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WyFB hosts Cultivating Emerging Leaders Conference

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation (WyFB), the state’s largest organization for farmers and ranchers, hosted its annual Young Farmers and Ranchers (YF&R) Conference in Laramie on Feb. 2-3, featuring ag tours, research conversations, fellowship and fun.

With over 2,500 member families, WyFB’s mission is to represent the voices of Wyoming producers through grassroots policy development while focusing on protecting private property rights, stretching agriculture and supporting its members through advocacy, education and leadership development.

For over a century WyFB has united to keep agriculture strong and support the ability for farmers and ranchers to produce food and work diligently to ensure government leaders are aware of producers needs at a local, state and national level.

Research and innovation

Young producers from around the state gathered at the University of Wyoming (UW) Meat Lab facility for a private tour, kicking off the two-day convention. 

During the tour, participants received a brief overview of the teaching facilities and an overview of what UW student’s experience while working in the meat lab.

The UW Meat Lab was constructed in 1986 and is dedicated to teaching, research and Extension activities pertaining to meat science food technology, while providing students with a hands-on experience alongside their course work.

After the tour, participants convened at the UW Laramie Research and Extension Center (LREC) to participate in agricultural research conversations.

LREC was established in 1891, and in 1990, was relocated to its current location. It is one of the highest-altitude agriculture research centers in the U.S. at 7,220 feet above sea level.

The center houses beef, sheep and swine research units, as well as the Cliff and Martha Hansen Teaching Arena and the McGuire Ranch, located northeast of Laramie, which focuses on rangeland livestock production. 

Guest speakers participating in the agriculture research conversation at LREC included UW Extension Sheep Specialist Dr. Whit Stewart, who discussed the Wyoming Wool Initiative and UW Rangeland Extension Specialist Dr. Derek Scasta, who presented on livestock grazing.

UW Assistant Professor of Animal Genetics Hannah Cunningham-Hollinger updated young leaders on high altitude bull testing. 

“Launched in January 2023, the UW High Altitude Bull Test and Sale evaluates potential sires on their ability to serve producers at high altitudes and provides students with hands-on experience in production agriculture,” she said.

After her presentation, Cunningham-Hollinger provided a brief tour for the group to view the facility and some of the bulls UW has on site. 

She also discussed her current research, which focuses on improving production efficiency by investigating the rumen microbiome. 

Inspiring young leaders

During the convention, attendees heard from Sarah Bohenkamp, an energetic cowgirl and motivational life coach.

Bohnenkamp worked in the field of organizational development and leadership for 10-plus years, before going to work for American National CattleWomen.

For nearly two years, she led the Beef Checkoff-funded National Beef Ambassador Program and National Beef Speakers Bureau, before being promoted to lead the organization as the executive director-chief operating offer in 2012.

Bohenkamp shared life stories and a few secrets about leadership in her anti-average leadership workshop, attributing much of her success to lessons she’s learned from horses, including her first horse Buck who taught her volumes about leadership, without ever saying a word.

“I’m a hope dealer, leadership coach and horse-crazy keynote and workshop facilitator,” she remarked. “I know most people have given up on being more than mediocre, and I’m here to help you blaze epic trails.”

As she continued her interactive presentation, the young leaders in the crowd learned about the significance of developing a unique leadership brand, how to leverage their key qualities and how to become a critical communicator as a leader. 

Bohenkamp believes communication is code for leadership and challenged those in the room to strive for being anti-average and drive true change.

Convention concludes

To conclude the final day of the 2024 WyFB YF&R Convention, Thomas Foulke, UW senior research scientist in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics in the College of Agriculture, Life Sciences and Natural Resources, updated the group on the success of the Neolithic brand project.

“The Neolithic brand was launched a few years ago as a research and economic development project in an effort to help create jobs and enhance incomes in Wyoming’s agricultural sector by not just introducing ‘old’ crops, but by building out the supply chain and fostering adoption in the industry as new products,” Foulke stated.

The goal of the project was not only to create jobs but enhance incomes in Wyoming’s agricultural sector by adding diversity to the cropping choices available to farmers.

As the convention came to an end, participants heard real life experiences from Shannon Sims and his wife Melinda of Sims Cattle Company, who presented on the three secrets for increasing profits.

The Sims are not only fourth generational ranchers in McFadden but are facilitators for Ranch Management Consultants (RMC) in Wheatland.

RMC has been teaching profit and resource focused ranch business management since 2001 and utilizes practical experiences to help producers find real-world solutions on the ranch.

Melinda presented on basic economics, defining profit and how to set up benchmarks to address strengths and weaknesses, while creating a stable financial plan. 

“A ranch isn’t sustainable if it isn’t profitable,” she stated. “High capital costs, debt and cash flow are huge issues confronting ranches today.”

Shannon lent input on how to create a successful ranch, supporting multiple families and how everyone can be involved in a unique way, while stressing the importance of managing a succession plan.

Young farmers and ranchers are the future of agriculture, and staying informed and educated about agricultural policy and current issues prepares them to take action, building a network of support to enhance the development of agriculture in Wyoming

Melissa Anderson is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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