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You can take the boy out of the country but …

Doug Stark wanted to return to his family’s dairy farm near Riverton in 1980 after having in hand his bachelor’s degree in agricultural business from the college. Instead, he joined Farm Credit Services of America (FCSAmerica) and would rise to its president and CEO in 2005.

“I would have loved to have returned,” says Stark, who is one of two recipients of this year’s Outstanding Alumni Award from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “At the time, it wasn’t an option. Our operation was not big enough to allow me to come back into it.”

That might have happened in the greener pastures of today’s agricultural landscape.

Stark oversees a loan portfolio of more than $18.5 billion with 60,000 producers, says Associate Professor Roger Coupal in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics in his nomination letter. FCSAmerica serves Wyoming, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.

Young farmers, ranchers

Stark said earlier this year he believes more young people want to come back to the farm or ranch than seen in a long time.

“I think a little bit of it is a generational thing,” says Stark, who became FCSAmerica regional vice president in 1986 supervising eight branch offices during that decade’s farm crisis. 

“It was such a tough time for producers in that cycle,” he notes. “Farmers were cautioning their children from getting into agriculture because it was so challenging. Now, ag is in a much better position. Ag is much more profitable, and as a result young people see a future in it.”

Lessons from the 80s strengthened the industry.

“Producers got to the point they pulled in their belts and gutted it out, and as a result they learned some things – as did our company,” Stark says. “Coming through that time made all of us better in our services. Farmers were more efficient. Lenders were more efficient. It was a challenging time period, but out of those challenges came the experiences and strength to be better and more effective.”

Collaborates with college

Stark has maintained his ties with the college during his time at FCSAmerica. He co-teaches a leadership class with Dean Frank Galey for students, and last year invited the association’s board of directors and executive leadership team to the university for their annual summer planning meeting.

FCSAmerica also has been an important collaborator in faculty member research and outreach projects. 

“The data and information FCSAmerica has graciously shared with faculty members over the years has been used to fund research including graduate student projects and extension work,” notes Coupal. “Some of the Extension work that was based on FCSAmerica input is still in demand by banks, agencies and producers. Some of the research work has produced still highly cited journal articles.”

Read enough about Stark and his emphasis on leadership is clear. 

“I reflect on my career at UW and the incredible opportunity higher education has to shape young lives,” he notes about his collaborations with the college. “I wished I had more insight into leadership earlier in my career than I did. My hope is to provide some experiences I have had over my career and give the students knowledge that took me years of experience to gain.” 

Leadership advocate

Stark is an advocate for personal and professional development and models the way through his own developmental approach, notes members of the FCSAmerica executive leadership team, which also nominated him for the alumni award. 

“He frequently conveys his desire for each of us to not only be better team members but also better family members, friends and citizens.”

His is not the carrot and hammer approach but focuses on the goals of the individual and organization.

“It’s a passion I have,” he says. “One of the essences of being an effective leader is inspiring a shared vision. It’s really about getting people to care. Leading is not about a title or position – it’s about action and purpose that really can apply anywhere in any business and in any line or career line of business.”

That made an impression upon Peter Burgess, a graduate student in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics and who participated in Stark and Galey’s leadership class.

“He spoke passionately about integrity and its importance – not just professionally but in all of our spheres of influence,” wrote Burgess. “He described a true leader as having the ability to model the way and encourage the heart.”

Leadership is about helping people and the organization maximize their potentials, he says. 

“Imagine what the world would be like if everybody performed at their maximum capability,” says Stark. “I think that is exciting and intriguing.”

On receiving the Outstanding Alumni Award, Stark said, “I was humbled to be chosen for this recognition. While proud of my career, I’m only successful because a lot of people have either supported or guided me. In most of my successes in career and life, a lot of people rallied around to help me or that activity I was involved in be successful.”

Taken to another level

Doug Stark can point to a handful of events during his career that took him to new levels or opened his eyes to opportunities for leadership. 

“I think we all have those turning points in our lives,” he says. “I have a great quote one of my leadership coaches told me. ‘When the student is ready, the teacher appears.’ When the heart and mind is open for learning, whether in our careers or personal development, someone will show up in life to help fill the void and take you to another level. I’ve found that to be the case in my career. When looking for that opportunity, even if it was consciously or not, somebody would come into my life who helped take me to another level. That’s just the way it works.”

 

This article is courtesy of the University of Wyoming.

Laramie – After 105 years in operation, the University of Wyoming’s Wool Lab is being dismantled. 

“The Wool Lab was founded in 1907 by John Hill, who became Dean of the College of Agriculture at UW,” explains Carly-Ann Anderson, library assistant at UW in charge of collecting and cataloguing artifacts from the lab. “It was in operation in some capacity until 2012.”

Lab activities

The UW Wool Lab was used to distribute information about wool and sheep to ranchers across Wyoming.

“There was a lot of research going on about all aspects of sheep and wool,” Anderson notes. “The lab is probably most well-known for having a processing plant and scouring lab where ranchers could send wool samples to find out about the quality of their wool.”

While she says that wool science has changed to encompass more of an emphasis on the genetics and breeding of sheep, she also notes, “I think there is an idea that wool is still the fiber it always has been.”

Expansive collection

Anderson continues that the collection from the lab is expansive.

“We have over 1,000 individual titles from the lab’s collection,” she says. “The oldest is from the 1840s and they continue to about the 1980s, when the activity in the lab was being ramped down.”

The collection also includes 267 volumes of bound journal articles collected by faculty and staff at the lab. 

“It is really interesting to see the variety of information collected,” Anderson continues. “They collected everything from obvious information about sheep and wool to information on livestock breeding and farm management in general.”

The lab was also home to an interesting collection of wool samples, collected and preserved in sealed mason jars. The oldest wool sample is a Saxony Merino clip from 1837.

“We are hoping the samples will be an interesting resource for the library to house,” Anderson adds.

Current activities

Today, since the building where all the equipment was stored is being removed, efforts are being made to gather the information from the lab to be housed in the UW Library’s Emmett D. Chisum Special Collections.

“We are in the process of cataloging the information, but anyone who wants to visit is more than welcome,” adds Anderson. “We are also digitizing many of the materials and working with UW Extension to develop a web documentary.”

In collecting additional information, she notes that UW is working to collect oral histories from people in Wyoming who have worked in or been affiliated with the activities in the wool lab.

“We want to learn more about the lab and what it meant to Wyoming and the West,” Anderson explains. “We are looking to collect opinions of what the collection means to people. We would love to hear from sheep producers who can tell us why they would use the collection.”

The library encourages anyone with stories about the lab and its importance to contact Anderson.

“We appreciate anyone who can come in and tell us more about what we have,” she says.

The main goal of the library, however, is to disseminate the information to people who are interested in using it.

Future efforts

With efforts to move the information from the wool lab to UW’s Library system, Anderson notes that there are still items that don’t necessarily fit within the scope of the library that are important to the lab’s history.

“The library has taken acquisition of all the paper library materials from the wool lab,” comments Anderson, “but there is still a question of what to do with the lab equipment. We are putting together a cooperative effort to save the equipment, but obviously, we can’t keep it in the library.”

Anderson mentions that anyone with input on how the equipment could be used moving forward is encouraged to contact her by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or calling 307-766-2027.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

  Outstanding alumni recipient Jim Neiman says he received a master’s after he left the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ classrooms – but you won’t see that hanging on a wall or tucked away somewhere.

More about that later.

Neiman, a former University of Wyoming trustee, received a range management degree in 1974 and heads Neiman Enterprises Inc., a series of wood products businesses headquartered in Hulett and with facilities in Hill City and Spearfish, S.D. and Montrose, Colo. 

The company’s sustainability practices, promoted by Neiman, draw praise from the forestry arena.

“Neiman Enterprises has been a regional and national leader in the forest products industry even during the economic downturn of 2008,” says Robert Means, Wyoming Bureau of Land Management state forester and climate change coordinator.

“The company has implemented the Sustainable Forestry Initiative program by training all of its resource foresters and logging contractors to meet this standard, which involves third-party audits to ensure that all forest practices undertaken meet sustainability goals,” he notes. “The labeling of forest products with the SFI certification increases Neiman’s forest products profitability and marketability and ensures that forests are sustainably harvested.”

Fifth-generation ranch

Neiman says that effort of sustainability arose from two directions – his family and its fifth-generation ranch and his experience with a renowned UW entomologist with the iconic last name of Beetle – Professor Alan Beetle.

Beetle was Neiman’s adviser, and that relationship opened the door to forestry rather than range.

Sustainability came about because agricultural producers are in the business for the long haul, he says, despite assertions by some conservation groups.

“There are two groups in the environmental community out there,” Neiman says. “I’ll be blunt and bold. It took me a few decades to realize there are some really good environmental groups out there like Nature Conservancy, and others that are not. When I look at families and the next two generations, one of the motives isn’t just surviving but how do we pass that on to the next generation? I start looking differently than a company on the New York Stock Exchange seeking short-term profits but rather how we can be sustainable. We are looking out two generations.”

The deepest recession since the Great Depression and the explosion of mountain pine beetle across the Intermountain region could have made changing his business’ sustainability course tempting.

“It’s tough, and it does add costs,” he says. “But I bring myself back to, ‘What do I want this forest to look like in 10 or 50 years?’ Once I get that as the cornerstone foundation of what we are doing, our principles stay intact.”

Devotee of service

Neiman has a long list of service to the state and university, having served on the UW Board of Trustees for 12 years and two years as president.

“He was one of the most sure-handed, effective and respected board presidents I have seen during my 14 years in Old Main,” says Myron Allen, former UW Provost. “Two attributes mark Jim’s terms as a trustee: a deep commitment to the institution and a real depth of character.”

Neiman values the comparative advantage UW has in providing education, research and extension support for sustainable resource management, notes Tom Thurow, former professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management in his nomination letter. Not only for existing programs, says Thurow, but also where UW could do better.

“He was happy to hear that we established a bachelor’s of science minor in forest resources,” says Thurow. “So much so, he took the initiative to create a scholarship jointly funded by him and the Society for American Foresters to be awarded to a student pursuing a forest resources minor.”

Education important

Neiman says education – either at the local level or at UW – has been his particular passion and says some environmental groups have tried in schools to rewrite history and paint a picture of the forest industry as money hungry, big corporation America.

“I think we have one of the best generations ever in front of us,” he says. “If provided a balanced education and both sides, they’ll figure it out.”

And, he says, “There is something about your alma mater. You have to lead by example. How do you go from success to significance? How do you help others? That’s an important part of it.”

The master’s experience

Which is where that master’s comes in.

“The experience I gained as a trustee where I had a chance to serve on the enhanced oil recovery commission and help another natural resources world and sitting on the Rucklehaus board for a few years helped broaden my perspectives,” Neiman says. “I really felt as a trustee, by going down there and serving, I was getting my master’s. You feel like you gain more than you give. That’s why I almost feel guilty about receiving the award. That creates a foundation where you gain more than you give.”

On receiving the award, Neiman says he thinks he is not deserving of the outstanding alumni honor.

“There are so many good people in this state,” he says. “To sit in with that group is humbling. I think I’ve got a long ways to go. The good news is it challenges me to give more.”

State service

Jim Neiman’s volunteer service is lengthy. 

He’s a past member of the Wyoming Occupational and Safety Commission, the Wyoming Economic Development and Stabilization Board, the Independent Forest Product Association, the Enhanced Oil Recovery Commission, chairman of the School of Environmental and Natural Resources, past UW Board of Trustees member, past president of the trustees and a former director with Summit National Bank. 

He’s a past member of the W.D. Ruckelshaus Institute Board, Friends of the American Heritage Center, Campus Advisory Board and is on the Agricultural Dean’s Advisory Board.

 

This article is courtesy of the University of Wyoming.  

Laramie – Don’t expect this year’s Andrew Vanvig Lifetime Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award recipient to walk willingly into the limelight.

Agricultural economics professor Dale Menkhaus has long met supply with demand from both academia and students and that long list of accomplishments could probably choke a printer.

Don’t let his usual blue jeans and ball cap deceive.

“His unassuming nature and quiet leadership have garnered him the lasting respect of countless students, administrators and colleagues within the university and the agricultural economics discipline,” says colleague, department head and Associate Professor Roger Coupal in nominating Menkhaus.

“There are few teachers in a student’s life who have a profound impact and ultimately change a student’s path because of his devotion as an educator,” says Jody Levin, former student and now professional. “For me, Dr. Menkhaus is that person, and I credit my success as a graduate student and as a professional to his influence.”

Rich research

Research? He’s only a handful of agricultural economists at land-grant universities to have articles in the American Economic Review, which has an acceptance rate of 10 percent, notes Coupal. 

“Moreover, Ph.D. agricultural economists statistically average less than one publication in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics (AJAE) during their careers,” he says. “Only five percent of Ph.D. agricultural economists ever author or coauthor five articles in the AJAE – Dale will publish his ninth article in that journal this year.”

Menkhaus received his Ph.D. from Purdue University and accepted an assistant professor position in the Department of Agricultural Economics at UW in October 1973.

Forty years later, he’s published 80 refereed journal articles, been cited 847 times in literature, received nearly $1.5 million in extramural funding as principal investigator (PI) or co-PI, mentored 27 graduate students as committee chair, served on an additional 61 Ph.D. and master’s student committees, received numerous teaching awards, been selected as Fulbright Scholar and received national and regional awards for outreach and scholarship and has been recognized for his contributions to the Wyoming economy

Driving force in success

Levin’s abysmal score on her first exam took her to find help from Menkhaus. 

“I believe he recognized in me a sincere desire not to fail and embarked upon hours of one-on-one instruction to help me grasp the course material,” she says. “After discovering that I enjoyed economics, Dr. Menkhaus did the unthinkable and encouraged me to pursue graduate school in agricultural economics.”

He often builds the road that leads to success and nudges students to take that first steps, says Levin, who did attend graduate school, obtained her master’s and later became owner of a small business. Menkhaus was the first person she asked to be on her committee when receiving her master’s.

Twenty years later, she reflects on how her career as a student and how her studies may have been different if Menkhaus had not opened the door when asked for help.

“In many respects, the experience is similar to a domino where one small action causes a series of actions to take place. His one small gesture of taking additional time to teach a student changed everything about my course in life,” she says. “I am fortunate to have had him as an instructor and delighted to still call him a mentor and friend.”

Cutting-edge research

 

Dale Menkhaus specializes primarily in market economics and agricultural price analysis in the livestock and beef sectors.

In one of his first journal articles in 1976, with a coauthor, he used regression techniques to analyze the impact of breed, sex, lot size and weight on feeder calf prices.

“This work was the precursor to countless hedonic studies, which reduce items being researched into their characteristics then estimates the value of each, and now published in literature that estimates premiums and discounts associated with various cattle attributes, such as breed and weight and associated with production practices, such as vaccination programs and third party certifications,” says Associate Professor Roger Coupal, head of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics.

He was a mentor to Kalyn Coatney, a graduate student, whose thesis dealt with the interdependencies of cattle characteristics on price in a hedonic system. Published in 1996, it was most recently cited in the literature in 2012 in the Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

Another graduate student he mentored investigated the impact of the beef packer concentration on cattle prices. The thesis also resulted in a journal article. 

“That article was one of the first to address industrial organization issues in the beef sector and has been cited 35 times, most recently in a 2001 book chapter discussing the implications of industrial organization and food processing,” says Coupal.

In the mid-1980s, Menkhaus and others in the College of Agriculture addressed depressed cattle prices brought on by a declining demand for beef due to health concerns. They developed and tested grass-fed beef, later branded as Wyoming Lean Beef. 

“How do you determine a product’s acceptance and market price when such products are not on the market and there is no data for analysis?” asks Coupal. “Dale was one of the first in the agricultural economics discipline to use laboratory test market techniques to answer this important question.”

Menkhaus and other members of the group, which included Associate Dean and Director of UW Extension Glen Whipple, studied the potential value and consumer acceptance of beef offered in a vacuum skin package.

They used experimental auction techniques in several major U.S. cities to elicit values from beef consumers for this new type of packaging, says Coupal.

“This was the first study of its kind to use experimental economics to value food attributes or products, and this study firmly planted Dale as a leader in the agricultural economics discipline using experimental economic methods,” noted Coupal.

Another mentoring of a graduate student drew the attention of a Russian delegation interested in learning about markets and pricing when Eastern Europe was moving from centrally planned economies to market-based economies.

The USDA Economic Research Service used his expertise to use experimental economics to assess the impacts of alternative policy mechanisms on market outcomes.

“This work investigates how the structure of various subsidy mechanisms impact commodity and related factor markets,” says Coupal.

This article is courtesy of the University of Wyoming.