Casper College Strives to Serve StudentsWritten by Heath Hornecker, Casper College Agriculture Department Head
One of the first lessons I have an opportunity to teach every fall to our freshman animal science students discusses the most important things produced in American agriculture. Often, students guess the predictable answers such as beef, corn and wheat. My question, however, deals with a much more important part of the future American agriculture. The answer I am looking for, often overlooked by my students, lies within them. The most important thing produced in American agriculture is its young people, and for the future of the Casper College Agriculture Department, these young people are potential students.
The future has never looked brighter for the Casper College (CC) Agriculture Department. We have always had a great group of young people, talented faculty and the strong support of our administration. Now, with the addition of the CC Ranch Campus, we feel our facilities can help make us one of the elite agriculture programs in the country.
The CC Ranch Campus was purchased last March and has provided immediate benefits to our program and students. The ranch is 167 acres in all, with 100 acres under center pivot and another 20 acres irrigable with hand sprinklers. The property includes many multi-purpose buildings, including a large, year-round greenhouse, already able to withstand even the harshest of cold spells. Also included is a small meats lab with a walk-in freezer, fabrication room and overhead rail system, which has greatly complimented our animal science classes.
Livestock pens, barn space and room to expand were also part of the attractiveness of the new property. One thing our Department had always been hampered with is the limited space for our livestock. For years, our rodeo team has hauled practice stock to and from the Central Wyoming Fairgrounds everyday during practice. This takes a huge toll on our coaches and the students’ time, our vehicles and the livestock, not to mention the expense of hauling the livestock back and forth on an almost daily basis.
From my perspective as an instructor and alumni of our program, the ranch campus is a true blessing with countless opportunities ahead. About the only thing it doesn’t have that our program needs is an indoor teaching arena to expand our course offerings and provide our rodeo team with a home. What the new property does have, though, is a great deal of space. We are currently in the final stages of designing the new indoor teaching facility. We are also in the finishing stages of completing a fundraising campaign for the project. Naming opportunities still exist!
Our vision for the future is truly exciting. We plan to have a working farm/ranch for our students to get their hands dirty and boots muddy. Our hope is to start our own Casper College beef herd, sheep flock and swine herd. We want our students to not only learn concepts in the classroom but be able to apply these to practical experiences at the CC Ranch Campus. We want our students to be able to calve cows, dock lambs and wean pigs. Many of our students would like the chance to take some of the offspring and develop them for sales or shows. In the future, the more our students can be involved, the greater the learning experience and the more satisfied we all will be.
In the future, we plan for our rodeo team to keep their horses, trailers and tack at the ranch. We plan to have all our practice stock there, including our leased bucking stock for the season. We plan to practice in our own equine facility and feed our stock our own hay. Students can rope and ride inside our own equine facility while the wind blows and snow flies outside.
We plan to continue to provide degrees for student in the subjects of Animal Science, Range Management, Ag Communications and Ag Business. We are committed to continuing our winning tradition with the livestock judging team and turning out All-Americans like the three we graduated this past spring. We plan to have the best rodeo team in the Central Rocky Mountain Region, following in the footsteps of the teams who were regional champs in 2011-12 and the College National Finals qualifying team in 2014.