Look What Sprouted in Northeast Wyoming
There’s more growing than tomatoes, corn, carrots, beans and onions on the student farm attached to the shoulder of Hulett School in northeast Wyoming.
Twenty-five year rancher and Hulett School vo-ag teacher Jim Pannell’s vision of the farm was realized in 2010 when the place where students could apply what they learned in school classrooms was built across the gravel road that separates the school and farm to provide hands-on experience with plants and animals.
He and the owner of the land fashioned an arrangement, so the school could lease the two acres. Grants and large donations provided money to build the insulated barn in 2014, and most of that first summer was spent building corrals and a fence. A chicken house then sprang up north of the barn and then a greenhouse and garden area to the west.
“The first thing we have to realize,” said Pannell, who wore a longish, dark-blue Devils Tower FFA shirt and stood in front of deep-green rows of sweet corn early last fall, “is regardless of who the student is, most of these kids, whether they pursue a four-year degree or enter the work force, at some time in their lives will want to do something with their hands.”
That could be something as simple as gardening or something not-so-simple, like working in the area coalmines or on ranches.
“Part of our goal was to teach these kids to think, and something like this encourages them,” he said. “It’s not just book learning. There’s a lot of math that goes into building and constructing the things here. Maybe there isn’t enough emphasis on that in school – maybe practicality.”
University of Wyoming Extension Educators Sara Fleenor and Brian Sebade helped Pannell grow the student farm.
Students are raising vegetables, teachers are involved, and livestock are being cared for. Students shoulder the responsibilities.
“It’s cool during summer,” said Sebade, who helped select fruit trees and vegetables. “The kids would randomly show up, know where to get feed, take care of their animals or work in the garden, knowing where they needed to pull weeds.”
The farm is also a natural learning tool for the county’s 4-H’ers, added Fleenor.
“This allows kids who are not necessarily able to be in 4-H in the traditional sense to have livestock,” she said. “It allows kids to know where food comes from and participate in the livestock and produce side of it if they choose to. It allows for a wider diversity of kids to be involved in 4-H.”
Pannell noted the generosity of the residents in assisting the school farm and the support of school administration.
“We are really fortunate to live in Crook County,” said Pannell. “It’s a rural, agricultural place where they value the education of the kids and value what’s going on down here.”
Photographs, videos and more stories about the student farm are in the 2016 CONNECT magazine published by UW Extension and available at county extension offices.