told me that he wouldn’t be doing me any favors allowing me to keep doing what I already knew. But he would help me find something a little different. I was crushed at first, but he really pushed me. That’s when I got my internship with GENEX and later met my husband. It was a true blessing.”
Thorson took a semester off from school to complete the internship with GENEX in Shawano, Wisconsin, working in the Multiple Ovulation Embryo Transfer (MOET) program. After graduation from MSU, she accepted a full-time position with GENEX in Shawano, receiving a promotion to training manager within six months.
“It was also really challenging and exciting to be in this new leadership position. I was young and didn’t know my own voice — it took a lot of growing. I was blessed that I had a lot of great mentors along the way who have supported me. I learned the hard way that you have to be you, embrace your strengths, and let your skills shine through.”
While in Wisconsin, she met her husband, Ryan, who also worked for GENEX. When the couple got the opportunity to move back to Montana to be closer to her family’s cattle operation, they jumped at the chance. From 2011 to 2017, Sarah, Ryan, and their two children, Grace and Harper, lived in Billings commuting 400-miles round trip each weekend to help with the cattle operation.
“It has always been our dream to be able to take over the ranch when my parents are ready to retire. Three years ago, my position with GENEX was able to give us the opportunity to move back to Glendive, and the ranch was at the place where it could support one more person full time.”
Today, Ryan works on the ranch with Sarah’s father, Clay Lassle, while Sarah works remotely for GENEX. As Beef Marketing Manager, Thorson handles all things related to beef marketing from managing social media accounts, advertising campaigns, and industry relation partnerships. In addition to her work responsibilities, she helps as much as she can on the ranch, especially weekends and evenings.
There was no question, all along Thorson knew she would work in the cattle industry in one avenue or another. From leaving home for college to working for ASA, GENEX, and now raising her children on the family operation, working in the cattle industry will always be the right spot for her.
Reflecting on the experiences leading up to her current situation, Thorson recalls a story her grandfather loves to share from when she was three years old, “This was in the days before you were strapped into a car seat in the backseat. My dad, grandpa, and I were out checking cows and I had fallen asleep in the pickup. My dad and grandpa got out to go do something and left me napping. When they came back, I wasn't there. They started looking around, worried what my mother would have to say about losing me and spotted all the cows in a circle over in the corner of the pasture. They snuck up, and there I was, just sitting on the ground, playing in the dirt, surrounded by our cows. Every time I hear that story, I think that I am where I should be. I'm in the right spot.”
In the last few years since they moved back to Glendive, Thorson has watched her daughters become more comfortable with ranch life, “Grace, our oldest, was always interested in the cows, but a little intimidated by them. In the last few years, it’s been amazing seeing how much she has grown. She is dang-good at helping work cows. Even last summer, I would offer to take the day off of work and come out and help work cows, and I would get told ‘Nope, Grace is here, she can handle it.’
“It is our dream to give our children the same opportunities my parents gave us, and if neither Grace nor Harper wants to take over the ranch, then hopefully one of my nieces or nephews will want to come back. It's always been a family operation, and it's just what we do.”
“Surround yourself with good people,” shares Thorson while thinking about her own path to finding her place in the cattle industry. “Having people to guide you and lift you up along the way and people who aren't afraid to tell you that you made a mistake, but don’t let it keep you down — redirect — get back on your path. I've been really fortunate that I've had people, like Jerry Lipsey and many others at GENEX, who believed in me more than I believed in myself. Finding good people is important.”