June Brings New SeriesWritten by Christy Martinez
Occasionally when I’m attending events and doing interviews out in the country I receive compliments on the paper and it’s content, and they’re always much appreciated. Sometimes it seems like “no news is good news” when it comes to what we write from week to week, so feedback is always welcome. Of course we prefer to hear the positive, but we also take constructive criticism seriously.
This week we’d like to introduce a new weekly feature for the month of June – young people in the ag industry.
I’m sure many of you have heard about the efforts by many programs and organizations to lend support to young and beginning ag producers. As someone who fits in that definition myself, I know it’s a challenge. Even with the training and assistance that is being offered today, it still takes the right opportunity at the right time to actually make a go of getting a brand new ag operation up and running. It can be frustrating that, at a time when many are talking about getting more of the younger generation involved in agriculture, it can still seem like an impossible, unreachable goal. When you’re talking to a banker, experience, work ethic and training don’t matter – all it takes is money.
For this new series in the paper, we’d like to find those who have found a great opportunity and have been able to take advantage of it. I have struggled to come up with a concise title for the series, like our “Women in Ag” weekly series in November, because I don’t want to limit its scope strictly to livestock “producers.” The idea behind the features is to highlight the innovative things that today’s young people are doing to utilize new technology and information while maintaining the integrity and traditions of the ag industry.
This week’s feature, as you may have already read on the cover, highlights the King brothers from the Big Hole Valley in Montana, who took it upon themselves to produce a documentary on the wolf reintroduction in the West. Not only did they get the job done, but they’ve also already received many positive reviews and an award for the project. They were able to take their knowledge of film production and give a voice to those who have been so negatively affected by the predators.
Until next time, keep the feedback coming, and we’ll keep doing our best to bring you the best ag industry reporting that we can!
Share Your Christmas TraditionsWritten by Christy Martinez
As October turned to November, and Thanksgiving approaches, some of us have already turned our thoughts toward Christmastime, especially those of us who love the holiday season.
When thinking of Christmas, many of us have favorite sights, sounds and activities, whether they be stringing Christmas lights, searching for a tree, covering kitchen counters with cookies, wrapping colorful gift packages for the people in our lives or attending a Christmas Eve service.
For me, I think I would have to say it’s all of the above, and more. Our new family has grown from two to three with the addition of our baby boy earlier this fall, and he’ll be four months old at Christmas. My husband Scott and I are looking forward to starting our own family traditions, and I’m sure that some of them will be carry-overs from my own family’s traditions.
One of those traditions is the hot wassail recipe my mom makes every year for both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve – we’ve had that one for as long as I can remember. I’m not even sure where her recipe came from, but it’s one of those that’s cut from a magazine page and glued to a faded, dog-eared index card. Another component of that tradition was the old silver percolator with the cloth cord that she always used to make it. Unfortunately, that percolator bit the dust earlier this year, but, fortunately, I found a similar one second-hand so the tradition can live on.
Another Hemken tradition has been to get the biggest, tallest Christmas tree our house could possible hold. You can imagine my shock when, last Christmas, I returned home to Iowa to find the 2010 version was a mere five feet tall! Scott compares the tree I picked out for our house last year to the White House Christmas tree, but I absolutely loved it! I’m looking forward to seeing baby Levi’s reaction to the twinkling Christmas lights and shiny ornaments on this year’s tree – at least this December he won’t yet be old enough to get into them.
For as long as I can remember my family has attended and participated in Christmas Eve services. There’s something about all the hustle and bustle that comes before the holiday, and the chance to be still and enjoy Christmas carols and candlelight, coming back to the little baby and the reason for the whole celebration in the first place.
We here at the Roundup want to know what you love about Christmas, whether it is a specific activity or a treasured memory of a Christmas past. This year we’re holding a writing/photo contest for the cover of our Christmas paper, which will be the Dec. 24 edition.
The Roundup team will select a winner to be featured on the Christmas edition’s cover, while the runners-up will be featured in excerpt within the edition and all entries will be posted at wylr.net.
Happy writing, and we look forward to reading your stories and enjoying your photos and artwork!
Fairs Follow Long TraditionWritten by Christy Martinez
With themes ranging from “Barn in the USA” to “Dancing with the Steers,” county fair season is officially underway across the U.S., and will eventually give way to state fairs later this summer.
As I write this, the town of Casper is celebrating parade day in conjunction with the Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo, the first county fair to be held in the state each summer.
After some research, I found that the first fair in North America was held in 1765 in Windsor, Nova Scotia, while a New England patriot and farmer, Elkana Watson, earned the title of “Father of U.S. Agricultural Fairs” after organizing the Berkshire Agricultural Society and creating an event, known as the Cattle Show, in Pittsfield, Mass. in September 1811. The livestock exposition was also a competition, with $70 paid for the best oxen, cattle, swine and sheep.
After that first fair, Watson worked with other communities to organize their own agricultural societies and their respective shows, or fairs. By 1819, it’s said that most counties in New England had their own societies and fairs, and the movement was spreading to other states. By the end of the 19th Century, almost every state and province had one or more ag fairs or exhibitions.
Today over 3,200 fairs are held in North America annually, and I think it’s safe to say that if you were to walk onto the grounds of many of them, you’d find the same elements – livestock barns containing cattle, hogs and sheep, exhibit halls filled with home-grown produce and homemade products and many 4-H and FFA kids working hard to put the finishing touches on their projects.
Many fairs boast exhibits like none other. I grew up attending the Iowa State Fair, and a “must-see” each year is the butter cow, which is just that – a dairy cow sculpted from butter. Just run a Google image search, and you’ll see for yourself.
Unfortunately, this summer the butter cow will be missing its creator of over 50 years, as sculptor Norma Lyon passed away this year at the age of 81. She sculpted her first 600-pound cow for the Iowa State Fair in 1959 while pregnant with her seventh child. The Iowa State Fair has featured a butter cow every year since 1911 as a promotion for the state’s dairy products.
I had the opportunity to meet Norma while in college, on a field trip with a dairy judging course. After we reviewed several pens of Jersey dairy cows, she brought us warm, homemade cookies in the old milking parlor, and we washed them down with fresh Jersey milk, and I still remember that’s the sweetest, smoothest milk I’ve ever tasted.
So, whether you encounter a cow made entirely of butter or something else at Wyoming’s county fairs or the Wyoming State Fair this year, be sure to get out and support your local agriculture industry and the youth who are becoming involved – after all, that’s been the whole point of county, regional and state fairs ever since Elkana Watson first created his event 200 years ago.
In the pages of the Roundup we’re in the midst of our “Summer County Fair Series,” which features information about the ongoing county fairs and their schedules, as well as articles on notable kids and their projects from around the state. Stay tuned for more coverage of fair season in the Cowboy State!
A Whole Half-DecadeWritten by Christy Martinez
On Aug. 14 I spent Sunday afternoon at the Wyoming State Fair Ranch Rodeo Finals in Douglas, enjoying the friendly competition along with a grandstand full of ranch rodeo fans – and it was full, with over 1,000 people setting record attendance.
While 2011 marked the second year of a finals format for Wyoming’s qualified ranch rodeos, Aug. 14 also marked five years that I’ve worked for the Roundup, and, naturally, State Fair week always leaves me reminiscing about my very first week at the paper, which I spent mostly in Douglas, gathering images and articles for my new job as assistant editor.
Of my first Wyoming State Fair, I remember that it was hot, and Casper Mountain had just caught on fire as I was moving to Casper, and I wondered exactly what I’d gotten myself into. Thankfully, since then we’ve received more moisture in the state, and central Wyoming hasn’t experienced any more wildfires of that scale.
In keeping with Roundup tradition, that Wednesday of State Fair week in 2006 the Roundup, along with Encana Oil and Gas and Farm Credit, hosted the Wyoming Agriculture Hall of Fame picnic, where I met many new people, and promptly forgot most of their names. Over the last five years it’s been rewarding to get to know more and more members of Wyoming’s ag community, and it’s great to get to catch up with you at events like the picnic.
One of our first big projects after I started with the Roundup was our annual Fall Cattlemen’s Edition, which featured a county for the first time in 2006, so I was able to take a trip to Sublette County to meet with many ranch families and take in the beautiful scenery that is western Wyoming in the fall. Since then I’ve traveled to just about every corner of the state, stepping foot at least once in each of its counties. Getting to meet Wyoming’s ag producers and sit with them at their kitchen tables has been the most rewarding, and I thank you for being so welcoming to the Roundup staff whenever we’re making our rounds.
The most challenging thing about working with the Roundup’s editorial is staying current on all the issues that affect or could potentially affect the Wyoming ag industry, but that’s something to which many of you are not strangers. We welcome tips from our readers about those things we might otherwise miss – give us a call or an email to fill us in.
These days we’re working on my tenth Cattlemen’s edition, which will feature Big Horn County this fall. Although they’re a big project, we’ve enjoyed our in-depth county profiles for our Fall and Winter Cattlemen’s editions, and we hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoy putting together the interviews, photos and articles.
As State Fair week continued this year, we again hosted our mid-week picnic, on which we still partner with Farm Credit and Encana. Fortunately, not only the tradition of the Ag Hall of Fame continued, but also beautiful weather on the summer evening. Congratulations to Niels Hansen and Harriet Hageman on joining their fellow distinguished members.
Over these last five years, you can bet that I’ve learned a lot, and hopefully have forgotten little. As I move into my sixth year with the paper, and wrap up my second as managing editor, I hope to continue to stay in touch and see you frequently around the state.
The truth about argicultureWritten by Christy Martinez
We here at the Roundup make an effort to get to all the conventions and meetings that our calendars allow, and with the Christmas holiday, the 2010 convention season has come to its end.
In my reflections on the many people who have stood up and spoke to their subjects this fall, it seems that more of them have waxed philosophical then usual. Perhaps that’s because of concern surrounding the outcome of the estate tax in Congress’s lame duck session, and therefore the very future of many Wyoming ag operations, or maybe it’s because people are tired of work without progress. A frequent comment among convention attendees is that they keep discussing some of the same issues as they go round and round, year after year, with seemingly no real progress ever made.
What is it that neutralizes all the good work of ag producers and ag families across the country who diligently produce safe and efficient food for the rest of the nation?
That may be what has spurred the philosophical discussions. More frequently we hear people talk about “truth” and whether or not animals have equal status with humans, as well as moral ethics and how they impact the rural areas of America.
As an FFA student said this fall after participating in an ag issues team at the national level, it’s important to understand the flip side of an argument before one can ever hope to change another’s mind.
It seems that the very root of the opposition against modern agriculture is a belief system described as relativism, or postmodernism – put simply, that you have “your truth” and I have “my truth,” which ultimately comes down to the contradictory statement that there are absolutely no absolutes.
These days the U.S. ag industry can’t even begin to insist that its livestock management practices are humane, much less market more beef to American consumers, because the truth is no longer the end-all, and because, in most of society today, feelings trump the truth. It’s impossible to skip to the end – selling more beef – when the beginning – the consumers’ beliefs – isn’t right.
We can work as hard as we want at the best research and the most sound science, but it won’t make much of a difference to the people who have already made up their minds that they don’t like anything related to “unethical” or “inhumane” production agriculture in the 21st century. Never mind that in the 1950s we’d have needed the land mass equivalent to six more Western states to produce the same amount of beef as today. It’s because Brazil still produces with 1950s-era technology that they’re still clearing rainforests.
It’s true that we all have that circle of influence that extends outside the borders of the ag industry – a sister-in-law who’s a nurse, a cousin who doesn’t believe beef is the safest or most nutritious thing to feed her kids, or simply a Facebook page or a blog.
It’s up to us to educate ourselves on our own product so we can have productive discussions with those people, and it’s up to us to know why we choose our management practices for our livestock, and why we know it’s the right thing to do. Over the holidays, many of us will get together with those family members only seen occasionally, and I hope that we get the chance to explain our point of view on the morality of producing livestock on a large scale. Merry Christmas to you all!