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Earlier this month the Wyoming FFA Foundation hosted the first ever industry tour for Wyoming FFA members. This inaugural event offered FFA members a chance to visit the Laramie River Power Station, hear about the beef industry in Wyoming and visit the Johnston family’s Bard Ranch, which includes farming, a feedlot and a range operation.
    Visiting the Laramie River Power Station was an outstanding opportunity for the FFA members to witness first-hand one of the means by which the nation’s electrical supplies are met. With the application of technology and by burning Wyoming’s low-sulfur, cleaner-than-average coal, FFA members also had a chance to see the investments in responsible power production. Several students on the tour asked questions about jobs in the power plant ranging from welding to operating the control center. It was wonderful to see the FFA members explore and gain a greater understanding about a key component in our state’s infrastructure and economy.
    From there the group, including around 150, was off to the Platte County Fairgrounds. The Wyoming FFA Foundation partnered with the Laramie Peak CattleWomen to feed the group a noontime meal.
    Kim Cullen, area seedstock producer and A.I. technician, spoke to the FFA members about the beef industry in Platte County and beyond. Kim’s message showed students that opportunity is around every corner if you’re only willing to look was well received by the members.
    Judy West encouraged FFA members to consider vying for the title of Wyoming Beef Ambassador. Contest winners go on to represent Wyoming at the national level, serving as an advocate for the beef industry and spreading factual information to consumers. Several former Wyoming FFA members like Laura Nelson, formerly of Pine Bluffs, and Tressa Lawrence, formerly of Buffalo, have served as national beef ambassadors. Kate Richardson, who has been very successful in Wyoming FFA in both the extemporaneous public speaking and in range judging, is now serving as Wyoming’s ambassador. The program is a wonderful opportunity that dovetails with FFA projects and programs.
    Judy also encouraged FFA members to grasp yet another opportunity to help spread facts about the beef industry. By earning their MBA (master’s in beef advocacy), FFA members can join the growing force of informed people who are well prepared to address consumer questions and concerns. As Judy pointed out, consumers want to know the story about Wyoming ranchers and the beef industry and we need to be prepared to answer their questions. An MBA can be earned online and the details are available at beef.org.
    The tour wrapped up with a visit to the Johnston family’s Bard Ranch. FFA members learned about the diverse operation and the early day development of pivot irrigation using deep wells. Mike Johnston and his daughter and son-in-law Brandon and Amy Miller opened their feedlot up for the young people to explore. FFA members asked about the family’s use of baled tires to separate feedlot pens and their ability to protect the cattle from weather while holding heat. Many also joined Mike for a demonstration of the hydraulics used to operate the chute and sorting facilities at the feedlot. For some the visit was a chance to see some of what they’re learning in their agricultural education classes applied in a real-to-life setting.
    The Wyoming FFA Foundation hopes to make the industry tour an annual event. The goal is to provide Wyoming FFA members a chance to visit little-explored parts of the state that are important to Wyoming’s economy. FFA members also explored important components of the nation’s infrastructure like food and power production.
    Jennifer Vineyard Womack is executive director of the Wyoming FFA Foundation and a freelance writer. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 307-351-0730.
As I write this column, FFA members are gathering in Indianapolis, Ind. for the National FFA Convention. 50,000 members wearing blue corduroy and corn gold will join Wyoming’s strong contingency at the event. Those of us back in Wyoming are waiting anxiously to hear the news and results! I’m also anxious to hear from my niece Allison, who’s attending her first National FFA Convention as part of the Lander FFA!
    While in Indy, Wyoming’s FFA members will have a chance to attend an agricultural expo featuring 2,400 displays. Now that’s a learning opportunity! They’ll also have the chance to see FFA members from across the nation and representing all walks of agriculture. My favorite is always the motivational speakers who share outstanding stories and inspire the crowd to do and be better in whatever they do.
    While they’re several states away and out of earshot, I’m going to take a minute to brag on some of the young people representing the Cowboy State at the event.
    Cheyenne’s Frontier FFA is competing in the Agricultural Issues competition. According to Frontier FFA Advisor Joe Allen, the team will be discussing, “What considerations should be made when determining critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act?” Cheyenne attorney Karen Budd-Falen has been helping the team and will travel with them to National Convention. Allen says the team has been practicing at least twice a week and delivered their presentation to the Wyoming Legislature’s Agriculture Committee when they met in Hulett this fall. The Frontier FFA members have been working on their presentation for at least 10 months now!
    “We are very excited that the U.S. Natural Resources Committee for the U.S. Senate is coming out with their newest report and recommendations for this important topic on Oct. 22,” says Allen. “This means we will be studying the new report on Tuesday so we can have the most recent information for our presentation and questions on Wednesday.”
    I don’t know about you, but I never studied a congressional report while on a school trip. This is just one example of the outstanding learning that’s taking place among Wyoming FFA members.
    Over a dozen other teams and individuals will represent Wyoming in a whole host of events collectively called “Career Development Events.” They carry that title because of the important role they play in allowing FFA members to explore career fields and develop job skills while still in high school. The events open their ideas to new career opportunities and important lessons about business, natural resources and agriculture. I believe the competitions provide Wyoming FFA members with the opportunity to enter college with a more clear vision of their college and career goals. They also allow FFA members to enter adulthood as better-informed citizens.
    Chaney Peterson from the Sheridan FFA Chapter is representing Wyoming in the Creed Speaking competition. I had the opportunity to hear Chaney give the Creed at the state convention last spring. I was convinced she truly does “believe in the future of agriculture,” as stated in the Creed and will be anxious to hear how her trip to nationals goes.
    Odessa Oldham of the Lander FFA Chapter and a past Wyoming State FFA Officer is serving as Wyoming’s National Officer Candidate this week. She’s an outstanding spokesperson for Wyoming and FFA.
    Wyoming has a tradition of top-placing teams and individuals at the national convention and we’re sure to have some this year. I suspect we’ll even have a national champion or two. But regardless of the awards won, the experience gained and the lessons learned at this event will provide lifelong benefits. An FFA parent once told me that they appreciate the vigor with which their kids approach projects upon returning from FFA events. The program does a wonderful job of inspiring and motivating young people. As Wyoming’s FFA members return to the state, they’ll undoubtedly be accompanied by a bundle of energy and enthusiasm!
    To see how Wyoming FFA did at National FFA Convention, visit ffa.org. Jennifer Vineyard Womack is executive director of the Wyoming FFA Foundation and a freelance writer. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 307-351-0730.
It’s time to celebrate Wyoming FFA and all it does for our state’s young people! On Sept. 29 at the Parkway Plaza in Casper, the Wyoming FFA Foundation and Casper’s FFA chapters will be co-hosting the annual Blue Jeans Ball. The event itself has a long history, but 2012 marks the third year in recent history that the event has been held.
    There’s much reason to celebrate FFA across Wyoming and in Casper in particular. Casper is home to Wyoming’s newest FFA chapter, Windy City FFA at Kelly Walsh High School. Kelly Walsh’s new chapter joins Casper FFA at NC and the program at CY Junior High School. With numerous state officers in recent years, several nationally competitive teams and countless positive projects, great things are happening within the Casper FFA program. Later this year teams from Casper will represent Wyoming at the National FFA Convention in Farm Business Management and Parliamentary Procedure. Wyoming FFA Parliamentarian Lisa Andreen hails from Casper and 2011-2012 State FFA President Asher Markworth also calls the community home. That’s only the beginning of the program’s success stories!
    The Blue Jeans Ball begins with a social hour at 5 p.m. followed by a prime rib dinner and a presentation from National FFA Secretary Jason Troendle. Jason is from St. Charles, Minn. and served as his state’s FFA President prior to joining the National FFA Officer Team.
    “Through FFA and agricultural education,” says Jason, “I have been able to learn many things. I’ve learned it is vital to set short and long-term goals that can guide me where I want to go and what I want to do. I’ve learned that doing the right things, being committed to myself and others and taking responsibility for my actions are the only ways I will succeed.”
    It will be fun to have Jason in Wyoming for a long weekend later this month.
    Members of the Wyoming FFA Officer Team and the officers of the Casper FFA chapters will be in attendance for the evening. We hope you’ll join us and visit with these young leaders about their FFA projects and goals within the program. Take a minute to ask them about projects their chapters are carrying out. Whether it’s the corn maze on the edge of Casper or the work they do to benefit others, they have an impressive list. In their agriculture education classrooms, they’re gaining a greater appreciation for agriculture. That appreciation carries over into their everyday lives, their community service projects and their presence as young leaders in our communities.
    Many opportunities exist for those of us who believe in the FFA program, or perhaps benefitted from it and would like to give back, to help. Individual tickets are available for $35 each and can be ordered online at WyoFFAFoundation.com/donate or by calling 307-351-0730. We’re also gathering table sponsorships and corporate sponsorships. Both packages include eight tickets with the corporate sponsorship including an ad in the post-event edition of the FFA Times, Wyoming FFA’s quarterly publication. We’re also gathering items for the auction. With support from those of us who believe in agriculture education and FFA, we can ensure the influence of FFA can continue to have an ever-growing presence.
    I hope to see many of you in Casper on Sept. 29! FFA in Casper and across Wyoming has much to celebrate.
    Jennifer Vineyard Womack is executive director of the Wyoming FFA Foundation and a freelance writer. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 307-351-0730.
Hay-eating critters, from guinea pigs to horses and cows, are being called upon to prove their true worth this year. I’m placing one of my horses and one small dog in the witness protection program. I’m over the limit, or so I’m told, in the horse department and my short-legged dog is the victim of constant teasing. Before loading them out, however, maybe I should explore some alternative feed sources.
    Based on recent news, folks are getting downright creative when it comes to meeting feed needs. Most things a cow might eat are in short supply this year, but in North Dakota malformed potatoes are presenting themselves as an option. I suppose there are folks out there who regularly feed potatoes, but it had never occurred to me that a cow would eat one. According to a Drover’s article, farmers in North Dakota planted five percent more potatoes this year than they did one year ago. Dry weather resulted in malformed spuds, which are being culled from the crop destined for consumers. Since cows can choke on whole potatoes, they’re best served smashed, sliced or freeze-dried. This could add a whole new element to the morning feeding routine if taken even a bit too far.
    I know of some cows in southeastern Wyoming that dine on pumpkins in the fall. They didn’t take to them right off, but readily ate them after first learning to break them with their noses. If they don’t make the cut for jack-o-lanterns, they become cow chow.
    According to an article on Yahoo News, one Kentucky farmer replaced corn with low-grade candy in the diet of 1,400 cows. The end result was chocolate-laced cattle feed he claims has a higher ratio of fat than straight corn.
    Mike Yoder of northern Indiana, according to an article in BEEF Magazine, feeds his cows a colorful mix of candy sprinkles. He says the treats provide an adequate substitute for the starchy sugar content cows usually get from corn.
    When we’ve reached the point we’re comparing the prices between field-grown corn and candy corn, something has gone awry. I admire innovation, however, and hate to pass up a chance to average out this year’s hay prices with a lower cost alternative. With that thought in mind the Womack boys will be hitting the streets with a new level of vigor this Halloween. We’ve always encouraged them to take two when it’s polite – one for them and one for their brother.
    This year we’ll be coaching them to ask, “Do you have a couple hundred more of those? Ya know, for the cows?”
    We’ll forgo pillow case totes and fill the back of the pickup and the cake feeder instead. We’ll have to figure it by the ton, but maybe we’ll offer neighborhood kids some cold hard cash in exchange for their Halloween loot.
    Once home, I suspect there will be more hurdles to clear. Will it be more difficult to move and work our cattle while they’re on a sugar high? Does a cow on a candy-filled diet make the trip from young cow to gummer more quickly than her foraging counterparts? Innovation seems to be a key ingredient among successful ranchers, but I suspect the rest of the crew around here will stop me in my tracks before I get too creative with our cow chow.
    Jennifer Vineyard Womack is executive director of the Wyoming FFA Foundation and a freelance writer. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 307-351-0730.
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with 1947 Wyoming State Fair Steer Roping Champion J.T. Wilkinson. I say “we,” as my grandparents, Nelson and Carolyn Vineyard, joined us for the interview, which included a lot of reminiscing about life in Wyoming in their younger years. I always find those conversations interesting and find I can learn a lot just sitting and listening.    
    J.T. was in Douglas on the final weekend of State Fair as attendees at the 100th lined up for a photograph similar to the early day panoramic photos from early day state fairs. He learned of the event, as the 1947 photograph made into a poster this year by the Wyoming Pioneer Association was making the rounds with hopes of identifying all of the cowboys and cowgirls. All but a handful had been identified by State Fair time. The Wyoming Pioneer Association was pleased to hear from J.T. and invited him to join them as they organized the panoramic photograph for the 100th celebration.
    “Not a lot,” laughed J.T. when asked about what he remembers from the 1947 Wyoming State Fair. It was a few years ago, and J.T. spent several years traveling to rodeos. He was 19-years-old when he won the steer roping at the Wyoming State Fair and wears the buckle to this day.
    “I won the average on the last steer of the go,” he recalls. “It was a pretty tough roping.”
    “I don’t remember how much money I won, but it was a lot at the time,” he recalls.
    It was rare to receive a buckle in that day with most rodeos only offering a cash prize.
    While he doesn’t recall for sure, J.T. said it’s likely he arrived at the rodeo pulling a two-horse trailer with his calf horse and his steer roping horse inside. Once they started running slack at the rodeos, he said they didn’t stay overnight as often. Cowboys could come for the day, rope and then return later in the week.
    In the late 1950s or early 1960s, J.T. went on to finish third in the world in the steer roping. He does recall that Clark McEntire won that same year, so it must have been 1957, 1958 or 1961.
    Folks in the Lander area may recall J.T., his brother Chuck and their father Billy competing in the Fourth of July rodeo there. They ranched in the area, calling the Red Canyon Ranch home. J.T. recalls one rodeo where the three of them entered and his father won the all-around saddle. It wasn’t the elder Wilkinson’s first big rodeo win. In 1925, he was champion saddle bronc rider at Cheyenne Frontier Days. On Sept. 7 in Cheyenne, Billy Wilkinson will be inducted into the Cheyenne Frontier Days Hall of Fame. J.T. and his wife Jan have been gathering family history and compiling information for the induction and preservation amidst Wyoming’s history.
    It was truly a pleasure to meet Mr. Wilkinson and hear about a bygone era in the sport of rodeo. I’ll be anxious to hear more on the history of Billy Wilkinson and hope to see the display in his honor at the museum in Frontier Park.
    Jennifer Vineyard Womack is executive director of the Wyoming FFA Foundation and a freelance writer. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 307-351-0730.