Tatman retires after 30-plus years with ExtensionWritten by Liz LeSatz
“I started Jan. 2, 1975,” reflects Tatman, who began his career with CES in Powell, later moving to Niobrara, Albany and Goshen counties. “I’ve been everywhere man,” he jokes. For three years during his time in Laramie he was part of the University Integrated Resource Management team and coached the livestock judging team. With each stop Tatman brought new information to area ag producers and inspired youth to develop beneficial life skills.
“Wayne is one of the most dedicated extension professionals I’ve encountered,” says fellow extension educator Dallas Mount of Wheatland. “His passion for the work, desire to help the clients he serves and genuine care for the youth in the 4-H program is among the top in his field. Wayne is the true definition of a great extension educator. It has been a pleasure to work closely with him over past few years.”
Others who have worked with Tatman agree.
“I think Wayne Tatman typifies what Extension is and should be,” says extension educator Tammie Jensen of Lusk. “He is an awesome teacher and has a special way of imparting knowledge to others, both youth and adults. In addition, he has a special talent of knowing how to communicate with people. He is great at helping people solve their problems, find the information they are seeking and, most importantly, he makes people feel good about themselves.”
For Tatman, his work wasn’t a job. He enjoyed watching the youth grow and learn.
“You get to watch kids grow up and you’re with them anywhere from eight to nine years,” says Tatman. “It’s fun to watch them grow and then to watch them after they become adults.” It’s when the second generation from the same family enters the 4-H program during your tenure that, Tatman jokes, “You start to feel old.”
There’s no better recipe for learning opportunities than mixing kids and livestock, if you ask Tatman. “They make a pretty good combination whether it’s a steer, a lamb or a pig.” He and wife Kathy’s three sons, Marty, Todd and Shawn, participated in and benefitted from 4-H and FFA.
Tatman says he and Tammie Jensen did a survey a few years back asking former 4-H members and their parents about the impact of the 4-H judging program. They confirmed their beliefs in the 4-H judging program’s ability to develop life skills, says Tatman. “They also said they least liked oral reasons, but the kids and parents alike said it was the one thing that was the most beneficial lifelong.” Tatman says responsibility, public speaking and decision-making are just a few of the skills with which youth walk away from the program. He likes the fact that youth in the program are asked to make a decision and then defend it orally.
Work with the Supreme Cow Program, first in Albany County and later in Goshen County, is one aspect of the youth program of which Tatman is particularly proud. It’s what he describes as a two-phase program where youth first bring a bred heifer to fair and return with a two-year-old heifer and her calf the following year. Educational events, an interview with a panel of local ranchers and a first-hand chance to learn about production agriculture from financing to breeding programs are key to the program.
Drawing students to the 4-H program, given the growth in school athletics, has become increasingly difficult, says Tatman. Thirty years ago he says it wasn’t uncommon to have two-dozen kids competing for four spots on a judging team. The addition of several project areas in the programs 4-H offers has helped spur additional interest, but Tatman says drawing youth to the programs is increasingly challenging.
Tatman has hosted numerous educational programs that producers walked away from with valuable new information in hand. “That’s a program you get a lot out of,” says Tatman of producer education. “It’s rewarding to think you helped somebody economically or helped them make a decision by looking at different options and alternatives. Most of the people have an idea what they want, but are looking for unbiased, research-based information.”
Kitchen table discussions are Tatman’s favorite approach to working with producers. “I always felt I have more impact at someone’s kitchen table than having them come to a meeting and listen to speakers all day.” With either approach, Tatman is known for being approachable and as a knowledgeable source for producers seeking information.
“When I started,” reflects Tatman, “I never thought of going into extension.” Looking back, he’s glad he did, saying the career provided the “opportunity to interact with kids, producers and people involved in agriculture. There aren’t a lot of jobs out there that provide you the flexibility to do those things.”
As his 33-year career comes to an end, Tatman says he’ll spend his days ranching. The family’s cattle winter at Lingle and summer in Niobrara County.
“He has been a great leader, mentor and role model for his colleagues, his peers and those he has taught and worked with,” says Jensen. “We know they will hire someone to fill his position, but they will never replace him. He simply is what Extension educators were meant to be – teachers, leaders and role models for those they serve.”