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Since the inception of the Wyoming Ag Ownership Network (WAGON) just over a year ago, the program has blossomed to include a number of candidates and potential for the program to grow. 

However, Scott Keith, program manager, notes that they continue to seek mentor ranchers to develop the program’s potential.

“The concept of WAGON and other programs in the state all fit in the same frame of thought,” Keith says. “We are trying to help young people stay in agriculture.”

Growing the program

For WAGON, however, Keith notes that there are several areas they hope to expand for a more successful program.

“We are really in need of more activity from the ranching community in the form of mentors who are willing to work with young couples or young people to help them get experience, exposure and education,” Keith explains. “We are looking for exposure to good quality ranch management, marketing skills, financial skills and skills in negotiating with federal agencies.”

Keith continues that some candidates currently in the program aren’t ready to fully manage large livestock operations but are seeking more experience from capable ranchers.

“They are good candidates to be involved as managers of operations, but they still need some time to learn and develop,” he continues. “There are a lot of ranchers out there that have the potential to help.”

Hurdles

In continuing to develop the program, Keith notes that last year’s severe drought significantly hindered the program. 

“People who were considering mentoring young couples with the opportunity to run some livestock backed off the idea because of the drought,” Keith mentions. “They had to scale down their own cowherd and didn’t have room for others to come in.”

“The drought changed the attitudes of people who could be mentors,” he continues. “In some areas of the state, those people are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel as they see the drought ease.”

Keith adds that WAGON provides opportunity for older ranchers who have room to expand but are concerned about financial burdens.

“Rather than having to take on the financial burdens to purchase cattle themselves,” he explains, “this might be a good opportunity if they want to expand again.”

Rather than purchasing cattle themselves, ranchers may consider allowing young producers to run cattle on the property while working with the ranch herd and gaining experience from older generation ranchers. If a candidate fits a producer’s operation, Keith says that it could be a viable way to utilize extra pastures or restock pastures.

“We will continue to take applications, but what we are more concerned with right now is the longevity of the program, which will depend on the ability to locate quality mentors that fit the candidates we have and the idea of the program,” Keith adds.

Partnerships

In promoting WAGON’s longevity, Keith says the chance to collaborate with similar programs is on the forefront of his mind.

“We are starting to work more with organizations that have similar interests in ranch succession or in land succession,” comments Keith. “We are all interested in helping young people to have an opportunity.”

Keith notes that in working with various programs around the state with a similar focus, they hope to increase their abilities to provide opportunities to young people. 

While no formal arrangements have been made, Mantha Phillips, chairman of the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust Ranchland Succession Program committee, notes that they are exploring options for working with the WAGON program to advance both programs.

“It would make perfect sense for us to join forces,” she comments, “but no final, official decisions have been made on either side.”

“From our perspective, there is no need to reinvent or duplicate services in the state. We’ve had quite a few conversations to see how the two programs could be integrated,” Phillips adds.

“We are all working together to solve one problem,” Keith comments. 

Saige Albert is managing editor of 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..

In the fall of 2010, Congress passed the Small Business Jobs Act, which allocated a minimum of $13.2 million per state to stimulate the growth of small businesses by providing greater access to capital. 

Wyoming elected not to participate in the program in 2010, passing the opportunity to the municipalities within the state. Seventeen communities collaborated in the fall of 2011 to apply to the U.S. Treasury to bring the funds to Wyoming residents.

Small business money

“The program did not close until December 2012,” says Paul Huleatt, managing director of Wyoming Smart Capital Network (WSCN), “so the resources have not been available until this year.”

WSCN was hired to implement the Small Business Job Act by working with local banks to support small business loans. Executive Director Diane Wolverton is presently traveling around Wyoming, speaking with local lenders to inform them of the program. 

“We are currently meeting with banks all around our 17 city region so when they meet with a business that seems to fit our program, they will give us a call,” explains Wolverton.

Providing collateral

WSCN aids in the development of businesses by providing collateral to back businesses when they take out a loan from a bank.

“The loan is with the bank. WSCN is just the third party that provides the collateral,” elaborates Wolverton. 

“We hope that by pledging collateral, the lender will be more comfortable with lending to the small business owner,” says Huleatt.

Once a business is approved by the bank and WSCN, WSCN will place a Certificate of Deposit, or CD, in the bank to act as collateral. Huleatt says WSCN can pledge up to 50 percent cash collateral.

“It is a good tool for this gap of collateral,” Wolverton adds. “It has been really pleasant to go into the banks and talk with lenders and get such a warm reception to this program. It is a simple program, and it fulfills the need. If the borrower’s banker does not know about this opportunity, we are happy to do the outreach to educate them.”

A small origination fee of up to two percent of the amount of the loan is charged at closing.

“The actual fee is determined by three factors,” continues Wolverton. “The first is the amount of collateral. The more collateral that is placed with the bank, the greater the fee. The length of the term also has an impact. We can keep the collateral with the bank for up to five years, and shorter terms may reduce the fee.”

“Finally,” she continues, “we look at the strength of the credit of the applicant who is applying for the loan.” 

Qualification

To utilize the program, businesses must be located within the 17 municipalities that are partners in the program. These include Casper, Cheyenne, Cody, Douglas, Edgerton, Gillette, Green River, Hanna, Hartville, Laramie, Midwest, Pine Bluffs, Powell, Rawlins, Rock Springs, Sundance and Wheatland. 

“If a business is located outside of the city limits but has an economic benefit for a participating municipality, they can potentially qualify for the program,” says Wolverton. 

Presently, no other municipality may join the program because the funds have already been allocated.

“If there comes another allocation of funds by the Treasury, there may be an opportunity for other municipalities to join. Right now, it is only the 17 that qualify,” she adds. 

Within the participating municipalities, any non-profit or small business may apply for the collateral. 

Flexibility

“What is exciting about this program is that it is up to the state on how they want to tailor it. We have a lot of flexibility on loan structure and types of companies that are eligible,” adds Huleatt. “Businesses do not have to be a manufacturing operation or agricultural enterprise to qualify.”

Some limitations have been placed on the program so it fulfills the goal of helping small businesses. 

“This is not intended for developers who want to purchase a building,” explains Wolverton. “The businesses must be owner occupied. It cannot be used for illegal activity or gambling and is not for the purchase of business stock or equity.” 

“If there is even the smallest interest in the program, pick up to the phone and speak with Diane,” urges Huleatt. “We speak to lenders all the time and this is how the process always starts. People sometimes talk themselves out of the hypothetical dialogue, but there is no harm in it.”

Seed capital

The Seed Capital Network Tool is another method utilized by Wyoming Smart Capital Network (WSCN) to assist small businesses. This program supports local business development by providing Wyoming-based seed funding for Wyoming companies.

“We are working with accredited investors from around the state that want to invest in Wyoming businesses,” explains Diane Wolverton, executive director of WSCN. “Investors join together in a fund and make the decisions on which businesses they want to invest in.”

Kelsey Tramp 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..

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Thank you!

Christmas is a magic time, of miracles they say

An’ somethin’ of that sort, I guess, caught me the other day.

Shadows were long, an’ frosty haze, rose from snow-covered plain

As Nate an’ Nell rushed hay sled an’ me homeward, for their grain.

 

That frozen feed trail snakes us ‘round the head of the breaks,

There where Grandpa’s saggin’ homestead house, causes me heartaches

But wait, can it be? There’s hum of fiddles on the air!

Nate an’ Nell stop. They prick their ears – all I can do is stare!

 

Grandpa’s house ain’t saggin’. There’s a lantern by the door!

An’ golden light is spillin’ there ‘crost Grandma’s bleached wood floor!

Nate an’ Nell ain’t fonchin’ ‘gainst these lines here in my hand

Fact is, their heads are droopin’, like their eyes are full’a sand!

 

The kind Ol’ Sandman brought us, when we was little lads,

Keen to sit up on Christmas Eve, just like our mom’s and dad’s;

It seemed like that ol’ Sandman came to me, then an’ there,

As fiddles droned an’ laughter rang, across the cold night air.

 

Tell me – did he make me sleep, an’ dream of days of yore?

Or was I plumb transported to some distant, mystic shore?

To the joy of Grandma’s kitchen ‘midst their dancin’ glee,

Me, warm behind their wood stove starin’ at their Christmas tree?

 

Did I listen to the “auld tongue,” music to my ears,

Loving those faces and voices, ‘till I was moved to tears?

Did I watch ‘em dance a schottische see my Grandpa wink?

Did Santa shore slip thru that door – or did I maybe blink?

 

Did he look me in the eye an’ press a candy cane

Into my hand? Then disappear, so swiftly down the lane

Where Grandma’s yellow roses bloom in each summer’s sun?

Tell me, am I crazy? Or did I really see him run,

 

And jump quite high, to catch a sleigh, as it left the ground?

If not, then how come these echoes, of jingling sleigh bell’s sound?

Did I watch Grandma, cut and serve, fruitcake by the slice?

Did Grandpa grin, and squeeze her arm, because she served him twice?

 

Did my ears hear his deep voice, read from that Bible page

The ancient tale of a Virgin’s babe, stepping on the stage

Of Earth – as a helpless infant – manger for a bed,

Tell me was it the words of Luke that my Grandpa read?

 

While good folk of his neighborhood, stood, with heads bowed low

Some Swede, some Dane, some Norski all close friends, as neighbors go

 

The Polak in the corner, the Russian by the tree

And ‘crost the room, the Englishman still sipping on his tea?

 

A gust of wind  I seem to wake to stamp of horse’s hoof

When Nate and Nell snort, and move off, I catch a glimpse of roof,

A roof of rotted timbers, all sagging in the mist,

A roof the job of shoring up, ranks highest on my list,

 

Of things to do for “next year” the one that’s coming soon!

I shake my head and rub my eyes, then stare at Mister Moon,

Who’s risen now from the dark I wonder, did he see?

That golden, lamp-lit cabin, friends, family, the tree?

 

Here’s our gate “Whoa, Nell and Nate!” I start to wrap the lines,

When something clatters to hay sled floor ? ‘Neath the moon now, shines,

A candy cane white and red yet bigger than today’s!

I raise my eyes I see that Star my heart wells up in praise

 

Of ancestors and pioneers those who gave us life

Of our great God  this great land of our neighbors – man and wife.

Those things bring “Merry Christmas!” to ev’ry hearth and home –

May they richly bless you, and yours, wherever you may roam!

– Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns

Newcastle

Dec. 18, 2007