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Auburn – Jody Bagley is the fourth generation of his family to ranch in Star Valley. Jody grew up there and returned to the ranch after earning a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from the UW.
    The ranch consists of a Hereford and Black Angus cow/calf operation, 100 ewes, alfalfa and irrigated meadow.
    In addition, the family used to run a small dairy, several hundred laying hens and dry land barley.
Bagley Ranch today
    “Right now we run about 80 head of cattle,” Bagley says. “We used to have three times that number when had our grazing permits. We sold one of our permits in the 1970s, and let the other go last year.”
    “We bought out a sheep permit and converted it to cattle. The U.S. Forest Service cut the number of cows we could run, so we bought another sheep permit. Then they cut us even further,” he explains. “Now, we have the cows and 100 head of ewes, and we operate on deeded ground. I brought in and fed some outside cows here last winter.”
    “This fall I’ll buy more cows. We’d like to expand our operation and buy more ground,” Bagley continues, “but when land here is $5,000 to $10,000 an acre, you can’t make that pay.”
    Jody ranches with his wife Suellen, who also works at the Farm Service Agency in Afton, and his mother Genell.
    Jody and Suellen also have one son Rex and daughter Tenny who both live away from the ranch. Their oldest son Jody passed away in an accident five years ago.
    Jody Bagley’s parents Clyde and Genell and grandparents Sid and Carrie created the Bagley Ranch near Auburn during the 1950s by putting together four small farms and ranches along the Salt River.
Beginning the ranch
    Sid Bagley was quite a hand.
    “He herded cattle for Ted Frome at Brockman, Idaho and up the Greys River for the Little Greys Cattle Association in western Wyoming. In 1918, he herded sheep for Covey’s on Elk Mountain, in what is now the Bridger Teton National Forest. The next year he bought a livestock grazing permit on West Bailey to run his own cows,” Jody recalls. “He homesteaded in Star Valley, but like many others, went bankrupt up in the 1930s. He returned to Fairview and ranched with his mother for a time. In the 1950s, they moved up here.”
    Sid Bagley was a horseman and one of the first to bring registered Quarter Horses into western Wyoming. He taught many young men about breaking and training horses, and they nicknamed him “Big Dad.”
    “My folks used to travel seven to eight miles a day with a team to feed 200 to 300 head of cows, plus that many yearlings,” Bagley says. “It used to take a six to eight-man crew to hay this place with teams, stacking all the hay by hand. During the oil boom in the 1980s, we upgraded to machinery, but it still took four or five people to put up the hay.”
    “Mom worked on the hay crew driving the baler,” he continues. “Guys used to say she made the biggest, tightest bales of anyone around. I can now put up all the hay myself with a disk swather and a round baler. Even during the drought this year I had plenty of irrigation water, but with 80 degree days and 26 degree nights, the hay didn’t want to grow.”
    “During the winter, I feed my cows in the afternoon. They eat, water and bed on it, and then get up in morning and clean it up. I’ve found I use less feed this way,” he explains.
Natural resources
    The Salt River splits into ribbons when it enters the Bagley Ranch and comes back together before leaving the ranch.
    “We have five miles of river channel here. There are also three creeks with a total of six diversions. I have my own ditches, so we don’t have to share with anyone. There is only one meadow field that doesn’t have live water,’ Bagley says.
    “The springs are warm. We’ll have 30 to 40 inches of snow on the ground, and all the water is open. When I feed cows, I can tell how cold it is; if the creek is frozen all the way across, it’s about 20 below. The warm spring in the meadow won’t freeze until it’s 40 below,” he adds. “There are only two places around that have a longer winter than we do – Bondurant and Grays Lake, Idaho.”
    With the open water, Bagley says they see several trumpeter swans in the winter, as well as moose, whitetail and mule deer and elk.
    “We are in a brucellosis surveillance area and next to the forest, so I bleed my cattle every year as part of my brucellosis plan. There aren’t many elk on this place, but they are on my neighbors. In Lincoln County, we are also in a Trichomoniasis Special Focus Area, so we test our bulls for that.” Bagley adds, “We built a roof over our alleyway, and we have a hydraulic chute for working cattle, which makes all the chute work much easier.”
    Jody serves on the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust Board, the Star Valley Land Trust board and the Lincoln County Predatory Animal Board.
    He was vice president of the Star Valley Cattlemen’s Grazing Association and Region IV Vice President of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.
    He also encourages other producers to become involved, saying, “It’s our industry. We need to be involved and not let other people make decisions for us.”
    Echo Renner is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup may be reached at 307-250-9723 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Worland – “Seven years ago we decided to grow some pumpkins,” says Kim Lungren of the Lungren Girls’ Farm in Worland.

Kim Lungren and her sister-in-law Sarah Lungren operate a pumpkin patch and corn maze each fall.

“There was a family in Worland who had grown pumpkins for awhile but wanted to get out of it, so we thought we would give it a shot,” she notes.

The success of the pumpkin patch soon led to a corn maze, a giant pumpkin contest, a hay bale slide and more.

“We have added things every year,” Lungren explains. “Last year, we added the hay bale slide, which has been awesome. We just finished putting up this year’s slide, and we made it another hay bale taller, so it’s pretty high. We have also added a bridge in the corn maze. It adds new height to the maze this year.”

Everyone in the Lungren family helps out, from stacking bales to building the slide and putting in test runs.

“We have a few days when we have family all testing it out together. That’s been one of the most fun things we have added in the last couple of years,” she remarks.

Fun in the corn

Other activities include a corn box, which is full of corn like a sand box, giant chalkboards and interactive corn mazes.

“We added activities to the corn maze that challenge visitors, so they’re hitting the whole corn maze, not just getting through it super fast. It gives them something to do inside the maze,” Lungren explains.

On weekends, the farm hosts nighttime corn maze runs, and guests use flashlights to navigate through the course.

“We’ve also added a food booth. We make chili, hotdogs, nachos and caramel apples. People come out just to eat sometimes,” she adds. “It’s a place where families can hang out all afternoon and be together.”

Spending time together

Families, students, youth groups and even senior citizens visit the farm to participate in the various activities. School groups have come from as far away as Cody and Lovell, and local groups, such as those from the rehabilitation center known as OWL Unlimited, visit the farm as well.

“They come from all over,” Lungren explains.

Birthday parties are also popular at the farm.

“For a birthday party, we use the fire pit. We provide stuff for s’mores and hot chocolate. We normally don’t have the slide open at night, but we have had a few birthday parties come at night, and we let them use it,” Lungren continues.

Giant pumpkins

Another fall activity at the Lungren Girls’ Farm is the annual giant pumpkin contest, which attracts local growers and has featured pumpkins weighing over 500 pounds, so far.

“At the end of September, everyone loads their pumpkins on trailers and brings them out. We weigh them, and it gets pretty competitive,” Lungren remarks.

A cash prize, dependent on the number of entry fees, goes to the winner.

“We have between eight and 10 people entered right now for this year’s contest,” she comments.

The first year of the contest, veterinarian Steven Tharp took home the prize for a pumpkin that weighed in at 518 pounds. That was in 2012, and Lungren believes this year, that record will be topped.

“Everyone has their own little secret for getting their pumpkins so big,” Lungren says.

As for those that are grown on the farm, the Lungrens strive for jack-o-lantern sized pumpkins.

“People don’t want a ginormous pumpkin, but they want a bigger pumpkin they can carve,” Lungren explains.

The field has a variety of different pumpkins, so everyone can find the one pumpkin is just right for them.

“We have all sorts. We have the white polar bear pumpkin and really pretty Cinderella pumpkins, and we also have some unique ones,” she notes.

Visitors have the opportunity to search for the perfect pumpkin and pick their own.

Promising season

“Last year, we were so lucky. The weather cooperated, so we didn’t have to pick a bunch of pumpkins. People got to just go out and pick their own. That’s so much fun for families. The year before, we had to pick almost everything and put them in piles in hay bales because it froze. We had to keep them covered,” she says.

This year, the patch is looking promising.

“I think this is the best year for our pumpkins since we’ve started,” Lungren states.

Over the last few weeks, the family has been working hard to have everything ready for their Sept. 12 opening day.

“We are open for about an eight-week period, with about 2.5 months of setting it up before hand,” Lungren remarks. “Other than that, we are lucky that we live on the farm and have husbands who have equipment that can do so much, so fast.”

Lungren looks forward to autumn visitors and the variety of activities available on the farm.

“It’s awesome family time and a great farm experience,” she states. “Some people don’t even have backyards big enough to run around in, so it’s fun for them. It’s so awesome just to be out here on the farm.”

Visit lungrengirlsfarm.com for hours, location and more information about the farm.

Natasha Wheeler is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Lander – “Sometimes think I’m not much of a ranch wife,” says Kacee Thacker. “When you picture a ranch wife, you see a woman who is in the kitchen at four o’clock in the morning, and has coffee and eggs for her husband. He goes to start the tractor to feed and she is right behind him out the door. She’s riding a horse all day, and doesn’t need a pair of gloves. She has a heart of gold, but is as tough as nails.”
Kacee lives on and manages the Double D Ranch in Fremont County near Lander with her husband Jeremy, and for over a year she’s hosted a blog about her experiences as The Ranch Wife.
“As for me, I love my gloves and refuse to touch hay without them. I’ve gone from working in a bank and wearing heels to all of the sudden living on a ranch. It definitely has been an adjustment!” she says.
“When I first started the blog I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough things to talk about,” Kacee explains. “So I jotted down some stories and events that had happened beforehand. I’ve used some of them, and others I haven’t. So much happens every day, there is always something to talk about. You know – the horses might get out or the bulls are in my yard again.”
The Thackers manage a cowherd and ewes, from which they raise club lambs. While Jeremy was raised on a ranch, Kacee was born in Riverton and spent her childhood in Michigan. Her family lived in the country and was surrounded by cornfields and agriculture, but she says they were never involved in any of it.
“This year was my first lambing, and I wrote a lot about lambing and my first bum lamb,” Kacee says. “I brought him home and he screamed and bawled, so I took him back to the barn.
“Then the bum lamb got a surrogate mama and that event was definitely a blog post – I entitled it ‘Tears Before Coffee.’ I went to check the lambs first thing in the morning, still in my robe and before I had my coffee. I was walking through the sheep, and a ewe had given birth to twins and one was a stillborn.  
“So I called Jeremy and he said we should skin him and put the skin on the bum lamb so we could get him a mama. I had heard stories about the process, and seen pictures, but never done the real thing. So I was sitting there holding it while Jeremy was skinning it, and I just bawled over having to skin this dead, cute little lamb.
“I was crying and telling Jeremy that I haven’t had any coffee either, and it just isn’t fair! It was terrible. But then the bum lamb got a new mama and a twin sister, and everything was good. I took pictures of the white bum lamb in his black skin coat, which looked like a Superman cape, and put them up on the blog. It makes interesting reading, for sure.”
Kacee formulates most of her blog posts in her head as she goes about chores on the ranch, and she later elaborates in writing. She finds blogging useful to look back and relive life’s daily events.
“I have found that a lot of my readers are either ranch wives themselves, used to be, or were raised on a ranch,” Kacee says. “I get a lot of comments or emails that begin ‘I remember when…’ I have two friends who started as followers of my blog and now they have their own blogs. I think it is great, because that’s more people with whom they can share their ag story, and whom they can touch and bring back to their roots and agriculture.”
The Ranch Wife blog receives about 200 hits per day, and on the days Kacee posts that number doubles. She doesn’t post on a schedule, but according to what is happening on the ranch, which generally works out to once a week.
“There are website functions that enable you to pre-write blog posts and set them to publish on certain dates,” Kacee explains. “I don’t normally wait, though. If it’s done I just publish it. I’m actually pretty terrible at technology.”
Kacee also owns Ranch Wife Photography, and she attends craft and trade shows where she sells framed and matted prints.
“I was at first really nervous about having a booth at these shows,” Kacee says. “Other than putting up photos on my blog and website, I hadn’t really put myself and my work out there for direct feedback from people. These same insecurities prevented me from beginning the blog sooner. You know – who wants to hear about my life and see a picture of my husband’s boot?
“The first few shows I went to I sold absolutely nothing, but it was a good learning experience and people would come up and tell me, ‘I voted for your picture in the magazine,’ or, ‘You’re the Ranch Wife? I love your blog.’ The whole process has been a combination of an encouraging family, my husband and supportive readers.”
The Thackers were excited to find an employer who shares some of their visions for agriculture and family. Their daughter Caden, age 3, is able to accompany them on the ranch and already loves to ride horses.
“It has long been a goal of Jeremy’s to have a natural, custom-fed beef business,” Kacee says. “When we came to work here, our employer Dwayne Oldham had also been thinking about diversifying in that direction. We are now in a place to make it happen with an employer who has the same vision, which is incredible.”
The Double D Ranch is just beginning their custom fed beef business, and is currently accepting orders for this coming fall. So far, the amount of orders has been promising, and they may have to get some outside cattle to fulfill the orders.
“We have already talked to some of our neighbors about supplying steers,” Kacee continues. “We know how those cattle have been raised and have seen them across the fence for their whole life.”
“The good thing is that, especially here in Lander, there is quite the movement toward local food. I decided to offer chickens on LanderTalk, the local email list serve, because I want some chickens to eat and I might as well raise a few more for other people. Now I have orders for 28 chickens and I only posted it on LanderTalk twice. If I actually advertised it, I would have so many chickens running around here that there wouldn’t be room for any cattle!”
Visit Kacee Thacker’s blog at wyomingranchwife.typepad.com. Melissa Hemken is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Thermopolis –
Darcy Axtell was raised on a cattle ranch in Thermopolis, but after leaving the area for several years, she returned to Thermopolis four years ago with an interest in local, sustainable agriculture. 

“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do,” Axtell says. “When I came back to Thermopolis, it dawned on me that I could use the hot springs as a heat source.”

She continues, “I’ve always been interested in sustainable agriculture and growing vegetables year-round.”

Axtell met a couple who owns property that has hot springs on it, and she says, “They agreed to let me try to raise tilapia and have a year-round hoop house on their place.”

A quick start

Axtell’s business, Hot Springs Local Products, started last winter when they built a hoop house that utilizes heat transfer from the hot springs to maintain a consistent temperature. The hoop house contains growing beds for lettuce and winter vegetables, as well as fish tanks where Axtell raises tilapia and prawns.

“Right now, we have a large tank where both the tilapia and prawns are. We separate them inside the tank with barriers,” she says. “The water from the tank pumps through growing beds for lettuce and winter vegetables.”

Selling fresh fish

Axtell grows the tilapia and prawns so they are big enough to consume and then she sells them to the grocery store and local restaurants in Thermopolis. 

“We pump the water out of the fish tank and net the tilapia and prawns,” she explains. “I net out the number that was ordered, put them on ice and delivery them fresh.”

Currently, she delivers about once a month, but Axtell is working to develop her breeding program to deliver every two weeks. 

“Tilapia are prolific breeders, and we are working to get them separated and have fish available every two weeks,” Axtell describes. “Prawns are prolific, as well, and we think we can deliver those every two weeks.”

Restaurants consistently seek the prawns that Axtell raises.

She adds, “I can do individual sales, and I’ve been selling the lettuce to the organic foods store in town.”

Not an easy venture

Because both tilapia and prawns are temperature sensitive, warm water species, Axtell notes that it is important to keep water temperatures the same, which can be a challenge. 

“We have to be diligent about keeping the water warm,” Axtell says. “It takes a lot of tenacity in Wyoming in the winter. It also takes patience, and sometimes I have to start over.” 

If the water temperatures dip too much during a cold snap, it can kill the prawns and tilapia, meaning she has to start from scratch. 

“This is a new heat source, and we’re trying it out,” she says. “Last winter was our first winter, so we didn’t really know how well it would work, but it works well.”

Important documents

Axtell notes that she also has to be appropriately licensed so she can sell greens to the grocery store and raise fish. 

“I have to have a food license to do this, and I get checked up on once a month or so, especially when we are growing lettuce,” she explains. 

Raising fish and prawns is a little more complicated, and she says it took a while to get all the approval to raise tilapia. 

“I had to check with Wyoming Game and Fish and the state of Wyoming to make sure I could have live tilapia in the greenhouse,” Axtell says. “It ended up being no problem, but I have to have the license.”

Community support

As a beginner in the business, Axtell says that word-of-mouth has provided more than enough of a market for her, and she has worked with people in the community to spread the word. 

“I want to see how well the system works before I market too much,” she explains. “I have a group of people I work with here in the community, and they have spread the word. I’m also getting things ready for this winter so I’m prepared.”

Community support in the endeavor has been vital, Axtell says, commenting, “The community has been awesome in terms of buying my lettuce and tilapia.”

For others interested in starting a local foods business, Axtell advises them to start small. 

“I thought what I started was small, but it was a lot bigger than I had realized,” she says. “Start small, then network and grow.”

Axtell continues, “It’s a lot of work, but that’s all right. We just have to keep at it.”

More coming 

With one winter under her belt and another coming, Axtell says she is excited about what the future holds for her business. 

“I’m pretty positive about the future of my business,” she says. “There has been really great feedback on the fish, and people love to have fresh lettuce throughout the year – especially in the winter.”

“I think this is pretty promising,” Axtell adds. “I’m positive about the future.”

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..

Riverton – “My dad moved up here and homesteaded around Ocean Lake in the mid-1930s. We moved here in the early 1940s and Dad built a log house – hauled the logs in himself. When they came here there was no drinking water in this end of the valley. It was kind of tough going,” explains George Pingetzer as he points across the road from his current residence to the original log house.
“That was right at the beginning of the Depression. My parents moved here to get a new start,” adds George’s wife Velma.
George and Velma Pingetzer still run a large cattle, hay and crop operation with their son Bob and his wife Paige. Bob and his brother Rich were born and raised in the valley.
“We’ve got a farm that’s over 1,400 acres that’s mainly in oats, corn and hay. Our registered cows are both Red and Black Angus, and we also have commercial cows,” explains Bob of the operation today.
Calves are kept to heavy feeders and marketed at about 800 to 900 pounds. “We have retained ownership in the past, but the last few years it didn’t look like it would work out as well. We also haven’t found a feeder who would work with us the way we want. We like to sell half interest to the feedlot so they have a vested interest in the cattle and want to make them work and will sell them when they need to go,” explains Bob. Any registered calves not kept as bulls are marketed right along with the commercial calves.
“To start this out George bought 20 head of little black heifers, and he gave five to Rich and five to Bob. Then we went up to Beckton Stock Farms to buy some bulls for our commercial herd. Sally Forbes would give us the performance papers and George would go pick them out. Well, if they indexed over 100 she would have a pretty good price on them. So George would ask about number 25, and he would have too high an index, and so on. So we went in to visit with Sally and said we couldn’t afford to buy the bulls for our commercial herd at the quality we need.
‘Well’, she replied, ‘I know something about you, I know you bought 20 head of nice little black heifers. You go pick yourself one really nice herd bull and put him on those 20 heifers, and raise your own bulls. You can do it as well as I can. You might say I’m cutting my throat, but I’m not – you’ll be back for herd bulls.’”
“That was her way of telling us how to do better,” explains Velma.
“So that’s what we did. We bred them to a red bull and started recording information, and started breeding red cattle that way. Then, in 1972 Dad bought some red heifers,” adds Bob.
“We went with red at the time because they were required to have performance data, and blacks weren’t,” comments George.
From that starting point the family tried Charolais, then Simmentals and a couple Limousins at one time. “We got into polled Herefords a little and had some registered polled Herefords for a while. Then in the early 1980s we got into the Salers, and Rich wanted my polled Herefords, so I took his registered reds.
“We stuck with the Salers for over a decade. They’re good cattle with tremendous feet and legs, but they’re really hard to market, so we phased them out,” explains Bob.
“Then Paige and I  have the bull test on the side,” notes Bob.
The Pingetzers put in a bid to feed bulls in the Wyoming Beef Cattle Improvement Association (WBCIA) bull test about 15 years ago and have done it ever since. They feed about 200 bulls each year for the test, in addition to holding the sale on their place. Sale order is based on daily gain, but some producers also have their bulls utrasounded and genetically tested.
“We are looking at the possibility of implementing some feed efficiency with the Cornell Program, but nothing has been decided yet, and it will depend on what the consigners want,” explains Bob.
The Pingetzers’ registered bulls are fed and marketed through the WBCIA bull test and the Midland bull test, with high levels of success at both. “Being in both gives us a good comparison, and we’ve done well at Midland,” notes Velma. Having the Champion pen of Red Angus bulls three times at Midland is one highlight for the family.            “We’ve maintained a registered herd since the mid 1980s, and the commercial herd has grown as we’ve added to our range country since,” notes Bob.
Cows are calved out beginning the first of February at George’s place. Heifers and the black cows calve starting the first, and about 20 days later the registered cows start. The commercial cows start about March 15.
“Some think we should back our calving season off, but then we get into farming. It’s kind of a Catch 22 with some of our dates,” comments Bob.
The Pingetzers market between 1,000 and 1,500 tons of hay annually, and the rest goes through their cattle.
“It’s a sizable operation that keeps everyone busy. We have six kids, and the boys cuts and bale hay and the girls and I stack it. We all set water and pitch in wherever. It’s mom and dad and my family and one or two hired hands to make it work,” says Bob.
Heather Hamilton is 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..