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Wyoming Stock Growers Association

Jim Wilson of Thermopolis got involved in the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) almost a decade ago, jumping into leadership as a committee chair.

“Agriculture is big business in Wyoming,” Wilson notes. “That’s why I got involved.”

He quickly worked his way up through the chain of command for the organization, and in 2012, Wilson was elected as president of WSGA.

Making strides

Over the last two years, WSGA Executive Vice President Jim Magagna and Wilson have worked together to improve WSGA in many ways.

“Jim Wilson, because of his outreach within the industry as a result of his livestock brokerage business, brought unique perspectives and opportunities to WSGA,” says Magagna.

They have tackled issues ranging from endangered species and wild horses to public lands and cattle health, and Wilson notes that it is the people that he works with that enables the organization to be so successful.

“The thing that is really unique about this position is the quality of people we get to work with,” Wilson says. “We are fortunate in Wyoming.”

An organization of people

He notes that the staff and leadership of WSGA are part of what makes the position one that is rewarding.

“We have a wonderful staff, and Jim Magagna is a super guy,” he says. “That makes leading this organization really enjoyable.”

The pair – affectionately known by WSGA members as Jim and Jim – worked together over the last two years to to improve the organization.

“Jim and Jim are wonderful people,” says WSGA Office Manager Vera Lightfoot. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with them.”

In serving as president, Wilson mentions that he has met and connected with industry leaders across the country, establishing deeper relationships to move the industry forward.

“The strength of WSGA is no better than the membership,” Wilson says. “We are 1,000 strong, but that is only 20-30 percent of the members in the ag industry. We can continue to grow.”

Also, WSGA has more than doubled the receipts from their annual auction and worked toward continued financial security of the organization.

The next generation

Looking toward the future, Wilson emphasizes a continued approach on looking toward the next generation in the industry.

In offering advice to the up-and-coming leaders in the agriculture industry and in WSGA, Wilson comments, “Sometimes it is really hard to tell the truth, but if we tell the truth the first time, we don’t have to remember the second time.”

He is optimistic about the future of agriculture in Wyoming and the opportunity available for young people.

He says, “There is a tremendous amount of opportunity out there in this industry, and one of the plusses is that interest rates are low. Odds are pretty good off getting in this business.”

A look forward

For Wilson, he will continue in the ag industry but plans to continue to transfer the family operation to his children.

“I lost my father last fall,” he comments. “I’ve taken over the livestock brokerage business, and our cows numbers have bumped up a little bit.”

Wilson continues, “I’m not getting any younger either.”

To celebrate his years of hard work, Wilson notes that he and his wife plan to take a vacation – their first since 1988. Magagna adds, “I’m confident we will find many ways to continue Jim's engagement in the organization.”

From fellow leaders

WSGA First Vice President Niels Hanson says, “Jim is forward thinking with a positive attitude. It has been a lot of fun to work together.”

“We’re talking about guys who worked together really well,” he continues of Magagna and Wilson. “Jim Wilson really brought a long-range  view into WSGA, and he was always working to look into the future, build up some funds and get a lot of people involved.”

Hanson notes that, as the incoming president of WSGA, he hopes to continue Wilson’s legacy into the future with a continued positive attitude and forward-thinking strategy.

“We’ve got so much negative in our industry. Every time we turn around there is another issue,” he adds. “We may have to change our operations or do something different. Some people may decide they don’t want to be a part of the industry anymore, but whether we are working on the ranch or somewhere else in the country, we can’t quit. We have to keep pushing forward.”

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..

When Georgene Hager LeBar passed in 2009, her family liquidated a portion of her assets and made charitable investments to several Wyoming non-profits. Among the beneficiaries of the investments was the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust (WSGLT), which received a $1.5 million donation that they will put to work developing their Ranchland Succession Program.  

“Georgene believed in helping people help themselves,” says Dylan Hager, LeBar’s nephew.

Hager and his wife Erin are overseeing the contributions made from the Georgene Hager Family Fund and directing the investments to causes they know Georgene would have supported. 

“She provided Dylan with the foundation he needed to continue ranching,” says Erin. “We want to provide a similar opportunity to other young producers and hope to use the Ranchland Succession Program as the vehicle for that opportunity.”

The donation from the Georgene Hager Family Fund is the largest single private donation the WSGLT has received to date, and, in keeping with Georgene’s life philosophy, the money will be used to help young and beginning ranchers help themselves. 

Ranchland Succession Program

“Through Georgene’s hard work, foresight and generosity, our mission to facilitate the transfer of Wyoming farms and ranches to the next generation just earned a hand up,” says Mantha Phillips, chair of the WSGLT Ranchland Succession Program Committee.

“The Ranchland Succession Program is a brand new program within our Land Trust to help us build on our conservation work which prioritizes keeping agricultural lands available for future generations of producers,” comments Phillips. “With this gift from Georgene, we can establish more avenues to help young people get into the business.”

After a large donation from Encana Oil and Gas several years ago, Phillips explains that the WSGLT did a feasibility study to look at establishing a program to help young farmers and ranchers and found several avenues to expand opportunities currently available.  Though the program is in its infancy, Phillips adds that the WSGLT hopes to make great strides this year in putting the program together.

In building the program, Phillips notes that the Hager-LeBar donation will allow the WSGLT to meet with allied professionals from around the state, especially estate attorneys, accountants and others, who advise landowners on their estate plans and philanthropy decisions and who may want to give gifts but are unsure of where to donate funds or properties.

“With Georgene, her nephew knew that she wanted the money to help young people in ag, but they didn’t know anything about the WSGLT or our interest in helping to facilitate the next generation of ranch landowners where we can,” says Phillips. “As a top priority, we are going to go out and spend some time getting the word out on the street to have the opportunity to increase the resources available to this important program.”

“The Land Trust will work with a number of organizations developing and utilizing new tools ranging from traditional agricultural loans to special programs for young and beginning producers,” says WSGLT Executive Director Pam Dewell. “Conservation easements, mitigation funds and conservation leases will be used to raise capital and/or reduce fair market value, resulting in a package that is mutually beneficial for both retiring ranchers and up and coming ranch families.”

Dewell says the WSGLT plans to have program guidelines and an application process in place for the Ranchland Succession Program by the end of the calendar year.

Phillips adds, “We are very grateful to Georgene, her nephew Dylan and his wife Erin, along with Georgene’s accountant and long-time friend Dave Kreycik for their efforts to sustain ranching in Wyoming.”

Georgene Hager LeBar

Georgene Hager LeBar was born Sept. 14, 1940 in Scottsbluff, Neb., the daughter of Eugene Emmet and Wyoma Yorica (Nichols) Hager. She was raised seven miles east and three miles south of Torrington at Little Moon Lake Ranch, which her family homesteaded in 1890.

Reared and educated in the Torrington area, LeBar graduated from Chadron State Teachers College. The Hager family started the Little Moon Lake Supper Club, which was a hot spot for recreation during the 1950s. This is where LeBar met her husband George N. LeBar. George offered LeBar a job on his ranch near Douglas, and they married in 1974. The couple ranched together for many years, raising cattle and sheep. Following George’s death, LeBar continued the successful cow-calf and yearling operation for 20 years.

Border collie dogs were an important part of LeBar’s ranch and life. She hosted some of the nation’s top stock dog handlers at the annual Stock Dog Trial held at the ranch. She was a member of the United States Border Collie Handlers Association and the Wyoming Stock Dog Association.

Laramie – Governor Matt Mead opened the Awards Luncheon at the Wyoming Cattle Industry 2011 Convention and Trade Show on June 3 on a positive note, affirming that Wyoming is doing well and the issues the state faces are being actively addressed on both the state and federal levels.
Mead looked at the limited role that federal government should have in relation to the states, saying, “Federal government tensions with the states have always been there, but in my mind the scale is getting worse. There is more and more federal government intrusion, and that’s not good.”
He went on to highlight some things the Wyoming government is doing to protect its future, addressing three key points: wild lands, wolves and the future of Wyoming.
Mead also pointed out, “The list of things that we are working on is long. We have great opportunities we cannot take for granted. “
One of the first issues Mead tackled soon after he took office as governor involved Wild Lands.
In response to Secretarial Order 3310, which was issued by the Department of the Interior last December, Mead, working with the state of Utah and a number of other Western states, began fighting the order, saying it was beyond the authority of the federal government.
Order 3310 allowed the BLM to designate areas with wilderness characteristics as Wild Lands and manage them to protect their wilderness character.
After letters, lobbying and open disapproval of the order from the Wyoming citizens beginning as early as January, as well as equal actions by other Western states, including a lawsuit by the state of Utah, Secretary Salazar agreed to abandon the order on June 1.
“I take that as good news. While I am glad they are backing off on the Wild Lands, I do think that this is the way we need to attack the issues. We don’t combine forces the way we should,” said Mead.
He continued, suggesting this effort should pose as the model for all future efforts in Washington.
“We should continue to form these partnerships among all of us,” he noted, adding that these partnerships accomplish the similar goals of a number of states in a very efficient manner.
Mead also addressed the subject of wolves, a hot topic since their reintroduction in 1995. He pointed out that wolves are a problem for a number of reasons, and that the wolves themselves, as well as the nature of the reintroduction decision, were detrimental.
“We aren’t in a stalemate with wolves – we are losing – and that is because there are more and more wolves every year,” he said. “We are trying to see if there is a way to get forward on this where wolves in the vast majority of the state are treated as predator status.”
“There isn’t question that wolves have fully recovered, and Secretary Salazar agrees,” said Mead.
However, he said his suggestion of 100 wolves in Wyoming outside the boundary of Yellowstone National Park was not met with enthusiasm. In his suggestion he also included a migratory region as part of the agreement, allowing movement through the Snake River Canyon in winter months when livestock aren’t present.
“They aren’t particularly thrilled about it,” said Mead.
But, he said he’ll push on to find a solution to the wolf problem.
“I’m doing it because I’m 100 percent certain we have to try. I do think it is worth the effort to get the vast majority of the state to predator status,” he said. “The individuals we are working with are motivated, and we have great support from our congressional delegation, who is working to get us where we want.”
Mead concluded his remarks with a highlight of the opportunities for Wyoming’s future, saying, “We are in a good place.”
“Unemployment is down from a year ago, and revenues are up beyond projection. We can be fairly confident that we in Wyoming are not going to go down the road that other states are going down,” he explained, adding that, as he listens to the problems of other states, such as budget deficits and labor problems, he thinks, “I don’t know if its enough to say that we’ve had bad weather.”
But, he said he recognizes that Wyoming certainly faces challenges.
“But we are very fortunate to live in this wonderful state. We are in a better place than most states,” he said, explaining that position is due partially to citizen’s access to elected officials. He pointed out that Wyoming citizens are also accessible, saying, “Every time I have reached out, people have stepped up and provided information and help.”
“While Wyoming is small in population, we are great in the contribution that we make to this country,” said Mead.
Mead concluded his talk with a final thought, saying, “If you want a high quality of life, you have to have strong ag. It is responsible for the overall quality of this great state.”
Saige Albert is assistant 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..

Buffalo – This year, Ryan and Teresa Fieldgrove, who ranch in northeast Johnson County, were honored with the 2011 Leopold Conservation Award, and on June 21 they hosted a crowd from across the state to demonstrate the exemplary conservation practices on their ranch.
“It truly is an honor to accept this award on behalf of my family, and to host you all here for the Stewardship Tour. It is very humbling to win this award – with conservation or stewardship we can always look across the table and see somebody that does a better job, or has a different way of doing things,” said Ryan Fieldgrove, who was joined for the awards ceremony by his wife and kids, Anna, Tommy and Eylsa.
Program partners in the Leopold Conservation Award are Encana Oil & Gas, Peabody Energy, Farm Credit Services of America, Wyoming Stock Growers Association and the Sand County Foundation.
In addition to the tour and awards ceremony, Governor Matt Mead also declared June 21 as Wyoming Environmental Stewardship Day.
“This program is in its sixteenth year here in Wyoming, and it allows us to recognize ranchers who exemplify environmental stewardship across the state. Of those 16 years, we have had three national winners and numerous regional winners,” said Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) Executive Director Jim Magagna of the program’s success in Wyoming.
“The Sand County Foundation seeks to be a leading voice for private land conservation in America, and this is one symbol of the way we do that,” said Kevin McAleese of the Sand County Foundation. “Aldo Leopold said, ‘One of the greatest challenges that man kind faces is to live on a piece of land without spoiling it.’ We believe the recipients of this award are genuine representatives of that motto and lifestyle.”
McAleese said there are three goals in the Leopold Conservation Award – to say thank you, to build relationships and to educate the public.
“We were all taught to say ‘thank you’ at a young age, and we feel that it is necessary to express our gratitude towards the families that have been dedicated to their land, growing food and raising families,” he said, adding, “We hope that we can build durable relationships with people. It helps to promote learning, communication and resolving difficult issues that we as agriculturalists may face.”
Finally, he said, “We hope this program can reach out to the public to help deepen appreciation for what agriculture does for conservation. We think the environmental and economical benefits that private land owners provide are under-represented in public awareness, and we hope this award can shine some light on them and raise public awareness and appreciation for the matter.”
Ryan and Teresa have spent the last 10 years working on a conservation program that is both unique to and successful for their operation.
“We understand that some of our practices are good for our ranch, but should be tailored for other operations, and conservation should be tailored to different lifestyles and specific operations,” added Fieldgrove.
The Fieldgroves began their conservation efforts by cross-fencing their pastures to more effectively utilize their grass, and the latest fencing techniques include using smooth wire as the bottom strand so migrating antelope can travel more easily along their traditional migratory path.
“To be sustainable, any practices we have implemented have been designed to save us time or money, or both, especially with our lifestyle of working off of the ranch,” said Fieldgrove.
The coalbed methane (CBM) industry is what spurred the Fieldgroves’ move out to the ranch, so that they could see first hand how the methane movement was affecting their land, and it allowed them to be directly involved, and to oversee the changes on their ranch. While the CBM movement didn’t turn out to be as successful as planned, payments from surface damages helped the Fieldgroves keep their operation through tough times.
After the Fieldgroves moved out to their operation the hard times hit and, with a combination of five years of drought and two years of grasshopper infestation, three times the family thought about selling the ranch.
“If it hadn’t been for surface damage payments from coal bed methane activity and the feed assistance from the Farm Services of America (FSA) and our basic conservation plan, we wouldn’t be here today,” stated Fieldgrove.
That was when the Fieldgroves started looking at more ecologically sound options to help their ranch along.
“In 2000 we decided to try something new. We went to the Weed and Pest with the idea of trying goats to graze on the weeds. The Weed and Pest was supportive, and offered to pay for the electric fence to enclose 10 acres. We did some research, and then we headed to Texas. With a trailer-full of Boer and Spanish cross goats and a guard dog we returned home and turned them out on our 10-acre fenced off plot. We figured that they would be there for two weeks to a month eating on the leafy spurge, but they cleaned it up in seven days,” noted Fieldgrove.
Ryan discovered that goats are a viable resource to use in weed management because they will eat the noxious weeds but leave the grass alone, and he said the goats came after the realization that some things simply wouldn’t work the same way as they had in the past.
“During the time my father ran the ranch, he figured that he spent over $1 million on leafy spurge control and, in fact, that’s exactly what I remember spending my childhood doing from the time I was old enough to know how to mix chemicals. I knew, when my parents retired and I took over the ranch, that I couldn’t afford to maintain the status quo and, frankly, it wasn’t working,” said Ryan.
The goats have proven themselves a worthwhile investment not only on the Fieldgrove operation, but to neighboring ranches as well.
“In 10 years we went from a 20 to 25 percent leafy spurge infestation to less than one percent now,” noted Fieldgrove.
The Fieldgroves have also taken steps towards being more “user friendly” in terms of their sage grouse inhabitants, and have implemented ideas such as escape ramps in their water tanks, and not running their cattle on active sage grouse leks.
“To me, conservation is a mindset not an exact science. I believe that any conservation practice should be sustainable,” stated Fieldgrove.
Tressa Lawrence is editorial intern for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Cheyenne – Young livestock producers and beginning agricultural producers from around Wyoming have the opportunity to become involved and have a more active voice in important industry issues through the Young Producers Assembly (YPA), which is an organization offered through the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA).

YPA was created to provide young producers an avenue to work collaboratively on important industry issues and hold leadership positions in the organization, says WSGA Communication, Publications and Programs Director Haley Lockwood.

“The purpose of the program is to have a way for young producers from across the state to work on issues that are important to them,” she says.

Building a foundation

YPA leaders are currently in the process of creating the foundation for the organization, says Lockwood.

“We’re basically in the brainstorming phase of a lot of this and nothing has been set in stone,” explains Lockwood.

The group last met at the summer convention, so Lockwood is hopeful that many decisions will be made at their next meeting during the Winter Roundup Convention on Dec. 5.

“It’s been a busy fall, so we actually haven’t had a good solid meeting since the summer convention in Laramie. I think that at this winter’s convention we’ll be able to get a lot more done because a lot more people will be able to come,” comments Lockwood.

The group plans to discuss several business items that were brought up during the summer meeting.

“During our regular business meeting, we’ll go over various items that we are working on right now, such as our trademark logo,” says Lockwood. “We feel that it’s important for us to have a logo as a way for people to recognize us as a group, once we finally start promoting it.”

Involvement

YPA is open to young producers between the ages of 18 and 40 or to individuals who have five years or less of agricultural experience.

“Even someone who is in their 50s but is just getting started in the ag business is more than welcome to come and join us,” says Lockwood.

She explains that many topics that will be discussed in YPA are important for beginning producers to learn about.

“A lot of the things that we plan to go over have to do with how to get started in the business, family successional planning and the basics that we feel are really important. We didn’t want to exclude anyone who is just getting started,” emphasizes Lockwood.

Individuals who are interested in becoming involved with YPA are encouraged to attend the Winter Roundup Convention meeting or to contact the WSGA.

“If they want, people who are interested are more than welcome to come to the Winter Roundup and come to our meeting in December. They can also contact me at our office, which is probably the best way to get more information,” says Lockwood.

Training leaders

YPA and WSGA is hopeful that providing leadership positions at a younger age will better equip members as they step into leadership positions in WSGA.

“If young producers start in the leadership of Stock Growers at an earlier age, we hope they feel that they have a voice and don’t have to wait until they’re 50 to have a say in some of the things that happen in Stock Growers,” continues Lockwood.

“We also felt that there were a lot of people who were put into leadership positions that sometimes may not feel as comfortable doing it,” explains Lockwood. “We think that if we start with a younger group to get everyone involved a little earlier, they would be more than happy to take leadership positions in the future.”

YPA currently has four committees, including policy; social recruitment and events; education and outreach; and fundraising. The committees will provide leadership opportunities and training for young producers.

“Once our members graduate to Stock Growers and take committee chair positions or even regional vice president positions, they will feel more comfortable and be really aware of what those positions entail and what to expect,” explains Lockwood.

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