UW student joins WWGA as summer intern
The Wyoming Wool Growers Association (WWGA) Executive Board has begun a new tradition in Wyoming by selecting their first participant in the Washington, D.C. Young Leaders Trip Award.
A native of Casper and the 2011 participant, Kelly Thompson is currently a master’s student at the University of Wyoming in the Animal Science Department. She graduated with her bachelor’s in Animal and Veterinary Science in 2005 and is now researching limit-fed feedlot steers under the supervision of UW Extension Livestock Specialist Scott Lake.
Thompson is also the first-ever intern for WWGA, and this trip kicked off her summer working for them. Her interest in the WWGA was sparked by her family’s history with the organization – her grandfather, Vern Vivion, was a president of WWGA at one time, and she says her family has always been very active in the organization.
When asked how she got the internship opportunity at WWGA, she laughs and simply says, “I asked.”
Earlier this spring, Thompson called WWGA Executive Vice President Bryce Reece and inquired about a summer internship. As far as he knew they had never had an intern, but Thompson’s interest and passion for the industry and her family’s background made her a great candidate for the inaugural internship.
The D.C. trip in which Thompson participated consisted of meetings with industry leaders and spending a day with Representative Lummis and Senators Barrasso and Enzi. Thompson also toured parts of Washington, D.C. and attended the American Sheep Industry (ASI) Capitol Hill BarBQ. She says one fun fact about the Capitol Hill BarBQ is that Wyoming was the only state to have a Representative and a Senator there, and she boasts that only proves the state’s dedication to the agriculture industry. Thompson says the trip’s focus was bringing younger generations into the agricultural industry and sparking their passion for production agriculture. She says the experiences she had pointed her life in a new direction.
“This trip truly helped to inspire me as to what I want to do after my master’s program. I want to go into lobbying and advocating for agriculture entities. I think I would be able to put together my animal science and producer backgrounds to advocate for those who have become so regulated by the federal government,” she says.
While in the nation’s capitol, Thompson attended and participated in many meetings with ASI and had the opportunity to learn the “in’s and out’s” of today’s politics and government that deal directly with the agriculture industry.
“Being back there, you become truly aware of just how much the government regulates not only the sheep industry, but the cattle industry and all of agriculture. It’s kind of scary,” notes Thompson.
Thompson strives to prove the point of the importance of youth in agriculture, and the ASI also used the opportunity to incorporate young adults from across the United States and give them the opportunity to become more involved with the industry.
“The average age of everyone there was between 50 and 60, and that appears to be the trend across the agriculture industry. We need to motivate our youth to become more active, and hopefully this summer we can do that while I am working with the Wool Growers,” Thompson adds.
This summer Thompson will work with Representative Lummis and Senator Barrasso, giving them updates from ASI meetings and the events that took place while they were in D.C. She will also work at the WWGA’s State Ram Sale, and she hopes she will have the opportunity to visit ASI’s office and work with them on their new campaign, titled “2+2+2=Rebuild.”
“I will be doing lots of hand-on experiences, learning about things that I am interested in and working in an area that I am passionate about. I would love to do youth promotion and inspire them to become more active, as well,” says Thompson.
Thompson plans to contine her family’s legacy with the Wool Growers beyond just her summer internship. Like many others, she says it’s a lifestyle for her.
“People of all ages can become involved with the WWGA. I will sign up to be a student member this fall, and after I am done with school I will join Wool Growers as an associate member and maybe even an active producer one day,” she notes.
The Wyoming Wool Growers Association has helped and encouraged producers to continue with the sheep industry since 1905, and it typically handles the political endeavors of the sheep industry and deals with issues from the economy to disease control. Today WWGA promotes the consumption of lamb, the sale of wool and offers scholarships to the children of members of the association.
WWGA plans to continue the D.C. trip for students ages 16 through 20, interest allowing, as the WWGA and ASI actively pursue the interest of youth and inspiring younger generations to be involved in the sheep industry. The ASI Youth Leaders Trip Award will take place in early May next year, and interested students should contact the WWGA office in early spring.
In conclusion, Kelly Thompson reminds, “Eat lamb. Wear wool.”