Earlier this month the Wyoming FFA Foundation hosted the first ever industry tour for Wyoming FFA members. This inaugural event offered FFA members a chance to visit the Laramie River Power Station, hear about the beef industry in Wyoming and visit the Johnston family’s Bard Ranch, which includes farming, a feedlot and a range operation.
Visiting the Laramie River Power Station was an outstanding opportunity for the FFA members to witness first-hand one of the means by which the nation’s electrical supplies are met. With the application of technology and by burning Wyoming’s low-sulfur, cleaner-than-average coal, FFA members also had a chance to see the investments in responsible power production. Several students on the tour asked questions about jobs in the power plant ranging from welding to operating the control center. It was wonderful to see the FFA members explore and gain a greater understanding about a key component in our state’s infrastructure and economy.
From there the group, including around 150, was off to the Platte County Fairgrounds. The Wyoming FFA Foundation partnered with the Laramie Peak CattleWomen to feed the group a noontime meal.
Kim Cullen, area seedstock producer and A.I. technician, spoke to the FFA members about the beef industry in Platte County and beyond. Kim’s message showed students that opportunity is around every corner if you’re only willing to look was well received by the members.
Judy West encouraged FFA members to consider vying for the title of Wyoming Beef Ambassador. Contest winners go on to represent Wyoming at the national level, serving as an advocate for the beef industry and spreading factual information to consumers. Several former Wyoming FFA members like Laura Nelson, formerly of Pine Bluffs, and Tressa Lawrence, formerly of Buffalo, have served as national beef ambassadors. Kate Richardson, who has been very successful in Wyoming FFA in both the extemporaneous public speaking and in range judging, is now serving as Wyoming’s ambassador. The program is a wonderful opportunity that dovetails with FFA projects and programs.
Judy also encouraged FFA members to grasp yet another opportunity to help spread facts about the beef industry. By earning their MBA (master’s in beef advocacy), FFA members can join the growing force of informed people who are well prepared to address consumer questions and concerns. As Judy pointed out, consumers want to know the story about Wyoming ranchers and the beef industry and we need to be prepared to answer their questions. An MBA can be earned online and the details are available at beef.org.
The tour wrapped up with a visit to the Johnston family’s Bard Ranch. FFA members learned about the diverse operation and the early day development of pivot irrigation using deep wells. Mike Johnston and his daughter and son-in-law Brandon and Amy Miller opened their feedlot up for the young people to explore. FFA members asked about the family’s use of baled tires to separate feedlot pens and their ability to protect the cattle from weather while holding heat. Many also joined Mike for a demonstration of the hydraulics used to operate the chute and sorting facilities at the feedlot. For some the visit was a chance to see some of what they’re learning in their agricultural education classes applied in a real-to-life setting.
The Wyoming FFA Foundation hopes to make the industry tour an annual event. The goal is to provide Wyoming FFA members a chance to visit little-explored parts of the state that are important to Wyoming’s economy. FFA members also explored important components of the nation’s infrastructure like food and power production.
Jennifer Vineyard Womack is executive director of the Wyoming FFA Foundation and a freelance writer. She can be reached at Womack@Wyoming.com or at 307-351-0730.