Flitner embraces ag opportunitiesWritten by Saige Albert
Shell – Mary Flitner was born on a ranch in Sublette County, where she lived until she went to college.
“I loved growing up on a ranch,” she says. “I loved horseback riding, cattle and all of the rest of it.”
She was always interested in ranching, so when she met her husband Stan in college and they were married, Flitner moved to the Big Horn Basin to his family's operation.
“That was 50-some years ago,” Flitner comments. “Things were so different then.”
Moving to the Big Horn Basin
“Stan was a rancher, so I moved up to his home with him,” she says. “We joined a nice family. My father-in-law and mother-in-law were really nice people. We latched on to his family and their family ranch.”
Flitner says that they soon had four children and jumped into their lives.
“The ranch had sheep, cattle and registered cattle,” she comments. “There was always plenty to be done.”
She adds that moving to farm country in the Big Horn Basin was very different from the flood-irrigated hay meadows of Sublette County.
“It was a new experience,” Flitner says. “As our kids got older and they were able to participate, we all liked helping and working on the ranch.”
Throughout time, Flitner comments that she has also enjoyed working on the ranch, and part of it was out of necessity.
“There was always bookkeeping, phone calls and figuring out the balance sheets,” Flitner comments. “I helped out with all of it, but I always loved the outside work. I just put my hand in wherever they needed help.”
Changing through time
Flitner notes that since her childhood, many things have changed in the agriculture industry.
“The roles from the present deviate from the way they were then,” she comments. “We were married in the 1960s, so a woman in ranching was more of a help-mate. Now I see and really admire women who are able to step out on their own.”
Regardless, Flitner notes that partnership between a married couple was and continues to be an important part of their ranch.
“A man and woman’s partnership is good because they have two different points of view,” she says. “That is also useful in any partnership. Civil differences in opinion, different ways to solve a problem and different approaches are valuable.”
Flitner adds, “It’s better to have two heads than one.”
She also sees changes in equipment, which makes their work significantly easier.
“I also think most of us are much more knowledgeable,” Flitner says, noting that there is more information that is necessary to survive in ranching today. “We know more about livestock care and quality, breeding, conservation, resource management, stewardship and more.”
Today, the Flitners continue to run their ranch with their son Tim and daughter-in-law Jamie.
“We have cattle that we run on deeded, leased and BLM land,” Flitner comments. “We raise cattle and horses, and we market our own calves.”
They also calve heifers and buy feeders calves to finish. In addition, they raise corn and hay.
They are also involved in their community, and they’ve served on statewide organizations.
“Stan was involved with the Wyoming Stock Growers Association seriously for a long time,” Flitner says. “I was on the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission. I was also on a university board about the environment and natural resources.”
“We do what most people in small communities do – serve on school board, ditch board and other things,” she comments. “I never questioned whether we should or shouldn’t. In a community our size, people need to step up and take the responsibility.”
She values their small community, and the Flitners take the time to build the community as much as they can.
While she doesn’t like speaking in generalities, Flitner says that it is important for women – and anyone looking to get a start in ranching – to start with a good education.
“Whether it be high school, junior college or college, a good education is a good start,” she says. “I think finding a job on a farm or ranch is the next step. A young woman should try to fit in and learn everything she can.”
Flitner continues, “A great part of ranching isn’t the glamour of riding horses. It’s important to enjoy all parts of the work. If a young woman enjoys it and is happy with that, they’ll be just fine.”
She also says that young women have opportunities that weren’t necessarily possible 50 years ago.
“I don’t see that a young woman would go into the bank and borrow money for farmland or take an internship on a ranch 50 years ago,” Flitner comments. “I think it’s exciting to see the opportunities that are available to women today.”
She also adds that she feels fortunate to be involved in the agriculture industry on the ranch.
“Stan and I are both fortunate that we still participate in ranch work and activities,” Flitner says. “We also have family members who are committed to ranching and staying on the ranch.”
“If I hadn’t been able to come to a ranch and work in production ag, I think I would have looked for other ways to stay involved in the industry,” she says. “There are so many opportunities to stay involved. Whether it’s ag journalism, production, science or anything else, there’s lots of ways to be involved today.”