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Douglas – As part of an annual tradition on Saturday of the Wyoming State Fair, 21 farms and ranches were honored for operating in the same place for over 100 years during the 2018 Centennial Farm and Ranch Award Ceremony. 

“Wyoming is not Wyoming without agriculture,” said Gov. Matt Mead during the ceremony. “For the last 100 years, the farms and ranches being recognized have put food on the table and made Wyoming what it is.”

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) commented, “100 years ago marked the last year of World War I, and the ranches here today have been through it all – drought, wind, hail, water, snow and more. It is these good families who have brought us here today.” 

Further, Barrasso asserted agriculture and ranching families are not just the backbone of Wyoming, he said, “You have the heart, nerve and guts – the Wyoming grit – that makes this state great.” 

Going forward, Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Director Jim Magagna noted the vision for farms and ranches will be critical to maintaining the state’s enviable record of maintaining farms and ranches over the long-term. 

“We get to celebrate multiple generations of ranchers here today,” added Wyoming Department of Agriculture Director Doug Miyamoto. “It is a worthy accolade, and these centennial farms and ranches are the ones who define what our state is all about.” 

The following farms and ranches were honored this year. They are listed with the date their operation was founded. 

Delwin L. and Janet Ann Bass, The Bass Ranch (1917) – Goshen County

Clay Family, T-K Ranch (1900) – Albany County

Cowardin Family, The Mona Ranch (1908) – Crook County

Larry and Ruthie Cundall, The Cundall Ranch (1917) – Platte County

Marty and Darci Edwards, The Groves Ranch (1916) – Campbell County

Kenneth E. Faber, The Barney Faber Homestead (1918) – Laramie County

Robert Grant, The Grant Ranch (1884) – Platte County

Groves and Drake Family, The Sunburst Ranch (1917) – Campbell County 

Haefele Family, The Haefele Ranch (1918) – Converse County

Hageman Family, Lamp Chimney Ranch, LLC (1918) – Converse County

Mike A. Hakert Family, The Mike Alexander Hakert Homestead (1916) – Johnson County 

Richard and Donna Hakert, The Hakert Ranch (1916) – Johnson County

Kennedy Family, Vale Ranch, LLC (1918) – Albany County

Koch Family, The Four Mile Ranch (1918) – Johnson County 

Ligocki Family, Robert and Joan, Merle and Amy, The Two Horsepower Ranch (1917) – Sheridan County 

Ronda Lacey, Kaitlyn Pfister, Cally and Jackson Lund, The Jack Pfister Ranch (1916) – Niobrara County 

Pickinpaugh Family, P3 Ranch, LLC (1915) – Converse County 

Sommers Family, The Horseshoe Valley Ranch (1892) – Platte County 

Turner Family, The Turnercrest Ranch (1918) – Campbell County

Joe Weber Family, The Joe Weber Homestead Family (1917) – Platte County

Wilson, Ruffing and Holloman Families, Ruffing Trust (1896) – Niobrara County

Partners in the Wyoming Centennial Farm and Ranch Program are the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office, Wyoming Stock Growers Association, Wyoming Department of Agriculture, Wyoming Business Council, Wyoming Rural Electric Association, Wyoming Wool Growers Association and Wyoming Livestock Roundup.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A Solo 401(k) plan can be an ideal retirement plan for the farm and ranch owner who either does not have employees or who has employees who may be excluded from coverage. 

A Solo 401(k) offers several benefits, including little to no administration fees, high annual contribution limits, a choice of pre-tax or after-tax (Roth) contributions and the ability to make loans from account balance.

Under the 2016 Solo 401(k) contribution rules, a Solo 401(k) plan participant under the age of 50 can make an annual maximum employee deferral contribution of $18,000.  If you are age 50 or older, this amount is increased to $24,000 per year.  Employee deferral contributions can be made in pre-tax or after-tax (Roth) dollars. 

In addition to employee deferral contributions, the business can make a 25 percent – or 20 percent in the case of a sole proprietorship or single member LLC – profit sharing contribution up to a combined maximum, including the employee deferral, of $53,000 for those under age 50 and $59,000 for those age 50 or older.

Unlike a regular 401(k) plan, a Solo 401k plan can only be set up for self-employed individuals or small business owners who have no other full-time employees and who are not employed by any business owned by them or their spouse. An exception applies if your full-time employee is your spouse. The business owner and their spouse are technically considered “owner-employees” rather than “employees.”

You are able to exclude certain employees from participating in your Solo 401(k) plan. The following types of employees may be generally excluded from coverage: employees under 21 years of age, employees who work less than a 1,000 hours annually, union employees, and nonresident alien employees.

If you have full-time employees who are age 21 or older other than your spouse or part-time employees who work more than 1,000 hours a year, you will typically have to include them in any plan you set up. However, a Solo 401(k) eligible business can have part-time employees and independent contractors.

Another advantage of Solo 401(k) accounts over Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and Simplified Employee Pension Plans (SEPs) is the ability to take out loans from your account. 

A Solo 401(k) plan participant is able to borrow up to 50 percent of their total account value or $50,000, whichever is less. This loan is tax-free and can be made for any reason. Repayment of the loan is based on a schedule provided when the loan is initiated and must be deposited back into the account, including interest, over a term of up to five years. Loan payments must be made at least quarterly and at a minimum interest rate equal to the U.S. prime rate. Failure to make loan payments may cause the loan to default which may result in taxes and IRS penalties.

While I don’t advocate making loans from your 401(k), the ability to make them is an added benefit of this retirement plan.

Two of the most important decisions with a Solo 401(k) plan are how to invest your money in the retirement plan and how much of the employee deferral to allocate to pre-tax versus Roth. A good financial advisor can assist you with both of these decisions. 

Chris Nolt is the owner of Solid Rock Wealth Management, Inc. and Solid Rock Realty Advisors, LLC, sister companies dedicated to working with families around the country who are selling a farm or ranch and transitioning into retirement. For more information, visit solidrockproperty.com and solidrockwealth.com.

A biology professor from Boston, Mass. and a rancher on the E.O. Bischoff Ranch in Lovell, Wyo. – worlds apart? One might think so, but it ain’t so.  From 1991 to 2010, I spent a week or two most every summer cowboying on the E.O. Growing up near the ocean in a suburb of New York City watching Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers – in black and white. I wished I were a cowboy but never got near a horse. Then in 1990, at the age of 47, I decided to start riding, worked with a horse trainer and rode locally nearly every week.

Then, in 1991, I made arrangements to spend two weeks with John Nation – cowboy, rancher, outfitter and friend of the Bischoff’s – “helping” to move cows. The first few years, I think the cows were helping me, but over time, I got the hang of it. On one trip, Max Bischoff, John and I had gathered half a dozen cows and were moving them up the trail from Winter Hill toward Dugan’s cow camp. Max and John decided to go off in another direction where they suspected some cows were hanging out and left me to keep pushing the six cows along the trail. Soon, I came across a dozen or so not far from the trail. I gathered those and continued with my small group, then came across another dozen or so and gathered those into the bunch. The problem was, I didn’t know what our destination was. Max and John were nowhere to be seen. Rather than move the cows where they weren’t supposed to go, I turned around and rode back a few minutes, looking for my mates. Then, they called from behind me – back where I had left the cows. I rode back and, somewhat proudly, told them how I had gathered these cows all by myself, but by this time the animals had all disappeared – I had no idea where.  Max listened to me, then turned to John and said, “He’s lying!”  Western humor, eastern humor – it’s all the same.

One of the many wonderful folks I met out here – or there – was a young man named Ben. I’ll leave out his last name. He rodeoed in the local rodeos and once loaned me his calf roping horse when someone handed me the Wyoming State flag to carry into the Cowley rodeo in the grand entry. The stirrups were too short for me, but I didn’t dare change them – it was his roping horse. As soon as we started to gallop into the arena, my hat flew off, my feet slipped out of the stirrups, and I prayed that I wouldn’t fall off. It would have been the most embarrassing moment of my life.

I saw Ben briefly over several years, but we never spoke more than a few words. Then, one year, Ben and I were asked to trail five horses out of Dugan’s cowcamp to the trailer parked near Sheep Mountain. It was a few hours on horseback and a couple more in the pickup and trailer, and we had an intense and personal conversation about our families and our sons.  Worlds apart – maybe in miles, but we had the same concerns and the same caring for our families. 

And that was one thing I learned in all my trips out West. Boston and Wyoming may be worlds apart in some ways – ocean versus mountain, city versus country, politics – but my western friends still share the values of hard work, loyalty to friends, caring for family, struggling with finances, illness, death, loving the land – or the sea and showing warmth and hospitality to strangers in a strange land like me. 

Of all the rides I remember, one stands out the most. John and I were aiming to start on the cows in the morning, but a broken tractor required his attention. It took all day to deal with, finally, by stealing a part from another vehicle on the ranch. We didn’t get started riding until around 5 p.m. and finished around 9:30, ending up at Dugan’s cabin. There were a bunch of folks there, and John wanted to hang out with his friends. I was exhausted and wanted to return to the Moss where John, Jim Bischoff and I were sleeping. John told me to go on ahead, and he would follow later in his pickup. So, I mounted up and rode the seven miles or so in the dark. There was no moon, and it would have been pitch black but for the stars and the Milky Way, which was as bright as I’ve ever seen it. There were no sounds but the wind, the horse’s footfalls, the creak of saddle leather, the ring of my jingle-bobs and the insects. I couldn’t see the trail but knew vaguely where I was from the silhouettes of the mountains against the sky, having ridden this way many times before. I’ll never forget this night.

About an hour into the ride, I thought I saw someone riding towards me – just making out the cowboy hat and horse in the dark.  Who the heck would be riding out here, in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere? It took me a few seconds to realize that I was looking at myself. John had left the cabin in his pickup truck, and from a distance, his headlights were shining on me, casting my shadow on the side of a hill. He drove on by, and when I reached the Moss Ranch around midnight, I could see a welcoming orange glow coming from the windows. Jim and John had cooked dinner for me, waiting for me to show up.

In Wyoming, I rarely talked about my job in Boston.  But back in Boston, my Wyoming experience influenced my life as Professor of Biology. Specializing in immunology – including antibodies, vaccines, infectious disease and cancer – I occasionally did consulting work for large pharmaceutical companies, offering courses in immunology to their research scientists. Lecture slides of antibodies always included a photo of spurs I had made with the classic antibody logo on the heel band and a photo of chaps made with the same logo. 

The horse trainer I worked with took a course in biology. I helped her write a paper on “Maternal Antibodies for the Newborn Horse” dealing with colostrum and plasma treatments for foals with transfer disorder. She got an A+. 

And I rode almost every week. Horses out here are boarded in stables, which are very costly. Luckily, I was able to ride other folks’ horses to give them exercise. After my last visit to Wyoming, I stopped riding – recovery from spinal fusion surgery. I kept my old saddle on a stand in my school office. Students would stop in anytime with problems or just for a friendly chat, and a few chose to sit on the saddle for our meeting.  When I retired last year, the chairman – a close friend – asked to have the saddle for his office, and there it sits. 

Joel Kowit is a retired biology professor at Emmanuel College from Boston, Mass. After reading an article on E.O. Bischoff Ranch in the Roundup, he sent us a number of stories from his adventures in Wyoming, including lessons he learned and similarities he observed form his experience in the West, saying, “I left part of my heart out in Wyoming." Keep an eye out for more stories from Kowit over the next year.

Beginning in the 1980s, farmers and ranchers became increasingly concerned as more and more people began relocating to rural areas outside of cities and towns, subdividing lands, reducing available farmland and complaining that longstanding farms and ranches were a nuisance to their brand-new way of life.

As rural residences increased substantially across the country, agricultural operations often became the subject of nuisance lawsuits. These lawsuits often claimed that livestock – including cattle, horses, sheep, chickens, pigs and goats – and the production of our food and crops was a “nuisance” because they create dust, noise and obnoxious odors which interfere with the nonagricultural users’ use and enjoyment of their rural property. As a result, many agricultural operations were forced out of business, and others were discouraged from making investments in improvements and new technologies.

To protect the agricultural way of life and sustainability of farming and ranching, legislators across the county began enacting laws commonly known as “The Right to Farm.” Right to Farm laws generally deny nuisance lawsuits against farmers and ranchers who use accepted standard farming practices and have been in existence prior to the adjacent nonagricultural land uses. In addition, many Right to Farm laws limit or deny the ability of state and local governments to adopt ordinances or pass resolutions which may interfere with legitimate and law-abiding agricultural operations.

Yet, what do these laws mean? Do you really have a “right to farm”? Do you have a right to make any agricultural use of your private property? The answer, of course, is, it depends. To be more specific, it really depends on where you live. Right to Farm laws vary across the country, and depending on which side of the fence you live, they may solve all your problems or do nothing for you whatsoever.

For example, in Colorado, the Right to Farm law weighs heavily in favor of prohibiting nuisance lawsuits against all agricultural operations, whether large or small, commercial or private.

The statute provides, “An agricultural operation shall not be found to be a public or private nuisance if the agricultural operation alleged to be a nuisance employs methods or practices that are commonly or reasonably associated with agricultural production.”

In addition, and perhaps most importantly, the agricultural operation must be established prior to the use of the adjacent property for nonagricultural activities. In Colorado, agriculture is defined broadly to include the cultivation of plants, fruits, vegetables, flowers, grapevines, grass and ornamental trees; the storage, processing and distribution of milk and milk products; livestock and farm animals; poultry, including chickens and turkeys; bee hives; and “any and all other forms of farm products and farm production.”

In Colorado, any ordinance or resolution of a local government – such as a particular town, city or county – that makes the operation of any agricultural operation a nuisance or provides for the closure thereof as a nuisance, is void, unless the agricultural landowner voluntarily annexes his property into city limits.

Thus, if a farmer or rancher in Colorado, “voluntarily” annexes portions of his farm or ranch into city limits, then he risks that, one day, their agricultural operation may be found to be a nuisance and ordered closed by ordinance or resolution of their local government. Obviously, farmers and ranchers in Colorado should think twice prior to “voluntarily” seeking to annex their property into city limits.

Finally, in Colorado, while local governments may not declare agricultural operations located outside city limits as a nuisance, local governments may adopt ordinances or pass resolutions that provide additional protections for agricultural operations, so long as such additional protections do not prevent the agricultural landowner from seeking approval to put their land into alternative use.

As an interesting side note to the Right to Farm law in Colorado, it remains to be seen whether such law will protect the rights of agricultural operations that cultivate, store, process or distribute marijuana for either medicinal or recreational purposes. Do local governments have the right to declare marijuana operations as a nuisance? Is a marijuana operation agriculture? Due to the unparalleled explosion of the marijuana industry in Colorado, it is only a matter of time before this provision is tested in the state courts.

The Right to Farm law in Colorado would appear to protect virtually any person engaged in agriculture, whether he or she is merely engaged in agriculture for personal reasons, such as owning a handful of horses for riding, sheep for wool, chickens for eggs or pigs as a “garbage disposal.” He or she does not need to own a significant cattle operation or otherwise engage in the commercial production and sale of farm and ranch products to be protected under the Right to Farm law in Colorado.

In Wyoming, however, a person owning livestock or growing crops for personal use is not protected under the Right to Farm law. Rather, in Wyoming, the Right to Farm law only protects those engaged in the commercial production and sale of farm and ranch products. While the law in Wyoming protects the same kinds of operations as those in Colorado, the law in Wyoming specifically does not protect farms and ranches that own big game, such as deer and elk, or game birds, such as turkeys and pheasants.

Otherwise, the provisions of the Wyoming law are very similar to the Colorado law. The Wyoming law does not address whether local governments may prohibit or protect agricultural operations.

If you are a landowner in Wyoming who wants to make sure you are protected by the Right to Farm law, you would be advised to occasionally sell some of your “products” to qualify as a “commercial” farm and ranch operation. While the law in Wyoming states that it was enacted “to forever guarantee” the right to engage in farming and ranching in Wyoming, such “guarantee” clearly only applies to those who are engaged in the “commercial production and sale” of their farm and ranch products.

The term “commercial” is not defined in the law and has not been clarified by any court.

If you believe that your rights as a farmer or rancher have not been protected or have been threatened by encroaching city slickers looking to move outside city limits, then you are strongly encouraged to speak to an attorney concerning the Right to Farm laws in your state and local community.

Do you have a right to farm? In some cases, you most certainly do and will be protected by the law. In others, not so much. Like so much else in life, it all depends on where you live.