Beginning rancher programs continue to grow and expand in Wyo
Since the inception of the Wyoming Ag Ownership Network (WAGON) just over a year ago, the program has blossomed to include a number of candidates and potential for the program to grow.
However, Scott Keith, program manager, notes that they continue to seek mentor ranchers to develop the program’s potential.
“The concept of WAGON and other programs in the state all fit in the same frame of thought,” Keith says. “We are trying to help young people stay in agriculture.”
Growing the program
For WAGON, however, Keith notes that there are several areas they hope to expand for a more successful program.
“We are really in need of more activity from the ranching community in the form of mentors who are willing to work with young couples or young people to help them get experience, exposure and education,” Keith explains. “We are looking for exposure to good quality ranch management, marketing skills, financial skills and skills in negotiating with federal agencies.”
Keith continues that some candidates currently in the program aren’t ready to fully manage large livestock operations but are seeking more experience from capable ranchers.
“They are good candidates to be involved as managers of operations, but they still need some time to learn and develop,” he continues. “There are a lot of ranchers out there that have the potential to help.”
In continuing to develop the program, Keith notes that last year’s severe drought significantly hindered the program.
“People who were considering mentoring young couples with the opportunity to run some livestock backed off the idea because of the drought,” Keith mentions. “They had to scale down their own cowherd and didn’t have room for others to come in.”
“The drought changed the attitudes of people who could be mentors,” he continues. “In some areas of the state, those people are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel as they see the drought ease.”
Keith adds that WAGON provides opportunity for older ranchers who have room to expand but are concerned about financial burdens.
“Rather than having to take on the financial burdens to purchase cattle themselves,” he explains, “this might be a good opportunity if they want to expand again.”
Rather than purchasing cattle themselves, ranchers may consider allowing young producers to run cattle on the property while working with the ranch herd and gaining experience from older generation ranchers. If a candidate fits a producer’s operation, Keith says that it could be a viable way to utilize extra pastures or restock pastures.
“We will continue to take applications, but what we are more concerned with right now is the longevity of the program, which will depend on the ability to locate quality mentors that fit the candidates we have and the idea of the program,” Keith adds.
In promoting WAGON’s longevity, Keith says the chance to collaborate with similar programs is on the forefront of his mind.
“We are starting to work more with organizations that have similar interests in ranch succession or in land succession,” comments Keith. “We are all interested in helping young people to have an opportunity.”
Keith notes that in working with various programs around the state with a similar focus, they hope to increase their abilities to provide opportunities to young people.
While no formal arrangements have been made, Mantha Phillips, chairman of the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust Ranchland Succession Program committee, notes that they are exploring options for working with the WAGON program to advance both programs.
“It would make perfect sense for us to join forces,” she comments, “but no final, official decisions have been made on either side.”
“From our perspective, there is no need to reinvent or duplicate services in the state. We’ve had quite a few conversations to see how the two programs could be integrated,” Phillips adds.
“We are all working together to solve one problem,” Keith comments.