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Sustainability set as topic for two-day Sheridan College symposium

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Sheridan – As Sheridan College’s Agriculture Department continues to grow, the college began seeking new ways to encourage farmers and ranchers from the area to learn more about both the department and agriculture.

“We were talking about ways we could help draw the ag community to the college to discuss those issues that are important to agriculture,” comments Sheridan College Advisory Board Member and Padlock Ranch CEO Wayne Fahsholtz. “At the same time, I have been participating in discussions on sustainability with McDonalds and Walmart.”

The result of the discussion was a Ranch Sustainability Forum, set to be held May 11-13 in Sheridan.

Defining sustainability

Fahsholtz notes that sustainability is a fairly ambiguous term today, and it is defined in a number of ways by a wide variety of people. 

“If the person’s interest is in wildlife, sustainability is having good wildlife. If we are talking about environmental and landscape sustainability, those factors describe it,” he says. 

“Sustainability is really about three aspects,” Fahsholtz continues. “I simplify them as planet, people and profit. Others call them economic, social and environmental sustainability.” 

In designing a program based around sustainability, he says they focused on a comprehensive program that addresses each of the facets of sustainability.

Program components

During the two-day event, Fahsholtz marks courses in land monitoring, cattle handling and programs on other aspects of sustainability. 

“Charlie Orchard with Land EKG will host a short course on land monitoring, and Whit Hibbard, a rancher from Montana who has really studied Bud Williams’ techniques, will be presenting on low-stress livestock handling,” he says. “We will also have two young people talking about apps for agriculture.”

The first evening of the event will also host a dinner featuring Bob Langert, vice president of corporate sustainability for McDonald’s, as keynote speaker.

“This is a big deal,” Fahsholtz emphasizes. “Mr. Langert is willing to spend some time talking about the journey that McDonald’s is on and why they are interested in sustainability.”

Speaker panel

The second day of the event will host speakers on a wide variety of topics. 

“Dr. Jude Capper from Montana State University has a career talking about sustainability, and she does a lot of research dealing with the progress we have made in agriculture,” Fahsholtz continues. “Burke Teichert, a ranch manager who used to be with Deseret Companies, will be talking about the keys to successful ranching.”
Padlock Ranch’s Trey Patterson will also speak on heifers and keeping them in the herd, and Brian Mealor is slated to speak on weed control. In addition, Paul Young of Sheridan College and Nancy Labbe of the World Wildlife Fund will speak.

“All of these topics are important to sustainability, and we’ll cover all three aspects of the topic,” he comments. 

Diverse event

Fahsholtz notes that the event is sure to offer something for everyone who attends. 

“When I attend a meeting, I hate to say I’m going for specific reasons, because there is always something that can benefit me,” he explains. “We have a variety of topics, and we will reach a lot of different people in different ways.”

Fahsholtz encourages ranchers to take the time to get involved in more actively learning and communicating about sustainability.

“McDonalds has said that they want to purchase verifiable sustainable beef in 2016,” Fahsholtz says. “As ranchers, we are all making improvements and working to be better. There are lots of things that we, as ranchers, do to be sustainable.”

He comments, “We have to continually get better and figure out ways to communicate that to the public, so they understand that we are concerned about sustainability.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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