Agriculture’s roots run deep here. From early homesteaders who first tilled this soil to the longtime farmers who’ve helped sustain our economy for decades, Powell always has been an agricultural community.
But ag isn’t just part of our past — it’s key to our future as well. That’s why we’re encouraged to see new opportunities blossoming for local students.
Through a new partnership between Northwest College and the University of Wyoming, students will be able to get a four-year degree in plant science without leaving to attend classes in Laramie.
“This means students will be able to stay close to home or continue working on local farms with their newly acquired knowledge,” NWC President Stefani Hicswa said last week.
Ag education also is expanding at Powell High School, as a new facility will offer a variety of hands-on lessons and allow in-town students to raise animals close to campus.
The interest in agriculture is strong among local teens: Around 100 students are taking ag-related classes at PHS this year.
When Powell-Shoshone FFA members brought the idea for an ag facility to the Powell school board in the spring of 2017, they talked about the wide range of opportunities.
“Not everyone is a farmer or a rancher,” Bronson Smith said at the time. “Not everyone goes out and drives a tractor. There’s ag marketing, agribusiness … a whole lot more offshoots of ag that people don’t realize.”
Discovering a passion for an ag-related field in high school can help students determine their future careers and change the course of their lives.
For a real-life example, just look at GF Harvest, which started as an innovative project by Forrest Smith when he was a student at Powell High School. From an FFA project, the family-owned company became the first U.S. source of natural and organic gluten-free oats.
The Powell-based GF Harvest has now grown into an international business. Forrest Smith and his father, Seaton Smith, recently returned from a trip to Taiwan, where they met with potential buyers to help establish a presence in Asian markets.
Wyoming’s farmers and ranchers have so much to offer the U.S. and international markets.
“We have the conditions that produce plants and livestock that we have no equal to,” said Frank Schmidt, president of Wyoming Legacy Meats, during a forum last year. “We have pure water and pure air, we have wonderful grass with high protein content, we have wonderful handling techniques.”
The Powell Valley also has the perfect conditions to grow farmers, ranchers and other leaders in ag. With new opportunities at Powell High School and Northwest College, young students will be able to begin their careers in ag with the knowledge they need.
And the rest of us — who depend on agriculture for the food we eat and for our community to remain viable — will be better for it.