New leadership: Stacy Berger takes helm of YF&R
Laramie – Meeting young farmers and ranchers with a passion for agriculture is always inspiring.
Stacy Berger, with her husband, helps run her family’s ranch 30 miles northwest of Laramie. She realizes being involved in production agriculture isn’t enough. One needs to get involved to have a voice.
In November, she was selected to serve as chair of the Wyoming Farm Bureau (WyFB) Young Farmer and Rancher (YF&R) Committee. Former Wyoming YF&R chair, as well as 2016 national YF&R chair, Cole Coxbill stepped down when he was elected as WyFB vice president.
Berger is the fifth generation on her family ranch.
“The ranch been in our family for more than 100 years,” the 32-year-old explains. “The history is rather interesting.”
She continues, “My great-great grandfather and two of his brothers came from Denmark to lay track for the Union Pacific Railroad. One of the brothers came up missing, so my grandfather and his other brother stayed to find him. They looked, but never found him.”
At that point, he stayed in the West, purchasing land in Colorado and beginning his cattle operation.
“A lot of our family has been in Colorado, and then Wyoming,” Berger says. “Today, we have a commercial Angus cow/calf herd.”
The full-time mom is not only busy helping on the ranch but is also busy raising four kids ages 15, 6, 3 and 11 months.
“We’re raising our own crew,” she chuckles. “The kids are helpful. We’re homeschooling our six-year-old daughter, so that has been an adventure. It works well because she can help us move cows and tag calves, but then do school in the afternoon and ride her horse, too.”
“I was homeschooled part-time when I was growing up,” Berger adds. “The ranch is 30 minutes from Laramie, so that would have meant a lot of hours spent on the bus.”
Farm Bureau family
“My parents have been involved in Farm Bureau for many, many years. My grandparents and maybe even my great-grandparents were involved. It’s very much a family tradition,” Berger says. “I received the Albany County Farm Bureau scholarship and attended the University of Wyoming.”
Berger and her husband then got involved in YF&R five years ago and helped build the program in Albany County.
“I was voted onto the state committee about four years ago and have been active helping young people in agriculture get involved in Farm Bureau,” she says.
More than insurance
Berger notes that people automatically think the name Farm Bureau is just insurance, but the Federation exists to lobby, educate and help farmers and ranchers continue their way of life and continue with food production.
“It’s important to have people see the importance in that. In fact, one of our Albany County activities is setting up an ‘Ag Olympics’ course during the University of Wyoming football games. We have a lot of college students and families with kids stop by to do the course, which includes roping from a ‘horse,’ carrying buckets, etc.,” she explains. “The kids loved getting on the horse. While they’re here, we talk about ag facts and how many ranches in Wyoming are family owned. It’s a great ag advocacy event.”
Statewide, the YF&R committee has read agricultural books for kids.
“This year, it was a book about tractors. We offered a coloring contest for kindergartners and first graders, a poster contest for second and third graders and a creative writing contest for fourth and fifth graders,” Berger comments. “We have distributed many books. People are so removed from the farm, so we’re teaching a generation of kids whose parents aren’t even involved in farming and ranching.”
Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead also signed a proclamation for agriculture literacy in combination with the event.
Berger admits a real challenge is having young farmers and ranchers ages 18 to 35 stay active in Farm Bureau. Like many other states, Collegiate Farm Bureau participation in booming but drops once the students graduate and move on.
“I know young farmers and ranchers are busy trying to get their business going or take over a family ranch and many have young families, so it’s an age that’s difficult to be active,” she says. “However, it’s so important to be involved. We need to speak up. There are extreme groups who aren’t telling the truth about farmers and ranchers.”
Feeding the world is a message that needs to get out, she asserts.
“We live in a prosperous nation that has so many job opportunities. I think that hurts agriculture. We have to educate young people to go back to their farms and ranches,” she explains. “It might not pay as much as other work, but it’s a very important job. We need to sit down and have the conservation focus on where our food comes from.”
Continuing in ag
Of course, having good succession planning plays a role in keeping young people working in agriculture.
“This is a great lifestyle and great career. I can be with my kids 24/7. They learn to take care of the land and animals, and it gives our kids an outstanding work ethic. I get to be outside and not sit behind a desk. I learned good values and that there is more to life than making a lot of money,” Berger says.
As for being involved in the YF&R program, Berger has nothing but praise.
“The connections I have made are amazing,” she says. “Many times, living in a rural place, I feel we’re the only ones out here. Then we go to a conference and realize we’re not alone. There are other young people just like us dealing with the same challenges we have. We can share ideas. It’s great.”
Rebecca Colnar is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.