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CWC sets sights on ag equine complex

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Riverton – With a focus on embracing the local food movement and opportunities for economic development, Central Wyoming College (CWC) President Brad Tyndall says they are looking toward the future with their latest project. 

“In 2018, we held 12 sessions with the community to get information about what the community believes we need in terms of agriculture education and resources here,” Tyndall comments. “There’s a lot of support for ag here.”

The forums, coupled with a study to assess the fundraising capacity of the of region, led CWC and Tyndall to pursue development of a new complex focused on agriculture, equine studies and meat science. 

“People are excited about CWC and this facility going forward,” he says. 

Community push

Tyndall notes current trends highlighting local food and local production also strongly support agriculture-related economic development. 

“We received a small grant from the Economic Development Administration to do an economic development analysis based on agriculture,” he says. “We received the preliminary report and recommendation in December, and it came out very positive. In particular, meat is really, really strong.” 

CWC aims to provide locally finished meat to local processors, then creating a demand chain to support production. 

Further, Tyndall says, with Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks just over the mountains, Riverton sees a steady stream of tourists throughout the summer months, and many of them just pass through.

“If we can develop local shops, craft beef, beef tastings and more, we can make our small towns more fun and livable,” he explains. “We want to entice people to linger and spend money on local everything.” 

Additionally, Tyndall explains that national parks are mandated to purchase locally produced food, if possible, which provides another potential market, as well. 

“Some people have said this idea seems like a ‘pie in the sky’ plan, but it has worked in other states and other places,” he says. “I believe it can work in Riverton.”

Inside the complex

CWC’s answer to help develop the agriculture industry is the Rocky Mountain Agriculture and Equine Sciences Complex, an $18 million, 80,000-square-foot facility that will house a large indoor pavilion, a smaller indoor arena and classroom space. 

Additionally, the facility will also be home to a USDA-inspected slaughter and process facility that is roughly 2,500 square feet. 

“This would be an instructional space that allows students to process one to two animals a week,” Tyndall says.

While there has been concern from some in the public that interest in a meat processing certificate would be limited, Tyndall remarks, “At CWC, every animal science student will learn the ‘bloody’ way through meat science. They will learn about cuts of meat and slaughter through the animal science program.”

He adds, “Numbers aren’t a problem for our ag program, so they won’t be a problem for the meat science facility.”

In addition, the equine sciences space will help to support an already growing program at CWC.

“The equine industry in Wyoming is pretty big, with over 33,000 Wyomingites involved in the industry in some way,” says Tyndall. “Fremont County is number one in the state in terms of quantity of horses.” 

“This area is well poised to serve the equine industry, since we’re the epicenter of horse country in the state that has the cowboy as its symbol,” he notes. 

The facility will also include a greenhouse and areas for crop science, as well, Tyndall says, noting that other facets of the agriculture industry won’t be ignored.

Next steps

The complex has been designed, and the college has applied for funding through a number of sources. 

CWC has applied for an additional Economic Development Administration grant in the amount of $3 million to help finance the complex, and they hope to receive $3.9 million from the Wyoming Legislature.

“We already have $5.25 million from the Legislature to start funding the project,” Tyndall says. “It is estimated that the project will cost $18.3 million, but that number has contingencies. It accounts for inflation, expecting that it may take several years to raise the money.”

“We’re hoping to beat the bushes and raise money quickly to eliminate some of those costs,” he adds.

In addition, Tyndall says CWC hopes to find donors to start an endowment to fund teaching positions. 

“Enrollment should be high enough to pay for faculty over the long-term, but an endowment would help to jumpstart that,” he explains.

Bright future

Tyndall comments, “Many people say this facility makes sense for Riverton and CWC.”

As they look forward to breaking ground, hopefully in the spring of 2020, he says they will continue working with the community to raise funds and develop the facility. 

“There is a whole lot to be excited about,” Tyndall comments. “Now is the time for us to be a part of this movement for agriculture revitalization.” 

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at roundup@wylr.net.

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