Current Edition

current edition

Ag in the Classroom

Riverton – Andrea Dockery of Jeffrey City introduced a group of Wyoming educators to her family ranch on June 9 during the 2015 Wyoming Agriculture and Natural Resources Science Institute.

“Wyoming Agriculture in the Classroom (WAIC) appreciates Fremont County’s hospitality as we host our annual professional development opportunity for educators,” stated WAIC Executive Director Jessie Dafoe during the event.

Visiting the Dockery family ranch was one of the many activities the program participants were involved with June 9-11, including a Devon Energy tour and trips to the Riverton Livestock Auction, Raspberry DeLights Farm, Sprouts Nursery and more.

“The two-and-a-half day class offers local agriculture and natural resource operations as a classroom with hands-on activities and lessons to implement in the classroom,” added Dafoe.

History

At Dockery’s ranch, participants received a first-hand account about the successful and sustainable cow/calf operation from family members living and working on the land.

“The first person in my family to live here was John Myers, my great-great- great uncle,” Dockery noted.

John Myers moved west from Ohio to work on the 71 Cattle Company and later homesteaded a place of his own nearby.

“Uncle John talked my Great-Grandpa Albert Myers into coming to the Sweetwater in 1900 from Kansas. He was 18 years old, and he worked for a sheep company,” Dockery said.

After going back to Kansas, where he met and married his wife, he returned to Wyoming to begin ranching in 1910.

Next generations

“They made a living by selling cows and horses,” Dockery explained, “but only two of the Myers children stayed on the ranches – my Grandpa Albert Myers and his brother Sam.”

Dockery’s mother moved back to the family ranch with her new husband in 1970, and Dockery is also currently living on the place with her husband Thad and daughters Rylee and Laura.

“Rylee is my five-year-old, and Laura is 11. They are the fifth generation,” commented Dockery.

The Myers Ranch still makes a living by selling yearlings.

“We’ve been here for 98 years. We provide part of the economy for Fremont County, and we provide beef for the world,” she said.

Spring

Calving season on the ranch arrives in the month of March, keeping the family busy checking on heifers for their cow/calf yearling operation.

“We calve all of our heifers through the corral and we watch them about every two hours,” Dockery explained.

Bum calves are typically bottle-fed, as exemplified by one of this year’s calves introduced to the group, who got to spend his first 10 days in the house getting warm and healthy.

“Then it becomes branding season, and we get to see our neighbors again after a long winter,” Dockery continued. “We really rely on neighbors in this area. We trade help, and we have a good neighbor system.”

Pairs are turned out on either May 1 or May 15, as per their BLM agreement, depending on the year.

“Every other year is a different date, and that’s just part of our BLM allotment management plan,” Dockery explained.

Summer and fall

The summer season gives everyone on the ranch a chance to work on irrigation and other upkeep projects.

“In July, we get one cutting of hay. We only get one cutting because of our high elevation, and we are thankful for it,” she stated.

Yearlings, culls and bulls are gathered by horseback in September, and the rest of the cattle are gathered a few weeks later.

“After that, we go through weaning and preg testing. Then we start feeding,” Dockery added.

The cows are kept on deeded property about seven months of the year and fed a ration of hay, cake and mineral throughout the winter, usually starting in December.

“When calving comes, we are back to that time of the year, and it’s a full-time job,” she commented.

Horses

The Myers Ranch also has a variety of horses, including a 25-year-old horse named Sparky and a horse named Dusty who is 34.

“We also have younger horses. Right now three of them are not yet broke, but they are in the process,” Dockery noted.

The Dockerys own a stud and some mares. They raise colts that are starting to build a name for themselves.

“Some that we haven’t kept on the ranch have gone on to be trained as performance rodeo horses,” commented Dockery’s husband Thad.

Horses are also an important part of the family on the Myers Ranch.

“They are our only source of gathering cattle,” stated Dockery. “The four-wheelers might be used if we need to check on something and get there quickly, but we don’t herd with four-wheelers.”

In June, the Dockerys and their fellow grazing permittees come to help with a calf roundup and shoes are checked and replaced on the horses.

“That’s been going on since the early 1900s,” Dockery said.

The Myers family ranch continues into the future with horses, cows and a proud tradition of sustainability, celebrating 100 years of operation in 2017.

Natasha Wheeler is editor at the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be contacted at natasha@wylr.net.

Hyattville – On a warm summer day, 31 teachers and educators from around the state gathered at the Keith and Linda Hamilton ranch north of Hyattville for a morning full of agriculture and natural resources education.
    The sessions on June 13 were a part of the Wyoming Ag in the Classroom (WAIC) Institute, an annual event that seeks to give Wyoming’s educators an in-depth understanding of what it takes to manage the state’s agriculture and natural resources.
    On June 13 the teachers learned about sheep and beef production, multiple use on federal lands, rangeland management, watersheds and predator management. During the other two-and-a-half days of the Institute, they heard a Code of the West presentation, toured Bryant Honey in Worland, visited Medicine Lodge State Archaeological Site and visited with 2012 Wyoming Beef Ambassador Kate Richardson. They also toured Pepsi in Worland, visited with John Schneider on his sugarbeet farm, heard information from the Wyoming Mining Association and participated in a segment on wild horse management.
    “It was a long week, but a good week,” says WAIC Executive Director Jessie Dafoe. “It’s fast-paced, but we don’t take our task of ag and natural resource education lightly, so we try to make the most of each day.”
Hamiltons’ history
    “It’s always tough to pick a location, because Wyoming is so beautiful and diverse. We try to rotate, and we hadn’t been to the Big Horns in quite some time,” she says.
    WAIC also chose the Worland area for this year’s tour in part because of the Hamilton family’s long involvement with the organization.
    “Linda Hamilton served as our first chairman 25 years ago, so we thought it was appropriate to come back to this area for our 25th anniversary,” says Dafoe, noting that Keith and Linda’s son Doug is WAIC’s current treasurer. “We thought it was very fitting, and we’re grateful the Hamilton ranch hosted us.”
    Keith Hamilton says hosting the event has been in the planning stages since February.
    “We look at it as an opportunity to tell our story to the people who present information to our children,” he says. “We feel like we need to do as good of a job as we can in explaining our points of view, and what better way to do it than through the classroom?”
    Hamilton adds that the key point in the presentations on their ranch was multiple use.
    “We wanted to explain to people that there are many different uses on federal lands. We’ve all evolved together with different uses, and we think we can move forward doing the same thing,” he says. “We don’t need to demean other users – we need to all get along, because, if we don’t, federal lands will end up being a single use.”
Participation increases
    Teachers came from diverse Wyoming locations, from Lyman to Carpenter, and ranged from preschool and elementary educators to high school teachers and conservation district education specialists.
     “We’re up 11 participants from last year, so we hope that means we’re doing something right,” says Dafoe, saying that publicity is always something that WAIC is working on.
    “We always try to figure out better ways to involve more teachers,” says Dafoe. “We send out announcement in local papers, ask local superintendents to share information, send information to all curriculum directors and letters and flyers to each school.”
     Dafoe says that, at $50, it’s a great deal for teachers.
     “Because of our sponsorships we can cover lodging, meals and materials,” she says. “Plus, it’s worth up to three UW graduate-level credits.”
    “We do have repeat teachers who come every year, and that lets us know we’re doing something right,” she notes.
    Dafoe points out the opportunities that exist for teachers to return home and impact their students.
    “Even though we’re teaching only 31 educators here, we can multiply that by 30 when they go home. It’s an exciting experience to know that’s the type of work we’re getting done with three-and-a-half days in an Institute,” she says.
    Christy Martinez 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..

Thermopolis – As a vocational instructor at Thermopolis Middle School and Thermopolis High School, Becky Martinez attends several trainings each year to learn about new projects and new ways to teach students.

“Last summer, I went to a Junior Master Gardner training in Casper,” she says. “We used curriculum from Texas A&M, and it talks about getting produce in front of students and giving them an opportunity to try it.”

“We utilize project-based learning in my classroom, and we’ve started a project to be able to grow our own food,” Martinez says. “We’ve planted a pizza garden in garden boxes in the classroom.”

Gardening in the classroom

Martinez has outfitted her classroom with four planters that are two feet by four feet in size.

In their “pizza garden,” Martinez explains that sixth grade students have planted many of the ingredients they might need to make a pizza, including tomatoes and peppers, as well as several quick-growing plants like lettuce and spinach.

They planted seed during the middle of March, and students have been documenting their growing experience.

“The students were so amazed at how much the lettuce had grown in just one week,” she says. “It’s great to watch the students as they observe and learn about plants.”

Beyond growing

In addition to learning about how to grow plants, Martinez notes that her students are also carrying out several science experiments.

“The students also decided they wanted to experiment in this project,” she says. “One of our boxes is organic. We’re also going to do a good, better and best soil composition trial.”

A third aspect of the project will be to vary the lighting to answer the question, is light important for plants?

“I’ve tried to let my students decide what they want to do and let them run with it,” Martinez says. “I want them to feel like this is their project from start to finish.”

Throughout the summer

As the school year winds down, Martinez says that the plants will be transplanted from the indoor garden boxes to an outdoor 16-by-16, fenced-in area on school property.

“We have two eighth graders at our school who have awesome, big ideas,” she says. “They are going to take care of the plants during the summer in a school garden.”

McKenna Bomengen was one of the eighth graders who conceptualized the idea of a school garden.

Bomengen says, “This opportunity is valuable for students at Thermopolis Middle School because it gives us a chance to experience the reward of a good work ethic.”

Martinez notes that students attending summer school, as well as community members or teachers who want to “adopt” the garden for a week, will be involved in caring for the plants when school is not in session.

“This is a great start to our school garden,” Martinez adds.

The students hope to continue to grow the garden project, and Martinez says she will be applying for a Wyoming Department of Agriculture grant to construct a hoop house on school property for students to utilize.

“Our principal also wants to see if we can add a chicken coop,” she says. “We’re looking at if that is possible because we’re on the edge of city limits. The chickens would be able to supplement eggs to the school.”

Farm-to-school

With an abundant crop expected in the fall, Martinez notes that the produce will be utilized in the school cafeteria as part of a Farm-to-School project.

“We hope to produce enough to be able to supplement our school lunch program,” she says. “This is a hands-on way to help students learn about where their food comes from.”

Martinez continues, “Even within our middle school in rural Wyoming, a lot of students don’t know what a tomato plant looks like. They think their spaghetti sauce comes from a jar, not from tomatoes in the garden. We’re trying to help our students understand that farmers produce their food.”

At the same time, she also says the project provides hands-on learning, group work, collaboration and communication.

“In the classes I teach, we do a lot of group work and learn how to communicate with each other. It’s more real-world,” she adds.

Martinez is also working to secure grant funds to enhance their Farm-to-School program.

“There are grants that we can get to supplement our school district’s lunch program with beef or locally grown produce,” she says.

Benefits for students

The benefits for this project are long lasting and extensive, and Martinez says, “We’re trying to figure out how we can provide a healthy, balanced lunch and use fresh, local products.”

Ray Schafer of Hot Springs County Farm Bureau says, “This project teaches students about leadership and responsibility. We’re impressed, and we want to do everything we can to encourage the next generation to learn about agriculture.”

Hot Springs County Farm Bureau provided funding for the construction of outdoor gardens and other materials to support the project.

“The garden will also expose students to a healthier lifestyle when we get to help our school cooks put together homemade meals,” Bomengen adds. “Altogether, I hope this project progresses long after I have graduated and, more importantly, leaves an imprint on the Thermopolis ag program.”

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..

Torrington – More than 30 educators came together the week of June 10 in Torrington to further their agriculture knowledge, enabling them to bring Wyoming Ag in the Classroom (WAIC) lessons into their curriculum.

“The Wyoming Agriculture and Natural Resource Institute provides educators with hands-on experiences and curriculum resources,” says WAIC Executive Director Jessie DaFoe. 

A diverse audience of teachers from across Wyoming and surrounding states attended the workshop, where they learned about agriculture in Wyoming, specifically dry bean farming, cattle ranching and natural resources in Wyoming, among other topics. 

What is agriculture?

To start the workshop, teachers were asked, “What is agriculture to you, What is agriculture to your class and what is agriculture to your community?”

The wide-ranging responses addressed all aspects of the industry generally.

“Agriculture is a way of life,” one educator from the Torrington area commented. 

Others commented that the industry involves everyone and includes farming and ranching, as well as tourism, coal, methane, oil, forestry and other activities.

“Agriculture is our economic livelihood,” said a Kaycee teacher, noting that across Wyoming, agriculture is everywhere and impacts everyone.

At the same time, for students, teachers commented that agriculture means a hands-on learning opportunity. The industry also provides for natural resources education, and in many small community, means after school and summer jobs for older students.

Farming in Torrington

With few teachers involved in the instutite exposed to production agriculture, WAIC worked to tour several prodcution operations in the Torrington area, starting with Unverzagt Farms. 

Unverzagt Farms, a Lingle dry bean producer, is run by Dave and Aimee Unverzagt, who introduced teachers to the process in planting and harvesting beans, as well as the challenges associated with agriculture in the area.

Unverzagt explained the technological advancements in bean farming, including use of herbicides and farm equipment technology. 

“They have satellites on the tractors now so they drive themselves,” Dave said. “They also have GPS locators where we can track where planting occurs to do the same thing next year.”

Unverzagt also gave teachers information on the improvements that have been made to ag because of technological advances. 

Kelley Bean

Representatives of Kelley Bean Company also presented to the group of teachers, explaining what happens after beans are harvested. 

“Following harvest, beans are cleaned and sorted, then they go through a gravity separator,” explained Jeff Chapman of Kelley Bean. “Then they pass by an electric eye that check for any bad beans.”

The facility processes about 200 pounds of beans per hour, which are then packaged for retail sale under the company’s label, Brown’s Best. They also package under other labels for retail stores. 

“Beans, by nature, are not genetically modified,” explained Andrew Carlson, also of Kelley Bean. “They are also the only food product that we eat and plant the same thing.”

Carlson noted that there are a number of opportunities provided by bean growers associations nationwide to help educate young people about agriculture, and that they work to continue educational opportunities for young people.

Diversification

Another stop of the tour visited Table Mountain Vineyards, operated by the Zimmerer family. 

After attending a grape-growing seminar, Patrick completed a thesis project on establishing vineyards in Wyoming. Shortly after that, he convinced his family to plant a 300-vine vineyard on their farm. 

“My sister and I entered the 10K Challenge through the college of business,” explained Patrick. “In 2001, we planted our first 300 grapevines, and in 2004 we entered the competition. It was a business plan competition, and we won $10,000 to get started.”

As a result, they started making wine. Today, they produce 3,000 to 5,000 gallons of 12 different wine varieties that are all picked, bottled and labeled by hand. 

“This allows us to diversify a little bit,” adds Patrick of the vineyards, explaining that they also raise crops on the operation. 

Ag opportunities

Each stop during the course of the institute provided lesson plan ideas for teachers and allowed educators to work with producers to better understand the agriculture industry.

Along with attending Unverzagt Farms and Table Mountain Vineyards, educators stopped at Ochsner Ranch, a cow/calf operation north of Torrington, Torrington Livestock Markets and the James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center. 

Additionally, Montana logger and advocate for natural resources Bruce Vincent presented both an afternoon-long educators’ workshop and keynote address.

The Wyoming Mining Association, Wyoming Rural Electric Association also offered presentations at the institute. 

DaFoe additionally encouraged educators to attend next year’s institute, which will be held in Mountain View in June.

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..

Douglas – “Wyoming Ag in the Classroom (WAIC) presents an educator of the year award annually to an exemplary educator in ag and natural resources. This person can be an agriculture educator, classroom teacher grade K-12, a conservation educator or a UW Extension Educator. They are nominated by their peers in an application that explains the curriculum and programs they’ve implemented in their classroom that are exemplary in the areas of ag and natural resources,” explained WAIC President Mantha Phillips at the 2010 Wyoming Agriculture Hall of Fame picnic Aug. 18 in Douglas.
The 2010 Wyoming Ag in the Classroom (WAIC) Educator of the Year is Kathy Tatman of Lingle, whose involvement in agriculture has been lifelong.
“Kathy grew up on a farm and ranching operation in Pine Bluffs. Upon completion of college her husband Wayne took a job with the UW Cooperative Extension Service, where he worked for 34 years. Both Kathy and Wayne were highly involved in several areas of ag, including 4-H and FFA with their three sons, Shawn, Todd and Marty. They now own and operate ad cow-calf and farming operation in Goshen and Niobrara counties.
“Their interest in ag has carried on in the family as every family member has a BS degree from the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture. This even includes their daughter-in-law, Trisha,” explained Representative Cynthia Lummis, who presented the award to Tatman.
“The recipient of this award has to provide creativity in their approach to teaching ag and natural resources in the classroom. They also have to demonstrate how ag and natural resources have been incorporated in daily classroom practices and provide documentation showing evidence of a positive outcome of their program,” said Phillips.
Tatman started working with the Cent$ible Nutrition program through the UW Cooperative Extension Service in 2000. One phase of the program is working with public schools to educate students in forming healthy lifestyles.
“Kathy started with second and third grade students, teaching basic nutrition knowledge. She found other grades were also interested in nutritional information in the classroom. That is how Munching your way through Wyoming History started.
“She began revising, updating and adding curriculum to meet state standards in the social studies curriculum. She altered the program to a classroom setting with a five-lesson curriculum. The kid-tested and teacher-approved activities follow five groups of people that made significant contributions to the history of Wyoming. These include Native Americans, mountain men, pioneers, railroad works and cowboys,” explained Lummis.
Each lesson provides students with hands-on learning opportunities and includes sampling food eaten by people of that time period in addition to some type of physical activity.
“Students also compare food eaten in that time period to foods eaten today and compare the nutrition missing from the diets of each respective group. The kids understand the connection between food choices, physical activity and health. They also learn about the effects on ag in Wyoming by exploring past cultures and comparing them to their present day lifestyles,” noted Lummis.
She added that in the mid 1800s and early 1900s the entire Wyoming population was agrarian-based.
“Studying and experiencing agriculture in that time period has been extremely interesting and eye-opening for all involved,” added Lummis.
This fall Tatman’s program will be given to other Cent$ible Nutrition educators for use throughout the state in fourth grade classrooms.
“Our goal is to provide educators with science-based educational materials and support them in working toward a vision in which the interdependence of agriculture, people and natural resources are recognized and valued. Kathy will receive a check for $1,200 to be used as she sees fit. She also receives lodging in Douglas for the week of State Fair, a WAIC tote bag and a plaque,” explained Phillips.
“I would like to thank the WAIC board. It is so important that our young people learn about ag, as so often they don’t know anything about it. I am also very appreciative to the Fourth grade teachers that allowed me to come into their classrooms and pilot this program. They were phenomenal.
“I would also like to really thank my family for their encouragement and support. My husband edited the program, tasted the food and built different projects to be used in the classroom. Thank you to everyone for making this possible,” said Tatman of receiving the award.
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..