The Uinta County Conservation District introduced the Adopt-a-Rancher Program in 2009 in an effort to provide a fun, interactive way for students to learn about the different aspects of Agriculture in Uinta County. The program was first implemented in the 3rd grade and has continued with that grade for the last 7 years. A major focus of the 3rd grade curriculum has been on communities, which includes agriculture, and the Adopt-a-Rancher program was great fit for their studies. However, the program is not limited to just the 3rd grade.
The program has generally started in October with an introductory letter from the rancher, then a letter each month covering a different topic, depending on the time of year and what is happening at the ranch that month. The students have then written letters back to the rancher each month with questions and other various thoughts and ideas they get from reading the rancher letter. This resulted in seven letters being written back and forth each month from October through April. However, with the ever increasing demands on classroom time and making sure they meet the standards, teachers are finding that they do not have as much time as they used to. This last year especially, it has been difficult for the students to write letters back each month. In order to continue the program without placing a burden on the teachers, we have reduced the number of letters that the students write back. The rancher will continue to write a letter each month, but the students will write only two letters back, one in January and one in March. Each month however, the students and teachers can still ask the rancher questions that would be answered by the rancher in the next month’s letter. The questions will be limited to 3-5 questions per class so that the ranchers’ time is not consumed with answering too many questions.
After a school year of getting to know their “adopted” rancher, the kids participate in a “Meet the Rancher” field day where they get to go to the ranch, meet the rancher and see and experience all the things they have read about in the letters. This day is normally planned by the rancher with or without the districts help and is held late in May with the hopes of nice weather. This day can be simply having lunch with the rancher and taking a brief tour of the ranch, or spending the entire day there rotating through stations that teach them about many different aspects of ranching. It is completely up to the rancher.
The Conservation District oversees the program and is here to assist in any way that is needed including any associated costs.
Below is a basic outline of the program, however some of this can be changed and adapted to meet the needs of the rancher and/or the teachers:
Letters from the Rancher:
-Usually come to me in a form of an email. Pictures are either in subsequent e-mails or the rancher will bring in a cd with pictures on it.
-I add the header and footer and combine the letters and pictures.
-Letters are better when they are personal. Names and personalities of all involved including the animals.
-This is a list of suggested topics that can be adapted to your ranch.
--History of the Ranch
--Type of Ranch
--Cattle drives, Transporting cattle:
--Calving and Feeding:
--The business of ranching
--Haying, Irrigation, Branding, Sheering
--Ranch Day- Meet the Rancher/Ranch Family
Field trip to ranch
Letters from the Classroom:
- 3-5 questions per classroom each month can be asked.
- January and March each student will write a letter to the rancher.
Meet the Rancher Day:
-Held in late May. (A little less busy for the Rancher with calving season over. Also, it is the perfect time for the schools to do field trips and weather is much nicer.)
-The Rancher plans the day with or without help from The Conservation District. They have called in the FFA, other Ranchers and friends to do stations that help the kids better understand the ranch and agriculture. They will put out hay bales for teachers, students, and helpers to sit on for lunch.
Stations have included:
-4-wheeler safety and then riding a 4-wheeler (With an adult on of course!) (The kids love this one!)
-Tractors and Machinery
-Plant ID (grasses, broadleaf, shrubs, trees, etc.
-Animals to pet and hold
-Tack and its uses
-A world of Horses (all about horses, including colors, types, uses, etc.)
-A team of horses that pulled the kids around the pasture.
Any station including animals is perfect.
The rancher may also bring in other animals that they may not have for the kids to get to see.
-The district does treats and a drink for each holiday. (Cookies, brownies, juice etc.) We provide
napkins, plates, cups etc. as well.
-The rancher can choose to do something special for any of the holidays (Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, etc.) They can ask UCCD for help w/ cost and coordination. Example; in the past, UCCD delivered cookies and juice to the kids and let them know it was from their rancher to say_______________. (Merry Christmas, etc.)
Thanks to the dedication of the “adopted” ranchers, the program has been a huge success and a great experience for everyone involved. Each year is a little different as the school programs change and different things come up on the ranch, but the teachers and students love the program.
Uinta County Conservation District P.O. Box 370 204 East Sage St. Lyman, WY 82937 307-787-3070