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Lusk rancher focuses on youth

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Lusk – According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 35 percent of agricultural producers in Wyoming are women, which is five percent above the national average.

Wyoming’s women in agriculture embody the Western spirit in their passion and commitment to the continuation of the agricultural industry.

Lusk Rancher Donna Hanson uses her experiences in ranching and leadership positions to share the importance of agriculture with local youth.

“Women involved in agriculture serve an important role in helping mentor the next generation,” says Hanson.

Getting started

From the time she can remember, Hanson has been involved with ranching.

“I’ve been involved with agriculture since I was born,” she says. “I started riding when I was about two.”

Hanson’s family raised cattle on the family ranch while she was growing up. She notes that her family moved several times before making their home in Crowheart.

“We lived in several different places until I was eight years old, and then we settled at Crowheart,” says Hanson.

Family ranch

Donna, her husband Dan, sons Ben and Dan and daughter-in-law Lacy manage 1,100 Black Angus cow/calf pairs, plus yearlings, on the family’s 30,000 acre ranch north of Lusk.

The family emphasizes the importance of both economically managing their operation and wisely managing environmental resources, with the ranch receiving a regional Environmental Stewardship Award from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in 2000.

Hanson is a pivotal part of all aspects of the ranching operation from working cattle to business management.

“I ride quite a bit and help with the calving and weaning,” says Hanson. “I am also in charge of the books.”

The ranching lifestyle is filled with many challenges, says Hanson, particularly in managing the ranch around Wyoming weather and adapting to ever changing governmental policies.

“Living in the county that we do, we’ve had tornadoes, fires, hail and floods, so Mother Nature is definitely a challenge,” she comments.

Despite the challenges, she continues to appreciate the lifestyle.

Community involvement

In addition to her involvement at the family ranch, Hanson is an active participant and volunteer in numerous community organizations.

“Within the organizations that I work with, I hold many different roles,” says Hanson.

Some of the organizations that Hanson is involved with include Niobrara County Cattlewomen’s Association, 4-H, Niobrara County Homemakers and the local school board.

“I’m heavily involved with 4-H as a leader. I’ve been a leader for 30 years,” says Hanson.

Each year, she also participates in the Legend of Rawhide event for Niobrara County to celebrate the history, legend and western heritage of the county.

“It’s a live performance play that is a community event that we put on every year,” explains Hanson.

Educating youth

Sharing the importance of agriculture with their children is an important role for women to fulfill in the agricultural industry, says Hanson.

“Not only do women in agriculture support their husbands, they help their children realize the importance of agriculture,” she continues.

Women’s involvement with agriculture is also important for educating other community members through activities in 4-H and promotional events that agricultural organizations help with.

“I work a lot with youth through the Niobrara County Cattlewomen’s Association,” explains Hanson.

Through that involvement, Hanson is in charge of coordinating the Ag Expo, for the county, allowing her the opportunity to share her story and the value of agriculture with local youth.

“I’m in charge of the Ag Expo and one of the really rewarding things to me is being able to help youth understand the importance of agriculture,” she continues.

The Hanson family, several other local ranching families and the Natural Resources Conservation Service were pivotal in establishing the Ag in the Classroom program in Niobrara County to further reach youth.

“Teachers bring their students out to different ranches throughout the year, where they learn the varying aspects of ranching, including soils, grasses and water,” says Hanson.

Starting advice

Hanson’s advice to women who are starting off in the agricultural industry is to get involved with local agriculture organizations and become an agricultural advocate.

“I strongly advise that women become agricultural advocates and get involved in different organizations, whatever they are interested in like Cattlewomens, Stock Growers or Farm Bureau. There are several organizations out there,” says Hanson.

She explains that organizations use different approaches to agricultural advocacy, allowing women to find one that best suits their advocacy style.

“To get started, I think women should just pick the organization they feel most comfortable with. There are so many good ones,” continues Hanson.

The relationships that women build with like-minded individuals in this organization will help encourage and direct them as they learn how to be an agricultural advocate.

“If young women pick the organization that they like the best and get involved with the leadership in that group, the members and women of that group help mentor them to do a good job,” she concludes. 

Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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