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Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster member Rachel Martin just returned from her two month International Farm Youth Exchange (IFYE) to the U.S. The trip saw the Northern Irish farmer’s daughter leave Belfast on June 8 and return on Aug. 9, traveling through a total of 12 states in a bid to learn about agriculture and culture in North America.

“I was supposed to meet my first host the next day.  Sure, I had seen her photograph, but there was still something daunting about the thought of meeting a stranger at a train station 6,000 miles from home to go and live with them for three weeks.  The train was running late, and I was worried about whether my host would even be there. Besides, what if they were mean or creepy?  Counter to my worries Josie, my first host, turned out to be very friendly and welcoming.  After all, she had volunteered to look after an international delegate and show them a little about her life and her work with 4-H in her county.”

During my trip, I met and stayed with several families, learning about life on their farms and ranches. By staying with locals, I quickly learned a lot about the U.S., and not just the difference between chips, fries and crisps or the difficulties in ordering “proper tea” as opposed to iced tea. But thanks to the in-depth learning experience provided by the exchange, I learned about family life, social faux pas, rocky mountain oysters and much more than a standard tourist could ever have discovered!

During my trip I have seen first-hand many of the agricultural challenges faced in the western states.  In Northern Montana, I helped put out a hay field fire and just a few days later watched as hail tore up a year’s worth of hard work.  Unfortunately for the family, this was just part of farming in that area and something they had to be prepared for. It made me reflect a lot on the challenges farmers face at home, and while my friends at home often grumble about the “bad weather” and seemingly endless rain, I soon discovered that as food producers, our climate in Northern Ireland really isn’t the worst.

One of the most adrenaline-inducing experiences of the trip was helping the Smith family to herd cattle across McCartney Mountain in southwest Montana.  As a girl who was never allowed a pony when she was younger because they “tramp up the fields,” I found it interesting when many ranchers told me they find their horses to be more useful than their four wheelers. Whilst in southwest Montana I also drove machinery for a few days to haul bales to the stack yard and enjoyed the “work hard, play hard” mentality on the ranch.  Along with my host siblings Jacob and Elizabeth, I visited the Montana Folk Festival and got the drive-in movie experience – something I loved and wish we had at home!

As part of the program, I also met with 4-H children preparing their steers for the county fair, as well as another group of children who were practicing showing their sheep and pigs.  I also was lucky enough to visit the State Fair in Great Falls and to go to different types of rodeos, as well as seeing attractions such as Deadwood, Mount Rushmore, Virginia City, Crystal Park and Glacier National Park.

My trip started in New York where I spent a few days doing all the super touristy stuff before I jumped on a train and travelled to IFYE Orientation in Bloomington, Ill. to meet with other international delegates before I went on to stay with families for the rest of the trip.  I would like to thank all my host families, IFYE, 4-H and YFCU for facilitating the exchange and making it such a success.

The IFYE program is an in-depth learning experience in which 4-H alumni and other young adults live with host families in other countries to increase global awareness, develop independent study interests and improve language skills. Programs vary from country to country, with some emphasizing an agricultural work experience, volunteering at an adult training centre or working with a local youth development program such as 4-H or YFCU.  

If you would like to read more about Rachel’s travels, check out her blog

By Marcia Masters Powers, Dayton

My dad Leonard Masters was a prominent rancher in the Tongue River Valley between Ranchester and Dayton. He and his wife Marg operated a beautiful ranch at the foot of the Big Horn Mountains.

My dad loved Hereford cattle and ran purebred cows and calves from Oliver Wallop’s herd in Big Horn.

The meadows on the ranch along the highway were always lush and green. I believe the neighbors were envious of Dad’s success. His irrigation system was canvas dams and a shovel, which he used a lot. I remember seeing him out in the field with that shovel, watching the water travel down the ditches.

A newspaper article from the Sheridan Press in the late 1940s features Leonard Masters’s haying rig – a beaver slide and cage – and calls it a landmark in the valley during haying season.

“Although the slide is used extensively in some sections of the country, the cage is Masters’s own brainchild,” says the article. “The invention has saved him labor, time and money. (When approached on his cost of haying, he said simply: ‘You wouldn’t believe me.’)

“The cage was dreamed up during the war years when labor was scarce but he liked it so well he kept it, and this is the fourth year he has used it.

“In size it is 20 feet wide, 22 feet long and 18 feet deep and holds about 10 tons of hay. It is a huge, box-like frame covered with hog wire on three sides. The back side is open, with weighted steel cable dropped from the top for use in keeping the stack’s shape but allowing the cage to be moved away from the stack. When the cage is filled, Masters’s 30-caterpillar moves the structure forward on its two rear wheels and front skids and another stack is started

“The slide, up which is conveyed hay from the bull rake, is 36 feet long and 18 feet wide. It permits loads about two or three times the size handled by an ordinary stacker to be hiked up and into the cage. The caterpillar raises and lowers the stacker by moving backward and forward.”

Using a man on the caterpillar, one on the bull rake one cutting and two in the cage, the article reports that 50 tons of hay could be stacked each day on the Masters place.

Leonard said in the article that this type of stacking dovetailed perfectly with the feeding end of his business.

“Since he uses a unique cable system for loading hay for feeding, the uniform-sized stacks are a big advantage,” continues the article. “A feeding platform 20 by 12 feet is pulled up alongside a stack, a cable from the tractor is looped around the top third of the stock and is drawn off onto the platform by the tractor.”

Leonard said that by using this method of loading from the stack for feeding he could feed 500 head of cattle in about two hours.

Leonard and Marg had two children, Dick and myself, and we felt fortunate to be raised on a ranch and to be outstanding 4H members.

Leornard and Marg were community leaders. Leonard served in the Wyoming Legislature for several years and on agricultural boards and as a member of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association. Marg was state president of the Wyoming CowBelles. They were both 4H leaders, in beef and clothing.

They, together as a team, contributed much to the communities of Ranchester and Dayton, Sheridan County and the state of Wyoming.

The ranch is still operating and has become a landmark of the valley. Leonard died in 1979 and Marg in 1996. Our family still enjoys this land and hopes to have this privilege for many years to come.

The Roundup welcomes your stories and photos of agriculture’s past. Submit them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or mail to PO Box 850, Casper, WY 82602.

By Ondi Shepperson, Hat Two Ranch

This year’s Wyoming Stock Grower’s Agriculture Land Trust picnic was a celebration for many reasons.

The festivities entailed white linen tablecloths beneath beautiful white tents, a two-piece band, an abundance of flowers and gorgeous views of the Absaroka Mountains. The celebration served numerous functions, but primarily as a benefit auction and a showcase of our ranch. The Hat Two Ranch, north of Meeteetse, was placed in a conservation easement with the Wyoming Stock Grower’s Agriculture Land Trust (WSGALT) in 2010.

The conservation easement began in 2008 with the application and selection process. We first investigated the conservation possibilities to maintain the ranch. A buyer had made an offer on our place, and although the offer was tempting, the family decided to persevere. Times are tough, and even tougher when operating on borrowed money year after year. A ranch is profitable when the land is paid down. We decided not to sell and we began the process of selling the conservation easement to the Wyoming Stockgrower’s Agriculture Land Trust. We did this to maintain ownership – to remain in the ranching business and to NOT sell out.

This is not the place to provide details of how a conservation easement works – for further details on the opportunity to help preserve open spaces of Wyoming, I encourage you to visit the WSGALT at

Our Hat 2 Ranch, north of Meeteetse, was selected for conservation purposes because of its wildlife habitat, its close proximity to other conserved acres and our family’s intent to keep it as a working cattle ranch. Yes, we did donate two-thirds of the easement to the Wyoming Stock Grower’s Agriculture Land Trust. This eased our family of the huge financial strain of paying for and maintaining our ranch. We are now at liberty to stay under-grazed with our cattle herd, leaving ample habitat for the numerous wildlife. We can now have a comfortable living standard and we even went on our first family vacation, ever!

The 2011 WSGALT Banquet celebration at our place in Meeteetse was more than a celebration of this conservation easement. It was more than a celebration of maintaining the ranch for our children and grandchildren. The bipartisan efforts to see the easement project to success was reason enough for the celebration at the Hat 2 Ranch. I offer my deepest gratitude to everyone who helped and supported in the success of this project.

I consider myself a conservative of today’s political realm. Politics are leaning further to the left regarding the issues concerning the ‘Green Agenda’ of this century. My voice is effective, not only in defending nature, because I have put my money where my mouth is, but also in advocating the necessity of both political parties coming together to conserve open spaces and our way of life for future generations.

We are all stewards of conservation, whichever side of the political fence we ride, or write. No one wishes to see the wide-open spaces of Wyoming developed. With this notion, that each of us is a conservative, I write of the only plausible conclusion generated from the successful WSGALT banquet. The agriculture community, the recreation community and the oil and gas community of any political affiliation all see one common goal of maintaining freedom of our private and state lands. To maintain our state’s sovereignty, we must work together. We must work together, now, to preserve our natural resources as well as multiple use of our lands.

I challenge you, the citizens of Wyoming: ranchers, farmers, professionals, hunters, anglers, students, rednecks, roughnecks and environmentalists to come together again to be national advocates to other states seeking to maintain state control of our unique wild resources.

Ondi Shepperson writes from her family’s ranch near Meeteetse. More of her work may be read at

By Wyoming Governor Matt Mead

Looking back at spring, I was pleased to see good economic results for Wyoming ag producers for the first quarter of 2011. According to a Wyoming Economic Summary from July 2011, our state’s agricultural industry has benefited from a variety of factors, including increased exports and some recovery in domestic demand. In the first quarter of 2011, which ended March 31, these trends resulted in total farm earnings in the state reaching $220 million, the highest since the third quarter of 2005. It was also reported that with global economic recovery, a strong beef export market has benefitted ranchers.

I hope this good news continues for the rest of 2011 and into the future. Agriculture is Wyoming’s third-largest industry, and its success bodes well for the economy of our state.
With summer upon us now, our thoughts turn to rodeos, community festivals and county and state fairs. Summertime is show time in Wyoming. Carol and I, and our children Mary and Pete, have been making the rounds to as many rodeos and fair events as we can, and we have enjoyed every minute of it.

The 99th celebration of the Wyoming State Fair is fast approaching and will take place from Aug. 13 to the 20th. It will be a great week to be in Douglas. Among all the marvelous events, it will be gratifying, as it always is, to see the many young exhibitors who have earned their way to the State Fair by competing successfully with their animals and exhibits at Wyoming’s county fairs. It will be show time in Douglas, and I wish good luck to all the exhibitors and good times to all those attending. Perhaps we’ll see each other there.

When the summer season ends and another school year begins, we will turn to fall harvests and hunting, to the last of the farmers’ markets, bringing the cows home and getting ready for winter. I hope the fall is a bountiful time for everyone in the Wyoming ag community.
The beginning of winter will close out the year. I believe we will be able to look back at 2011 and say it was a very good year and we will look forward to 2012 as another one. We are very fortunate to

live in Wyoming in every season of the year, and none of us take it for granted – we work hard spring, summer, fall and winter to make sure Wyoming remains the best place to live, work, play and raise a family. Thanks for all you do toward that end.