Real ranchers share their stories
A series of community meetings in Wyoming held in response to a request by EnCana Oil and Gas resulted in RealRanchers.com – a blog allowing Wyoming farmers and ranchers to share their story.
Liz Lauck, Communication and Publications Director with the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA), is the woman behind the website, collecting stories and photos from around the state and posting them.
“You don’t have to be tech-savvy or know how to blog to contribute,” says Lauck. “I put things up to keep it easy for people.”
The project started when EnCana approached WSGA about becoming involved in a community development project. Meetings between EnCana and WSGA led to the idea of a community dialogue for rural Wyoming, which influenced a series of meeting across the state. The meetings were geared at understanding the issues in rural Wyoming.
“We went to Lusk, Shoshoni, Kaycee, Baggs and Boulder,” says Lauck. “We did information gathering sessions as well as a leadership component at those meetings.”
After gathering information, WSGA went back to the communities and shared the main themes resulting from each meeting.
“One of the main issues that came up in all of the communities was the idea that people wanted to be able to tell their story because there is so much misinformation about agriculture and rural community living,” says Lauck. “We brought information about how successful blogs and social media have been and asked if they would be interested in doing something similar. The communities decided they wanted to start a blog.”
After polling Wyoming community members, the name RealRanchers.com was settled on and the now popular blog was born.
The website launched in May 2010 and has been running nearly a year and a half. A Facebook page also highlights the stories of Wyoming communities.
“We’ve had thousands of hits on the blog, and we have over 1,000 followers on the Facebook page,” says Lauck.
“From the beginning, Real Ranchers was developed in the communities from the ground up,” comments Lauck.
But without her involvement, RealRanchers.com wouldn’t be nearly as successful as it is today.
Lauck started with the project in 2009 as an intern at WSGA.
“I started just to do the community dialogue project,” says Lauck. “From there, Stock Growers was able to keep me around, and I am now the Communications and Publications Director.”
“A big portion of my job is keeping the posts coming to Real Ranchers and keeping up-to-date on our Facebook and YouTube accounts,” explains Lauck, who enjoys staying connected to agriculture.
Lauck grew up on a small ranching and horse operation in northern Colorado and Chugwater.
“We moved back to Chugwater in 1998. I’ve lived in Wyoming ever since, and I have a real passion for agriculture,” says Lauck. “Ag has always been a part of my life.”
“I’ve always had a passion for agriculture, and I really like to write,” comments Lauck. “When I was in high school, I decided to major in ag communications. I got my degree from the University of Wyoming and was able to get some experience through internships.”
Lauck interned with UW Cooperative Extension, the Wyoming State Fair and the Wyoming Livestock Roundup during college.
“I was able to get some good experience to lead me into this job with Stock Growers,” says Lauck. “It has been a fantastic fit.”
Lauck is also involved in production agriculture. Her husband Tyler runs a small farm outside of Wheatland with Lauck, who helps as often as she can. As for Real Ranchers, Lauck says, “It’s a lot of fun. Every once in a while I look back and think it’s pretty awesome to be able to share the stories of these people who keep our state running. It’s a big honor to tell those stories.”
“We have been really pleased with how Real Ranchers has grown. We are hoping to continue that success,” says Lauck.
For future developments, Lauck plans to add separate sections for ranching, farming and energy, as well as utilize the latest developments in social media to tell the stories of Wyoming’s rural community members.
“We have been fortunate to receive more money from EnCana to do promotion and social media training. We want to encourage people to tell their stories and to send videos and photos,” adds Lauck.
Lauck’s passion for the cause is evident as she explains that the reason she is involved is to get consumers involved in the industry and to help them understand rural living.
“Most people are at least four generations removed from the land. When you have a population that is so far removed from what goes on, it is really easy for the everyday consumer to get misguided,” explains Lauck. “Radical groups like HSUS and PETA are telling our consumers very misleading things about what farmers and ranchers do and how they treat animals and the environment.”
“We hope to continue to do a good job – and even a better job – of reaching out to consumers,” adds Lauck. “The more we can do to tell folks what really happens, the more they will be able to make informed decisions.”
Visit RealRanchers.com to read the stories of Wyoming farmers and ranchers or to submit your story. Saige Albert is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.