Cotton set to retire
Casper – For over 28 years, Scott Cotton has been involved in agriculture Extension, working as the area Senior Extension Educator for three central counties – Natrona, Niobrara and Converse for eight years. Scott’s family has been in northern Wyoming since 1868. Growing up between Sheridan and Gillette on a legacy ag-production farm, Scott has always known he wanted to be involved in agriculture.
“I wanted to find something that helped producers with their needs and this is what lead me to the Extension position: Trying to help producers deal with issues by providing solutions with research-based information.”
Scott holds degrees in range, animal science, ag communications, and range and watershed ecology, he shares. He studied a majority of his studies at the University of Wyoming, in addition to earning one degree at Sheridan College.
Oct. 16 will be his last official day at the University of Wyoming Extension office, though he shares he still plans to be involved post-retirement.
“I’d like to continue working with the livestock and producer organizations I am a member of and see if there is something I can help them with from a personal aspect,” says Scott.
He continues, it’s important to stay involved. Scott is currently involved with the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, Wyoming Wool Growers Association and the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation. In addition, Scott works with the Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming.
“I see my neighbors being involved with these organizations,” Scott says. “Being a neighbor and a producer, I think it’s crucial for people step up and do what they can on a personal level for those organizations.”
Scott also takes pride in having the opportunity to make a difference in several other areas. He served as a Point of Contact for Colorado, Nebraska and now Wyoming since 1997 with the Extension Disaster Education Network serving as National Chairman from 2016-18. He currently provides education as a lead disaster educator for the state of Wyoming and has had the opportunity to work with the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force for the past two years.
He shares, there are many challenges which impact all of our communities.
“Any program we can do to make people safer and healthier is great because we have a better chance of continuity and growth throughout the state,” says Scott.
Scott will continue to make an impact by working on a Fair Safe project with the Natrona County 4-H Foundation.
“The project is funded through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and focuses on teaching fair management partnership with fair staff, emergency managers, law enforcement and volunteers in how to have more secure fairs,” explains Scott.
The program is designed as a three-part series and includes a vulnerability assessment, as well as training to identify and minimize any kind of risk.
“Work will take place with the Wyoming Homeland Security in addition to DHS, but the best part is working directly with fair staff and volunteers,” Scott notes.
“Every fair is different and this makes it really interesting to see what they need and how we can have things safer for kids,” Scott continues. “The bottom goal is to make a pleasant and open event for all participants and spectators. The real benefit for me has been working with producers and youth.”
Challenges and goodbyes
“We always have changes keeping programs focused and keeping them funded,” Scott shares. “As a society as a whole, we forget the rural populations play a key role in food production, resource management, our identity as a country and sometimes we have to be pretty creative to keep programs going for rural communities, especially when they are struggling.”
With a great workplace comes with amazing coworkers, and this is something Scott will miss the most.
“I have some great co-workers and I will not see them as often, but I plan to stay involved with these other organizations,” he notes. “I will see them intermittently, but one of the things that has always been fulfilling has been watching children grow and develop into citizens.”
Scott notes, sometimes people don’t realize the impact they have made until after the fact.
“Last June, I had four wedding invitations from kids who I started working with when they were eight years old in 4-H, and it’s something that is really fulfilling to see them become productive citizens. Since I won’t see as much of that, it’s something I will miss,” Scott shares.
“First and foremost, I have to thank my spouse because I’m gone a lot,” shares Scott, noting he worked 50 to 60 hours per week. “A family and spouse play a big role in supporting what you’re doing,” says Scott.
His wife Ann and family have been a large support system for Scott. Scott and Ann have six children Trevor, Drew, Brittnie, Breyanna, Christina and Samantha.
In addition to his family, Scott wanted to thank his mentors in helping him get to where he has been, sharing, “I also want to thank the people that taught me how to do it well. I’ve had a lot of great mentors over the years. The one who taught me how to balance things was Joe Hiller.”
“It’s a calling, not a job,” Scott mentions.
Post retirement and final thoughts
Scott is looking forward to his time after retiring from the Extension Educator position and has some immediate plans.
“The first thing I’m going to do is to throw away alarm clocks,” Scott jokingly shares.
He will continue to work on the Fair Safe Project and take up some of his hobbies again, which include playing music and leather working.
“I’m looking forward to exploring hobbies, in addition to exploring what I can do to help the organizations I am a part of,” says Scott.
Scott concludes, “The reality is that the things here matter to me because I’m from here and the communities of people were always a first priority. Through this career, I’ve had the opportunity to try to help people for decades and I’ve always felt good about that. I’ve had the opportunity to help people individually or in groups and that’s the blessing I’ve had in this career.”
Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.