University of Wyoming ACRES Student Farm hosts Graze Day to increase awareness, share produceWritten by Sarah Herold
Laramie – The University of Wyoming Agricultural Community Resources for Everyday Sustainability (ACRES) Student Farm was established in the fall of 2006 with the push from students in the Department of Agroecology.
ACRES’ purpose was to be a learning opportunity and an agricultural experiment station for students interested in the plant sciences field. The farm is funded strictly by grants that students continue to apply for.
Over the years, ACRES has received several grants and donations from local and national organizations. The University of Wyoming provides 1.8 acres of land and the water availability for the farm.
“I have learned more from having hands-on opportunities at ACRES than I ever would have by just taking courses in a classroom,” says Betsy Trana, president of ACRES Student Farm and Agroecology major. “It has become a great job opportunity for us as members and interns.”
Making their own money
ACRES Student Farm interns and members agreed to fund the farm on their own, without any financial help from the University of Wyoming. They do this by having officers of the farm apply for different grants to support the costs the Farm will need for the upcoming year.
Members go to local businesses and sell their home-grown produce. Currently, they take their produce to the local Friday Farmers’ Market and pumpkins to a local restaurant, Altitude Chophouse and Brewery, to be used in their brewing and sold within the restaurant.
In the fall, members take produce to the local food cooperative to be priced and sold, as well.
“We are always trying to find different ways to support the ACRES Farm,” says Trana. “It is important to all of us that the farm continues to be successful.”
With the money, the farm is able to purchase seeds and other supplies that will be needed for the next year’s harvest.
Also, each summer, if budget allows, the farm has an intern who waters, weeds and looks over ACRES. The internship was created for students who are interested in the plant sciences field. When the farm was established, the Laramie area did not have businesses that specialized in small scale specialty crops.
“A lot of the times the intern ends up being one of the members or officers,” tells Trana. “It is nice to be able to help one of our own out.”
Pays it forward
Each year ACRES Student Farm members work hard cultivating crops to produce their own successful garden, which gives students the opportunity to identify plants and have a hands-on learning experience for that given course.
“The farm gives me real-life scenarios, especially when working with local businesses, on how to help each other be successful,” tells Trana.
Not only does the farm serve a purpose for learning opportunities, it also brings in a profit for itself. A lot of the produce grown goes to the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, local farmers’ market and co-ops.
Many donations from the farm go to local organizations, the soup kitchen and the fall Graze Day.
“I love the people I have been given the chance to work with,” says Trana. “We all have the same goal.”
Annual Graze Day
On Oct. 8, University of Wyoming students, facility and staff were invited to join ACRES Student Farm members in harvesting the fresh vegetables.
“Graze Day is an event held to spread the word about ACRES Student Farm, by giving back to the community,” tells Trana. “It also helps us look for students interested in being a member of the club or an upcoming officer.”
Each guest was encouraged to take as much as they wanted so the fresh produce would not go to waste. Between 30 and 40 people came and brought their children to enjoy the good company and the chance to pick the last of the fresh vegetables for the year.
“It was so great to see kids enjoy Graze Day,” says Trana. “They were excited to pick their own vegetables.”
Bags were provided, but several brought boxes to fill with the fresh goodies, and no one left empty-handed. Even after Graze Day, there were still vegetables left in the ACRES gardens.
“People were impressed with what we had grown and that we were able to grow these types of vegetables in a place as cold as Laramie,” Trana says.
“I love it when people come to the farm. It is great to be able to share our story with those who hardly know anything about ACRES Student Farm,” explains Trana. “There are a lot of people who have never heard of the University of Wyoming’s ACRES Student Farm, let alone the success it has brought and the passion students hold for the farm.”
She continues that students work hard all year long in finding different approaches to improve the production of ACRES. Many students end up working for ACRES throughout the summer, as well.
ACRES provides a place that several students are able to get away from the stress that comes with being a college student, she adds. It allows students to work together and to meet new people and built relationships.
“ACRES is my favorite place in Laramie,” says Trana. “It is like my home away from home.”
University of Wyoming research station integrates crops and livestock researchWritten by Natasha Wheeler
Lingle – In 2002, the University of Wyoming’s (UW) Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center was formed near Lingle. In 2006, it was officially named the James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center (SAREC), after an alumnus of the university and representative of Goshen County.
“We were given the opportunity to purchase the center because we sold two other centers,” comments Bret Hess, associate dean and director of UW Agricultural Experiment Stations.
At the time when the center was formed, the Archer Research Center was a dryland facility with sheep, and the Torrington center featured irrigated acres.
“Our sheep flock is now residing at the Laramie Research and Extension Center (LREC),” he explains.
A strong predator presence at the Archer site caused high sheep losses, and the animals were relocated to the other station.
“The Archer and the Torrington stations were then combined, and this farm was purchased and put together,” adds former SAREC Farm Manager Bob Baumgartner.
Baumgartner recently retired from his post as farm manager after many years of service.
Baumgartner explains, “We have just over 300 irrigated acres, primarily sprinklers and some flood irrigation. We have enough water rights that all of the irrigated ground can be covered by three irrigation wells.”
Availability of water on the property was one of the main factors in UW’s decision to purchase the property where SAREC now resides.
“Water is gold when it comes to research and irrigated farmland,” he states.
The facility maintains three center pivots and a lateral-move sprinkler.
“We also have over 2,000 acres of rangeland, and we have over 500 dryland crop acres,” says Baumgartner.
In addition to farmland, SAREC also hosts livestock facilities, including a feedlot that can accommodate approximately 400 head of cattle. A number of cattle projects take place at the center, and researchers also maintain a base cowherd of approximately 30 head.
“The idea is that anything that is done with another group of cows will be compared back to the baseline to see if there was an improvement in a practice or if a change to a practice would be beneficial for producers to make,” Hess explains.
Data is constantly being collected for the base herd and will be used as a reference for current and future experiments.
“The premise of this particular center was to develop integrated crop and livestock systems,” adds Hess.
Baumgartner says, “A lot of our crop production, hay and corn, is shipped over to LREC to the feed the livestock there.”
Faculty members at the center include an animal scientist, an agronomist and an ag economist to oversee the integration of projects at the site.
“Most of our producers, regardless of what kind of agricultural commodity they produce, say there are only two things they want answers to – will a modification make money or save money? Therefore, we have an economist to evaluate everything we do at the center,” states Hess.
Faculty and students from the UW campus are also frequent visitors and researchers at SAREC, utilizing the crop acres, livestock facilities, GrowSafe systems and the wet lab that was constructed to perform data analysis on-site at the center.
“This site is only about two hours away from campus, so we have a lot of people who use this facility, especially in our plant sciences department and animal science department,” Hess says.
Hess and Baumgartner gave a brief overview of SAREC operations in September at the High Plains Nutrition and Management Roundtable.
UW meat judging team excels this yearWritten by Natasha Wheeler
Out of eight competitions this year, the University of Wyoming (UW) Meat Judging Team placed no lower than fourth, taking reserve three times as well as a first-place finish.
“We were very competitive all year long,” says UW Meat Judging Team Coach Zeb Gray.
This year’s team holds three of the top five highest team scores in UW history, as well as the records for beef grading and specifications.
At this year’s International Intercollegiate Meat Judging Contest in Dakota City, Neb., the team earned a perfect score in specifications and took home the reserve national championship.
Similar to livestock judging, in meat judging, students judge different classes, such as carcass or primal cuts, and rank four exhibits from first to last. Contestants must write up their justifications for their rankings, based on both economic and scientific principles.
“Generally, the carcass or cut that is going to win the class is worth the most amount of money and the one that goes last is worth the least amount of money,” he comments.
Gray also mentions, “We judge beef, pork and lamb, and beef by far counts for the highest amount of points in the contest.”
Students also compete in specifications, in which they determine the quality of sub-primal meat cuts.
“They have to know anatomically whether that cut is cut properly to specification. Generally, with one cut, there will be seven or eight different specifications that have to be met, and the student has to know the anatomy of a carcass to say whether it meets these specifications or if it has one or more defects,” Gray continues.
Specifications are important in the meat industry because customers expect uniformity in their food products.
“If a supermarket calls and orders ribeye rolls, they want those ribeye rolls to be very similar to their last shipment and to their next shipment, so they want them to be cut properly. That’s a big part of our industry,” comments Gray.
Students who compete on the UW team first take a fall semester introductory class to learn about the principles of meat judging. They may then choose to join the team and judge competitively for the university.
“If they decide to judge, the first contest is at the National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colo. Once they start judging, they only have one calendar year of eligibility,” he continues.
Over the past three years, the team has grown from five, to seven, to nine members who have completed the year, and Gray notes that he would like to see even more participation.
“Meat judging looks really good on a résumé for a lot of the same reasons livestock judging looks good on a résumé. Employers know that students are dedicated enough to stick it out for the full year. They were also able to be part of a team, and they were put in some pretty high pressure situations where they had to make decisions,” Gray says.
The food industry is also one of the most rapidly growing industries in terms of employment, and meat judging helps students become more employable.
“Basically, anybody that I’ve had come off of a meat judging team who wants to work in the meat or food industry has had no problem getting a job,” he adds.
Gray competed on a meat judging team as an undergraduate at Iowa State and is now pursuing his PhD in meat science at UW. He coaches the UW team, assisted by student John Lacey.
This year, team member Taryn Chapman of Canon City, Colo. broke the top UW beef grading record. McKenna Brinton of Jackson was top 10 in three different contests and now holds the third highest individual score ever posted by a UW meat judger. Eli Lindsey of Taylorstown, Va. was named to the All-American team, and Beth Lenz of Wray, Colo. scored in the top 10 in four different contests and became a Second Team All-American.
“The All-American selection is based on a judger’s performance throughout the whole year,” Gray notes, adding that prior to this year, only two other UW students have been named to the All-American Team.
BW Ochsner of Torrington was also in the top 10 at six different contests and holds the highest individual score and three of the top four reason scores ever posted by a Wyoming judger, in addition to being a First Team All-American.
UW Foundation supports ag collegeWritten by Saige Albert
Laramie – The agriculture community across the state of Wyoming provides tremendous support for the University of Wyoming (UW) College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Pepper Jo Six, major gift officer with the University of Wyoming Foundation, says she provides a conduit to help people determine where their giving can make an impact for UW and bettering opportunities for students.
Endowments make the biggest impact by creating a sustained source of income for a specific project. Endowments can be created to fund student scholarships, professorships, research expenses and Dean’s Excellence Funds.
“For example, a gift of $25,000 creates an endowment that initially produces approximately $1,000 of annual income to be applied to uses important to the donor,” Six explains. “The larger the gift, the more annual income for expenditure is created.”
Six, who works with the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, says the college is working on several new efforts.
“One of the initiatives we are currently working on is a Sheep Industry Proposal,” she explains. “We are looking to raise a $1 million endowment to spin off $40,000 per year for sheep-specific research.”
This initiative came about from two sheep producers seeking a way to help improve the availability of funding for research.
“They asked what they could do 8to step up and contribute toward sheep research,” Six says. “So, in addition to their personal contributions, they rallied other sheepherders to set a goal of raising a $1 million for this project.”
This endowment allows the college to prioritize and fund sheep-specific research, which is important for the state and producers, strengthening an industry for the generations to come.
There are a variety of options for contributing to the endowment, and Six explains that she is happy to discuss options with anyone who is interested.
Wildlife and natural resources
“We also have the Wildlife-Livestock Health Center, and we’re trying to raise $10 million in an endowment to ensure important research funding for the center,” Six says.
The Wyoming Wildlife-Livestock Health Center is important to two of Wyoming’s major industries – tourism and livestock production, which are both dependent upon maintaining healthy animal populations in Wyoming and the surrounding states. The center is one-of-a-kind worldwide. It is focused on the health and ecology of wildlife and large domestic animals, and basic research is intricately tied with applied research in the field.
“Because of our investments in faculty and students, UW is fast becoming a world leader in this area,” Six adds.
The Wyoming Restoration Reclamation Center (WRRC) is also another area that UW is working to fund through endowment dollars. The mission of the center is to promote natural resource production and healthy ecosystems in Wyoming by facilitating reclamation and restoration of sites impacted by natural resource development.
WRRC educates new professionals, provides and confirms new information through research and addresses concerns from industry, government and the public.
“In fact, WRRC is instrumental in providing important data to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on land reclamation and sage grouse habitat restoration efforts in Wyoming to assist with their decision not to put the sage grouse on the endangered species list. They also provide data to big petroleum companies for reclaiming land and making sure it is restored in the right way,” Six says.
In addition to scholarships, Six notes that the UW Foundation emphasizes several efforts focused on student engagements.
“The SEND program provides money for students to go to national annual meetings,” she explains. “For example, if a student is part of Range Club and wants to go to the national Society for Range Management meeting, they can apply to have the registration for the event funded.”
Six continues, “We are also advocating for students to represent the UW College of Ag and provide professional development.”
The program is championed by alum Tom Davidson, who also supports the Cowboy Joe Handler program. Davidson is passionate about allowing students opportunities that benefit them professionally and will have a long-lasting impact.
“Beyond the Classroom is a separate student engagement program focused on supporting international travel for students,” Six adds. “It supplements what UW does to fund international study for students, allowing less of a financial burden for students who seek an international education experience. In an increasingly global economy, we want UW students to have an international experience and apply what they learn when they come back home. ”
Six explains, “I take all of these projects, meet people around the state and see if I can pair their passion with one of our efforts. I provide the conduit.”
“People give based upon their passions,” she says. “My job is to help make people aware of the opportunities that are available.”
With the myriad of ongoing projects at UW, Six says there are lots of opportunities available, and she is happy to provide proposals or information on any program.
The funds position the UW College of Agriculture as the top scholarship provider at the University of Wyoming.
“What we provide our students is amazing,” Six says. “As a land-grant institution, our job is to provide education and research opportunities that will help producers,” she continues. “If other individuals or organizations would like to discuss collaboration or gift possibilities, we welcome an opportunity to visit.”
Celebrating the University of Wyoming - UW Ag Appreciation Weekend honors citizens, industryWritten by Saige Albert
Laramie – On Sept. 26, Wyomingites from across the state will gather to celebrate the 2015 University of Wyoming Ag Appreciation weekend in Laramie.
During the weekend, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources will honor five people and organizations that have been influential in its success.
Outstanding alumni Ken Hamilton of Laramie and Bud Christensen of Gillette will be recognized for their extensive work in the industry.
At the same time, the Research Partner of the Year, Anadarko, and Andrew Vanvig Distinguished Professor KJ Reddy will be acknowledged for their work for the college. Read more about Anadarko on page 4. A profile of Reddy’s work is featured on page 5.
The college will also honor the John P. Ellbogen Foundation as its Legacy Award winner. The Foundation’s efforts will be detailed in next week's Roundup.
Events for the weekend kick off with the annual Ag Day Barbeque, which benefits the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ student organizations. The barbeque will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. inside the Wyoming Indoor Practice Facility at the southwest corner of the Fan Fest area under the Cowboy Joe Club Tent.
Prices are $12 for adults, $5 for children 6-12 and free for ages 5 and under.
Following the barbeque, UW Ag Appreciation Weekend fans are invited to attend the Cowboys vs. Florida Atlantic football game, which kicks off at 1 p.m. in War Memorial Stadium.
For more information on UW’s Ag Appreciation Weekend or to purchase tickets for the football game, visit uwyo.edu/uwag.