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Published September 11, 2019
Aspiring wool producers would support each other and draw expertise from established producers and from outside sources in an effort being crafted by the Wyoming Wool Growers Association and University of Wyoming Extension.
Established producers would offer their knowledge to help their younger counterparts and help grow the industry, says UW Extension Educator Bridger Feuz. The idea was discussed at the wool association’s summer meeting last month in Laramie, Feuz says.
Feuz, based in Uinta County, and fellow Extension Educator Hudson Hill, based in Lincoln County, agreed to facilitate the group.
Giving emerging or new-to-the-industry producers the opportunity to learn from each other, from established producers and via resources of UW Extension is a focus of association President Vance Broadbent, Feuz says.
While there are many such groups around, Hill says, “Vance wanted one specifically for Wyoming wool growers. As big as Wyoming is and as spread out as it is, he thought it would be worthwhile to a lot of young people in the state who wanted to be involved.”
Those who have been in the sheep industry for a few years, or even those considering buying sheep to get started, could benefit, Feuz says.
The conference discussion gauged interest among members and what could be valuable to future producers. Members immediately started to discuss the information that could be provided. While Hill says there are good resources in extension and within the university, he adds that just getting producers together in the same room is perhaps more valuable.
“They find out what works for other producers, what the college of hard knocks has taught other people,” Hill says. “I see that as really valuable for this group. The members are talking about some educational opportunities, some tours and visiting people’s places. The one idea batted around was just going out and looking at Wyoming facilities that are really superior and work well for people.”
Group membership would continually change. Members would form a board and be self-governing, Feuz says.
“You will see new folks continually coming in and some of the more seasoned ones moving into, perhaps, other leadership roles in the Wyoming Wool Growers Association itself,” Feuz says.
The Collegiate Wool Growers at UW was one group that was specifically invited.
The emerging producers also would address the aging demographic of the state’s sheep producers and help maintain a critical mass to keep the industry vibrant.
“It’s been my experience, especially with the wool growers, that they are really willing to help and share how they’ve been successful with other wool growers,” Feuz says. “Critical mass is important. One of the goals is to continually grow the industry, and the only way they can grow it is to share some of the tips of success.”
Hill notes that helping a niche of people who want information to move forward is traditional extension work at its best.
“One of the reasons we started this is to help them understand all the resources available through Extension and the College of Agriculture, and even the university’s Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship to be able to help them get started,” Feuz says.