YF&R members encouraged to ‘think outside the box’

Joy Ufford photo AF&R’s local rancher and representative Kailey Barlow, WyFB executive vice president Ken Hamilton, coordinator Kerin Clark and SCCD’s Mike Henn talk during a break.

SUBLETTE COUNTY – About 40 Young Farmers & Ranchers came to Pinedale Jan. 20-21 to meet up with old friends and total strangers at their organization’s 20th annual convention.

The Wyoming organization is one of many across the nation, founded by the American Farm Bureau Federation and supported by the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation, with the goals of peer relationships and mentors to find solutions and share agricultural successes – and failures.

On Friday, Wyoming YF&R president Quade Palm, from Medicine Bow, welcomed the group to “sunny, snowy Pinedale, Wyoming.” He introduced the rest of the board, representing most counties. Members came from across the state to hear about “Building Our Future.”

YF&R’s strives to provide opportunities for “the younger generation” to grow at personal levels as well as encourage others in agriculture to do the same.

Kailey Barlow represents Sublette County as one of the women and men 18 to 35 years old who promote leadership, relationships and networks with agricultural issues. She was heavily involved in the Pinedale convention, as was Wyoming Farm Bureau’s Kerin Clark, as YF&R coordinator.

Friday afternoon’s pep talks about “the places you can go” with YF&R came from a custom-feeding dairy farm couple in Downey, Idaho. Jessica Wade related being involved with the structured organization on a state level “is worth it. It’s worth it because it’s a lifestyle; it’s not just work.”

Her husband Kyle Wade spoke next after giving the kindergarten teacher time to make her first solo presentation “in front of adults”

He described his situation as one where his father “started hating going to work. He had his ducks in a row for me to take over.” But exactly what Wade would do and how was a struggle. At a neighbor’s urging “to think outside the box,” he attended YF&R meetings and began learning from his peers, who become great friends, he said.

“We can gain some of our best friends and knowledge, we can learn a lot from our elders but sometimes our peers have the same problems,” he said. “We can have those hard conversations with our friends. Our peers are who we can understand and learn from.”

He encourages the audience to grow personally and get involved in town, school and fair boards, 4-H and other community linchpins. 

Another encouragement came from a panel of local men with different jobs and responsibilities to talk about the Upper Green rangeland and Green River Drift. The three were Coke Landers, ranch manager and president of the Upper Green Cattle Grazing Association, Mike Henn, manager of the Sublette County Conservation District and Gary Hayward, the Forest Service’s rangeland manager for the Bridger-Teton National Forest’s grazing allotments.

The three laid out the background of how they each represented stakeholders who became very involved in the BTNF’s long-awaited Upper Green Rangeland Grazing Environmental Impact Statement that would outline updates for permitted grazing in the grizzly- and wolf-rich corner of the Wind River and Gros Ventre mountains.

Although building a strong relationship while representing diverse interests wasn’t an overnight process, the permittees depended on the Forest Service – Hayward and his supervisors – to help protect their access to the BTNF.

“We have a community here we need to support,” Hayward said.

They presented a unified front, Henn said, throughout the process, which is in court again appealed by an environmental coalition. SCCD collected much of the data, along with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for grizzlies (and wolves, when listed as under the Endangered Species Act) and Wyoming Game and Fish.

“We’re not out for the elimination of bears or grizzlies,” Lander said of Upper Green permittees.

In the gray wolves’ trophy-game zone, Game and Fish will compensate for a confirmed wolf kill. Grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are also watched and ranchers and riders have used nonlethal deterrents for years now. Both know who to call.

To confirm dead livestock was a large-carnivore kill, one Pinedale Game and Fish biologist they worked with for a dozen years spent 6,000 hours one year on the Upper Green alone and at times, lived there.

The “new guy” has been on the job for two years, Landers said. “We have two-way radios and all our riders know the guy on a first-name basis.”

Other problems arise from predators, such as lost weight and trampled fences when livestock are cornered, they said, and Hayward said “it takes all of us” to sort things out.

His advice to the YF&R members on building positive agency and ag relationships – “Don’t wait til there’s a problem. Gather support as often as you can and work on common problems.”

Landers added, “We’re lucky to have this partnership. Get to know your people and create that relationship.”

Henn advised,” Don’t turn someone away. Invite the Game and Fish biologist or Extension agent to a branding or shipping – talk about concerns. Relationships are not easy and not going to work every time.”

Hayward is a 20-plus year federal agency veteran. “Our generation screwed up” by not encouraging young people to work for county, state and federal governments. “We need to encourage them.”

Making longtime agency partnerships can avoid high turnover, they added.

“Draw them out,” Hayward suggested. “Get them to be part of the community.”

“How a community receives them – you make them feel welcome. It’s a small town. Say ‘hi’ at the basketball game, engage with them,” Henn said.