Casper women support ag
Casper – Casper ranch wives Leslie Hendry and Mary Owens understand the value of agriculture in today’s society and are working hard to ensure that youth in the Casper community understand the industry.
In their 21st year of putting on the Casper Ag Expo, as well as a number of years of involvement in many other ag organizations, the two women have devoted countless hours to ag education in Natrona County and across Wyoming.
“Mary and I started out as board members for Wyoming Ag in the Classroom,” comments Hendry. “We saw a need in Natrona County for educating students about agriculture, so we started this event.”
“Leslie saw this idea in a magazine, so we went to the school board and came up with this expo,” says Owens.
Casper Ag Expo
The Casper Ag Expo features 15 stations that teach third graders about the various facets of agriculture, ranging from livestock animals and predators to fencing, weeds and roping.
The two organize the expo together with very little assistance from the outside each year, offering the opportunity for a number of Casper youth to get an insight into the ag industry.
In the past few years, Kylie Burch has also jumped on board to organize the event.
“All the third graders in Casper are invited, and we will probably see between 750 and 800 students,” Hendry explained. “They are here for two hours.”
During the two hours, students travel in 10-minute rotations to sessions taught by young people from the Casper area. FFA members, as well as younger students, are selected to teach their peers about agriculture.
“We have two third graders helping us out with the teaching this year,” says Hendry. “We have found that third graders will listen more to kids than they do adults.”
They also utilize youth as group leaders to escort students around the expo, reaching out to high school student councils, FFA chapters and ROTC groups.
“The older kids are learning responsibility, and they are learning how to present,” explains Owens. “These are our future leaders.”
She continues, “Without programs like this, how would our younger students really recognize what is happening in agriculture?”
Value in agriculture
Even in Casper, Owens notices that there is a lack of understanding about agriculture that is concerning, so with Hendry’s help, she continues her involvement in the expo.
“One year, we had a goat and a calf in the same pen, and some students weren’t able to pick out that goat,” Owens comments. “That scares me. They truly believe the egg comes from a carton in the grocery store. It is very frightening.”
Hendry adds that the booths also involve some fun, including roping and horses, rather than strict production agriculture.
“These are third graders, so we don’t get too technical,” Hendry notes. “We just want to expose them to ag.”
Owens continues, “It is also about the culture of ranching, which is something else to think about. We want them to have some inclination about what ag is all about.”
Third grade teacher Arthur Ireland from Fort Caspar Academy comments on the program’s ability to not only inform students about agriculture, but to introduce cultural diversity.
“Wyoming is a big ag state, and this is the environment these students live in. Agriculture is a very valuable commodity in Wyoming’s economy, and some of these kids don’t ever get to see this part of Wyoming,” he says. “We are bringing that part to them in this event.”
“I think we are also helping them to understand culture, as well, so we are teaching a social aspect here, too,” Ireland continues. “Many kids come from different backgrounds, so it enables them to learn and interact with one another to understand one another.”
“This isn’t just about agriculture,” Ireland emphasizes. “We are teaching life lessons about people in the process.”
On top of organizing this event, both Hendry and Owens are very involved in many aspects of the agriculture industry and their communities.
“My husband Rob and I have a cow/calf operation where we run Black Angus cows and breed them to Charolais bulls,” says Hendry. “We also raise enough hay to feed our cows in the winter.”
Her sons Jarrod and J.W. also help on the operation, as does J.W.’s wife Hannah.
Hendry is also a past president of the Wyoming Ag in the Classroom board, past president of the Natrona County Cattlewomen and is currently involved in the Wyoming Cattlewomen. She is a member of the Farm Service Agency board, as well as the Natrona County Republican Party.
Owens helps her husband out on their sheep and cattle operation north of Casper when she isn’t teaching speech in the Natrona County School District. Mike and Jim, Owen’s sons, have also come on board to help in the family operation.
She also serves on the Natrona County Predator Board and is a past member of the Farm Service Agency Board.
“I was really involved in the 4-H program when my boys were involved, but as they got out, I decided to focus on other aspects,” says Mary.
Wyoming Beef Ambassador
On top of these duties Hendry and Owens organize the Beef Ambassador contest each year for Wyoming.
“This was our first year in the Beef Ambassador contest,” says Hendry. “We are still learning, but it’s another great program.”
This year, the pair will work to organize the Wyoming Beef Ambassador contest in March of 2013. The contest will allow Wyoming youth to educate other on the value of the cattle industry.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.