ENDOW jumps into ag sector
Casper – On March 13, over 50 Wyomingites from a wide array of backgrounds gathered at Casper College to delve into the opportunities and economic drivers for the agriculture industry during the first meeting of the ENDOW Sustainable Harvest Public Forum.
“From the future of local food production to innovation in agriculture technology to marketing specialty crops internationally, the conversation at the meeting covered a broad cross-section of topics within agriculture,” said ENDOW in a press release. “The forum gave the ENDOW Sustainable Harvest Subcommittee much to chew on as they develop a long-term vision to diversify Wyoming’s economy over the next 20 years.”
Wally Wolski, Goshen County Commissioner, chairs the committee, and commented, “It’s great to have this diverse group of thinkers come together and collaborate on ideas that can drive Wyoming agriculture toward a more dynamic future.”
“Today, ag producers, food freedom advocates, ag technology experts, brewers and distillers, chefs, academics, rural development leaders and passionate young people came together and worked to develop some really strong recommendations for Wyoming’s economic future,” he added.
Inside rural Wyoming
Wolski noted, with 11,400 farms and ranches through the state, Wyoming’s agriculture industry creates an economic impact of more than $2 billion annually.
“Cattle production is by far the largest agricultural commodity produced in Wyoming and accounts for almost three-quarters of the state’s ag receipts,” he continued, noting sheep and wool come in second, followed by hog production. “On the crop side, hay ranks at the top, only surpassed by cattle.”
Barley, sugarbeets, corn and dry beans follow close behind.
“Traditionally, Wyoming farmers and ranchers have dealt in wholesale commodities,” Wolski said. “Ranchers take their livestock to the sale barn and farmers take their crops to the elevator, where they basically receive an annual paycheck based upon market value at the wholesale level.”
Wolski suggested value-added retail markets for crops and livestock will be essential moving into the future.
As part of ENDOW’s Executive Council, the Sustainable Harvest Subcommittee, who hosted the forum, includes members Wally Wolski, Ray Fleming Dinneen of Cheyenne, Karen Hostetler of Buffalo and Mary Ellbogen Garland of Laramie.
“The sole reason ENDOW’s Sustainable Harvest held this public forum is to initiate a dialogue within the agriculture community for exploring innovative, technology based agribusinesses and accumulated agri-preneurship for the 21st century producer,” Wolksi said.
Guiding the overall work of ENDOW, Hostetler, who owns Mountain Meadow Wool Company in Buffalo, explained the house of ENDOW, which visually describesthe work of the group.
“The roof is important and is represented by economic growth and diversity,” Hostetler said. “We want to keep Wyoming growing by having viable jobs in our workforce and stopping the flow of our young people to other states.”
The roof is supported by the economic engines of the state, represented by pillars.
“These are five pillars we have defined over the last nine months,” she added. “These are areas of opportunity that have been identified as having the highest potential for growth, whether it’s in business trends in the country, nationwide or globally or opportunity that comes from Wyoming’s strengths and expertise.”
Agriculture, food and beverage is one of the five pillars. Other pillars include data, services and information technology; advanced manufacturing; energy and minerals; tourism and outdoors; and innovation and entrepreneurship.
Additionally, the house of ENDOW includes enablers and barriers at its foundation, which must be fortified or eliminated, respectively, to continue to help Wyoming grow.
The barriers facing economic growth and development in the state include a skilled workforce, community amenities and infrastructure, and enablers include active state marketing, a favorable government policy and structure and capital access.
The bulk of the meeting revolved around small break-out groups that were intentionally composed of people with diverse backgrounds to simulate conversations.
The results of breakout sessions will be compiled and used by the subcommittee to outline recommendations for economic growth of the agriculture industry into the future.
Following the forum, Hostetler said, “Now we have the tough job of taking all these great ideas and distilling them down into clear, actionable recommendations that can expand opportunities for ag-based business owners and for Wyoming’s rural communities now and 20 years into the future.”
The Sustainable Harvest Subcommittee has been charged with developing recommendations to Gov. Matt Mead by Aug. 1 as part of ENDOW’s final report.
Wolski added, “We have a lot of tough work ahead of us and a tight timeframe, but this event puts us on solid footing to deliver really impactful recommendations to Gov. Mead.”
Saige Albert, managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, compiled this article from the forum and press releases from ENDOW. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.