Ag in the Classroom Offers Proactive StrategyWritten by Garret Horton
I am honored to have recently been elected President of the Wyoming Agriculture in the Classroom Board. This is a commitment I do not take lightly. The organization’s mission is near and dear to my heart – to develop an understanding of agriculture and natural resources through education.
I had the extraordinary opportunity to grow up on, a custom feeding operation in central Wyoming. From chopping corn to working calves, I found a love for everything about the life and industry. The opportunities it provided are unrivaled. Anyone who shared that opportunity agrees.
Unfortunately, the numbers of us who have had the opportunity shrink each and every year. I, myself, work outside direct production agriculture. I am blessed to still play a part in my family’s operation. However, I am unable to be involved day-to-day. At this point, I am unsure if I will be able to afford my children the same opportunity I had to grow up on farm. This is something a growing number of our youth face.
Our kids are one, two, three – or even four – generations removed from the farm. Just two percent of our entire U.S. population is made up of America’s farming and ranching families. So, how do we begin to expose the other 98 percent of the American population to the lifestyle and industry we cherish? The answer is one student at a time.
Since the inception of Wyoming Agriculture in the Classroom in 1986, it has been the intent to put agriculture and natural resources education in the hands of our youth. Through the years, this has taken many different forms, but the intent has never changed. The Board has been constantly comprised of the leaders who have cared deeply in the mission and accomplished truly monumental things. I am humbled to be a part of an organization that has been blessed with outstanding leadership. Thank you for building an organization poised to tackle great things. Because of their efforts, we are ready to make a difference in our communities.
Recently, the opportunity to fulfill our organization’s mission presented itself. New science standards have recently been adopted, and all our schools will be searching for material to meet these standards. Enter the Wyoming Stewardship Project – perfectly aligned with changing educational landscape to provide the narrative our classrooms have been missing. Why should our schools be purchasing textbooks and materials from companies in Chicago, New York or San Francisco? We have all the material and resources we need right here in our very own state to create lessons that challenge our students to be critical thinkers. This project provides students with the facts and empowers them with the opportunity to build their own conclusions.
The Wyoming Stewardship Project is Wyoming Agriculture in the Classroom’s initiative to develop project-based lessons for students, not just as a supplemental activity or a break from their normal course of studies, but a new engaging approach to science, math, language arts and social studies. The best part, these lessons are built for Wyoming educators by Wyoming educators. The key concepts were built through a gathering of community members in the agriculture, mineral and energy, and outdoor recreation and tourism industries. All of which are central to our state’s economic wellbeing.
Obviously, as a Board member of Wyoming Agriculture in the Classroom, as the name depicts, agriculture is the center of my and our collective hearts. However, we have recognized that all these industries working hand-in-hand, managing our state’s resources tells the complete story of Wyoming. The story that needs to be in the hands of all our students. The very students that will one day not only be our state’s leaders, law makers, policy builders, but our nation’s.
Now I climb on my soapbox. We in agriculture have dropped the ball. All we do is fight misinformation. We are reactive. Policy is generated at the highest levels with no regard to farmers and ranchers which it directly affects. Farm and ranch organizations come out in opposition, reactive. A company drops demand of our product because of public sentiment rooted in nothing but fear, readily admitting there is no scientific evidence to support. Growers come together to get the facts out there, but the damage is done. We are reactive.
With the Wyoming Stewardship Project, we have the opportunity to be proactive. Put the knowledge in the hands of our students. Allow them to make decisions understanding all sides of the issues. It was a little over a year ago now that the Wyoming Stewardship Project really took shape. At the time, we as a Board could not fathom just how big this was. We hit some bumps in the road but have plowed on, knowing the material being created today could shape our policy makers of tomorrow. I struggle to put into words how excited I am about this project and to be a part of it. As agriculturalists and stewards of our natural resources, I think you all should be just as excited.
For more information about the Wyoming Stewardship Project or to donate, contact our Executive Director Jessie Dafoe at 307-369-1749.
Leading with ClassWritten by Matthew Winterholler
I grew up watching politics. It became something that is a huge interest to me, and I’ve gained many role models in the political arena. Politics brings a few of my favorite things together - leadership, debate and critical thinking.
As much as I wish it weren’t true, many politicians – our most recognizable leaders – don’t lead with class. I wake up every day to an article in the paper or a story on the news about one political leader spewing derogatory remarks toward another. These statements from politicians lack basic manners, etiquette and tact. Is this who we want to become? If we aren’t careful, we’ll lose our vision of what we want to be and where we want to go. As FFA members, we can show the rest of the world what leading with class really means.
Leading with class is important. While many people may define the word, “class,” as dressing nicely, having fancy dinners or being wealthy, class goes much further than that. Class can’t be bought. Rather, it’s an attitude. An attitude of manners, etiquette and tact. An attitude of respect and inclusion. The attitude of an FFA member.
Recently, at National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Ind., I had the opportunity to sit on the Committee for Increasing Alumni Engagement. In this committee, delegates from all 50 states were able to voice their opinions. During committee meetings and business sessions throughout the week, I was struck by the respect that every delegate had for each other. Everyone’s voice was heard, while none were criticized in a derogatory manner.
In FFA, as leaders, we recognize the importance of leading with class – forming a tactful debate, respecting each other and their opinions and recognizing that letting other’s voices be heard is what makes democracy – and FFA – so great. That recognition among FFA members allows others to feel welcome in our organization no matter their background, which has led the FFA to be the largest student-led organization in the United States.
When we present ourselves in a positive way, we are presenting ourselves for the future. Leading with manners and etiquette not only means a good image for you and the organization you’re representing, but it also means being a respectable influence for others, future job offers and notability among your constituents, peers and elders.
Benjamin Franklin said it best, as he said, “Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”
When we remember this, we become the world-changers of tomorrow.
Leading with class goes much farther than the clothes you wear and the money you have. Leading with class is making a positive difference in the lives of people around you by spreading kindness and respect for others, doing so with manners, etiquette, and tact. Leading with class is about being a light in the lives of others and making them feel welcome. Leading with class is making a positive ImpACT on your FFA chapter, your community, your friends and your family.
Matthew Winterholler wrote this piece for the Wyoming FFA Association’s blog, titled “impACT,” which can be found at wyomingffa.wordpress.com. Visit the blog each month for a new post from the Wyoming FFA State Officer Team.
WyFB Looks Forward to Annual MeetingWritten by Ken Hamilton
The Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting will be in Laramie Nov. 10-12 to talk about issues that county Farm Bureaus feel are important to their membership. In conjunction with the Wyoming Farm Bureau’s annual meeting, the Wyoming Farm Bureau Foundation will hold a symposium on poisonous plants.
The WyFB Foundation Symposium on Nov. 10 begins at 8:30 a.m. and will feature scientists from the USDA Poisonous Plants Lab in Logan, Utah. Dr. Kip Panter, Dr. Kevin Welch and Dr. Clint Stonecipher will present ongoing research and solutions to problems caused by poisonous plants. Some of the research and work that is being done at this facility is pretty exciting.
The symposium is free and open to the public.
Farm Bureau members will also be electing a new president to head up our organization since President Perry Livingston, who has lead the Wyoming Farm Bureau for 11 years, will be retiring. Having dedicated leaders to work on behalf of Wyoming’s farmers and ranchers is something for which all of us in agriculture can be thankful. We certainly are grateful when someone dedicates the time that President Livingston has to work for agriculture at the state and national levels.
Of course, the entire purpose of our meeting is to discuss and vote on resolutions sent in by our counties on policy issues that concern these grassroots members. Naturally, these cover a broad range of topics including proposed policies on special tax districts, shed antler hunting, speed limiting devices on vehicles and a host of other topics.
In addition to policy discussions, members will also hear a variety of updates. Ryan Yates, director of Congressional Relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, will talk about policy and priorities for the lame duck session and the new Congress and Administration. Ryan also deals with a lot of the federal lands issues for the American Farm Bureau, so he will also discuss various federal lands issues.
Katelyn McCullock, who is in the Economics Division with the American Farm Bureau, will bring her perspective on the economic outlook for livestock for the coming year.
Cole Coxbill, chair of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) Young Farmer and Rancher Committee and AFBF board member, will also update the members on all of the activities of the American Farm Bureau, as well as the activities of the Wyoming Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer and Rancher program.
Fall is a busy time of year with harvest activities. We are thankful for the many volunteers who take the time from their busy schedule to travel to the Farm Bureau annual meeting and finish the process that started at the counties in developing direction for the Federation in the coming year. These are your neighbors and you can support them through your membership or by getting involved at the local level.
This is our 97th annual meeting, and for the 97th year in a row, Farm Bureau will continue working to keep agriculture strong in Wyoming.
Wyoming SRM Emphasizes Range HealthWritten by Mae Smith
Rangelands are grasslands, woodlands, shrublands, wetlands and deserts that support mostly native vegetation and are grazed by domestic animals. That sounds like Wyoming, doesn’t it? In fact, rangelands cover 85 percent of Wyoming.
Everyone in Wyoming is tied to rangelands. For ranchers, the connection is obvious, as their livelihood is reliant on this land to raise livestock. And, of course, we Wyomingites love our beef. Many of us also take advantage of public lands for recreational activities like hunting, camping, off-road vehicle use or just for a nice Sunday drive.
There is a big group of us who make a living managing these beautiful landscapes. This sector includes ag producers; federal land management agencies– like the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and national parks; state lands; private lands; non-governmental organizations; educational entities; and others. With so many people employed in rangeland management, it makes sense that there would be a professional organization where these people can come together, share ideas and learn the latest science.
Society for Range Management (SRM) is the professional society dedicated to supporting persons who work with rangelands and have a commitment to their sustainable use. There are members from across the United States, as well as from Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Wyoming has an active membership of 132 people in our “section.” Much of the membership is comprised of agency employees and educational entities, but we would love to have more ag producers as members.
You may wonder what Wyoming SRM (WY SRM) does throughout the year. One event WY SRM organizes is Wyoming Resource Education Days (WyRED). This is a weeklong outdoor camp for youth that introduces participants to range management principles and techniques. They dig soil pits, estimate forage production, identify plants, tour ranches and have a lot of fun. We hope to inspire the next generation to fill those much needed range manager positions.
Wyoming SRM not only focuses on youth education but also offers professional development opportunities. Ecological Site Descriptions (ESDs) are incredibly useful tools to assist in range management decisions, so there have been workshops on what ESDs are and how to use them. There have also been range schools offered throughout the state. These schools are intensive classroom and field-based courses that cover range management topics such as soils, plants, grazing, monitoring, drought and wildlife.
Wyoming SRM also hosts an annual meeting that rotates around the state. As President-elect of this great organization, I got the pleasure of planning this year’s meeting. The meeting is a great opportunity to network with others who are dedicated to rangelands, hear what projects are going on across the state and learn about range-related topics.
The meeting will be in Cody from Nov. 15-17 at the Holiday Inn. We will be co-hosting with the Wildlife Society. This has been a great collaboration because we will hear about wildlife, range and how they interact through habitat. Larry Butler, host of RFD-TV show “Out on the Land,” will be one of the keynote speakers, along with Steven Buskirk and Joshua Millspaugh.
Some of the other events include a viewing of the PBS film, “The Range Riders,” featuring Wyoming ranchers and how grazing and large predators can co-exist. There will be a morning dedicated to sage grouse monitoring and what techniques are used by different agencies.
The afternoon workshop will be hands-on learning about components of Ecological Site Descriptions. The Nature Conservancy’s Heart Mountain Ranch is the location of the half-day tour where we’ll see beaver dam analogues, range improvement projects and talk about grizzly bear populations.
The conference will conclude with the banquet at the Cody Buffalo Bill Center of the West.
Registration is only $40 and the website for the conference is wytwsconference.org. Please join us at the meeting to see what Wyoming SRM is all about.
There is an SRM representative in your area that you can connect with to ask questions, get involved or make suggestions for educational events you’d like to see. The current WYSRM Council members are:
President: Jessica Crowder
President-Elect: Mae Smith
Past President: Windy Kelley
Secretary/Treasurer: Marji Patz
Newsletter Editor: Brian Sebade
Northeast Council Rep: Kassie Bales
Northwest Council Rep: Curtis Bryan
Southeast Council Rep: Sarah Kauer
Southwest Council Rep: Bryan Christensen
The Northeast and Southwest representatives will change and a new President-elect will be selected at this meeting.