RealRanchers.com connects consumers to Wyoming’s rural communities through real-life stories
November 3, 2011
Founded by five rural Wyoming communities in 2010, RealRanchers.com is a unique, first-hand look into the meadows, mountains and main streets of Wyoming.
“The purpose of RealRanchers.com is to provide an accurate account of what folks do to raise your food and the clothing you wear, and how they take care of the land and animals while doing those jobs,” explained Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) Communication and Publication Director Liz Lauck.
According to Lauck, the project started in the summer of 2009, when Encana Oil & Gas approached WSGA about doing a rural development project. WSGA Executive Vice President Jim Magagna, and Encana Oil & Gas Community Relations Advisor Randy Teeuwen came up with the idea of holding multiple “Community Dialogues,” in rural Wyoming.
That led to hosting a listening session and leadership workshop in five communities: Lusk, Baggs, Shoshoni, Boulder and Kaycee. We gathered information at those sessions by asking people what they wanted to see happen in their communities, what they saw in the future, what was good and what was bad, and what they wanted to work on.
“After gathering that information, we compiled it and found some main themes. One of the biggest themes across all communities was that ag and rural community members wanted to tell their story, show people what really happens within their lifestyle, and try to help correct some of the misinformation out there,” said Lauck of the initial process.
She explained that additional funding from Encana Oil & Gas, the Wyoming Community Foundation and the Wyoming Beef Council allowed WSGA to go back to the five communities and present their findings.
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“We asked how they envisioned making their ideas happen, and we presented some ideas based on our previous discussions. We showed some of the impacts social media has had in recent years, and following that, the community members decided they would like to start a blog,” Lauck stated.
An online poll cemented the name as RealRanchers.com, and the blog officially launched in July 2010. The plan was that members of the five rural communities, and anyone else interested, would contribute stories, photos and/or videos to Lauck, and she would ensure they were posted to the blog.
Almost a year and a half later, RealRanchers.com is a social media umbrella that encompasses the original blog, a Facebook page, Twitter account and YouTube account. Over 1,000 followers from 19 countries “like” the Facebook page, and the blog has received over 15,200 total page views. People from all over the world can be found commenting and discussing ag-based topics on the Facebook page, and Lauck said the blog is read by everyone from those wondering what their neighbors are doing, to people from across the nation and world that have never set foot on a farm or ranch.
“People find agriculture fascinating,” Lauck noted. “When they’re not involved in it they just think it’s interesting because they don’t have any concept of what happens or why it happens. I like to use the example of the blogger The Pioneer Woman. She did a post that was literally on fence posts, and it got a ton of attention. That’s something that people within ag think of as an everyday, brushing your teeth, kind of thing. But, for those outside the industry, it’s a new and fascinating thing, and they really do respond to knowing how their food is raised, and why it’s raised that way.”
RealRanchers.com contributor Jonita Sommers added that even the majority of students in the small town of Pinedale, where she lives and ranches, don’t understand what happens on a ranch because they’ve never been on one.
“People don’t understand ag anymore, and there are social media outlets that say how horrible we are to our animals, and that isn’t true. I think we need information out there showing we’re not the bad guy, and to help people understand what we really do,” Sommers commented.
To aid in that effort, Sommers has contributed a series of stories, with pictures, to RealRanchers.com that covers a year-long cycle on her ranch. She noted that they include topics from irrigating and haying to taking cows to the mountain and gathering and weaning in the fall.
“It’s a simple process. I just sent everything to Liz and she put it online,” she added.
Rancher Kent Price of Daniel also contributes to the blog.
“The biggest thing I’ve done was in conjunction with a cattle drive we do here with the Upper Green River Cattle Association. We trail cattle from the desert all the way up into the Upper Green River area each year, and some of the cows may travel 50-plus miles. Last year I wrote a blog post every day of that cattle drive, and explained what we did, how far we went, and included a few pictures,” Price said.
“I also find it interesting to read the different blog posts from different people out there around Wyoming. Not every operation is like mine, and it’s interesting to hear their stories, and what they think is important,” he added.
“I would encourage anyone who is in Wyoming, or has a Wyoming story to tell, to contribute. You don’t have to be on a farm or ranch. That’s where the majority of our contributors are so far, but if you live in a small town and can write a post about something that shows what living in a small town is all about, or have an energy development story, we would love to include that, or any other ideas people think are relevant. I would love to hear from anyone, and also encourage everyone I meet to tell their friends, family, and strangers on the street about it,” Lauck concluded.
editor’s note: for more information, or to contribute, contact liz lauck at email@example.com, or at 307-638-3942.