University of Wyoming Expanding Agriculture, Ranching Efforts

UW develops new ranch management and agriculture business undergrad program

Kelly Crane, associate dean and director of UW Extension, speaks at the Wyoming Natural Resource Rendezvous Convention and Trade Show at the Ramkota Hotel in Casper on Tuesday. He announced that the University of Wyoming is developing an undergraduate program in ranch management and agriculture leadership. (Wyoming Truth photo by Shen Wu Tan)

By Shen Wu Tan

Special to the Wyoming Truth

CASPER, Wyo.—The University of Wyoming (UW) is making numerous efforts to give agriculture and ranching a leg up in the Cowboy State. 

Several speakers from UW highlighted new initiatives and programs now underway to ramp up agriculture and ranching during the Wyoming Natural Resource Rendezvous Convention and Trade Show on Tuesday. 

Come spring 2024, UW plans to offer a ranch management agriculture leadership program for undergraduate students, according to Kelly Crane, associate dean and director of UW Extension. Crane informed event attendees at the Ramkota Hotel and Conference Center in Casper that the university’s board of trustees recently approved a notice of intent to develop the program. It will include a bachelor of science program that integrates agriculture business, animal science, range management, plant sciences and other subjects. 

A full curriculum is being designed for the board to review either in January or February. 

“It’s the first time, that I know of, that an undergraduate program [has been] developed really explicitly in response to the needs of stakeholders and the workforce needs in Wyoming,” Crane said. 

He also expressed hope that the upcoming legislative session results in perpetual funding for UW’s College of Agriculture, UW Extension and the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station, the college’s branch that analyzes cattle grazing studies, herd management studies and row crop research.  

Eric Webster, director of the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station who also spoke at the convention, said he wants to relocate and expand the station’s beef unit, as well as expand its sheep units. 

Additionally, UW is tackling challenges around soil practices in the state through the Wyoming Collaborative for Healthy Soils. This  program helps agricultural stakeholders identify ways to adopt soil health practices on grazing and crop lands in their communities. 

Liana Boggs, who leads the collaborative, said, “We know that conservation is at the very heart of Wyoming’s agricultural legacy. And the agricultural community places a really high value on soil stewardship….Nonetheless, we are facing some unprecedented challenges, for instance, in our climate, in our market, this ongoing drought that we’ve been part of.” 

The program has conducted surveys and listening sessions and put together working groups focused on soil health practices and the challenges around implementing those practices. In June, the collaborative intends to release a roadmap based on working group recommendations, surveys and listening sessions. 

Another agriculture-focused program is the UW Ranch Camp, which will take place June 12 to June 16 at Padlock Ranch. Applications for the program are now open for recent high school graduates and college students.

Hudson Hill, UW Extension educator, urged the audience to help recruit camp participants and ranch sponsors.  

“What are we going to do about this aging population of ag producers?” Hill said. “How do we get these young people excited to come back to agriculture?” 

“We’ve done it with our class – these kids leave so excited,” he said about the ranch camp. “We’d love more support….We are at the Padlock Ranch this year; hopefully, that’ll be a two-year deal…but then we’ll be looking for another sponsorship ranch in another part of the state to move this about.” 

UW’s College of Agriculture, Life Sciences and Natural Resources also has a new endowment: the Dean’s Excellence Fund. The fund will provide financial support to students and projects that advance customs and practices of Wyoming’s agricultural and rural communities, said Barbara Rasco, the college’s dean. She noted the college is trying to build up the fund to around $50,000 in order to receive a university match. 

Additionally, there are plans for construction projects that will support UW’s research and extension centers, as well as strengthen its range programs and agricultural initiatives. 

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