agriculture, photography, Uncategorized, Wyoming

Ah, Sugar Sugar

sugar-factoryThis is the Western Sugar Factory here in Torrington, Wyoming.

I might not always like the way it smells, but it was an important part of the development of Torrington and this valley.

Built in 1926, this factory has been processing locally grown sugar beets, serving the agriculture industry and contributing to the local economy for almost 100 years. Today, the plant is leased by the Western Sugar Cooperative. Together, Western Sugars 5 facilities produce more than 10 million hundred weights of sugar, including white sugar, brown sugar and powdered sugar. The plant is set to close its main production line at the end of this year.

So the next time you make a cake or spoon sugar into your coffee, cheers! It’s entirely possibly you’re enjoying some sweetness grown in the Rocky Mountain region and made right here in Torrington!


agriculture, photography, Uncategorized, Wyoming

Broda Family – Southeast Wyoming Family Photography

It was cold and windy and not the best day for family photos.  But this is an ag family, and cold and wind is just a part of life for them in Southeastern Wyoming.  So I bundled up for a family photo session with my friend and boss on her family ranch.

Most people know John and Stacy as a elementary school principal and the Wyoming FFA State Advisor, respectively.  But when they aren’t running a school or chasing state FFA officers around, they are wrangling their two sons and working on Stacy’s family ranch.

The Child Ranch sits just east of Cheyenne, north of I-80.  The ranch has been in the family for generations, and now, four generations work this land side-by-side and call it home.  I’ve spent a few mornings with Stacy feeding cows and watching wildlife, and I never get tired of hearing stories of her ancestors and how they turned the ranch from a simple homestead into the thriving family business it is today.  This rich and beautiful history is still evident, as the family has preserved some of the more historical buildings.  And it is alive in the stories Stacy tells, stories no doubt passed down from her own father and grandfather.

My favorite part of the day by far was watching these boys just be boys.  Climbing on fences, leaping across hay bales, giving each other a hard time.  They had a lot of fun and it made for a lot of laughs.  These boys don’t understand yet what a special thing it is to be growing up the way they are…living on a cattle ranch, surrounded by three generations of family, with room to roam and the freedom to climb hay bales, throw rocks, fight, make mistakes, learn and grow.  This lifestyle, along with guidance from their amazing parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, will shape them into men I can’t wait to meet one day.

In the mean time, they are dynamic boys who make me laugh each and every time I am around them.  I was honored to take their picture, and blessed to count the Broda family as dear and cherished friends.


agriculture, photography, Uncategorized, Wyoming

Wyoming Wino


Wyoming is known for many things…wide open skies, mountains, grizzly bears, cowboys and cattle.  Wine is not one of those things.  But the folks at Table Mountain Vineyards in Huntley, Wyoming, are trying to change that.  They’re growing grapes, making wine, drinking wine and generally keeping life interesting.

TMV was the brain child of one of my best friends from college.  I’ve watched Patrick and his family turn a crazy idea into a thriving family business.  What started as a few acres of grapes is now a vineyard, winery and tasting room that hosts weddings.  They even offer paint-and-sip sessions where you can channel your inner Monet and and sample some wine.

I spent a few hours wandering the vineyards earlier this fall.  TMV has almost ten acres under grapes, which is about 10,000 vines.  These grapes are Wyoming tough – cold-hardy varieties specifically chosen to withstand our higher altitudes and colder climates. They have great names like Frontenac, Elviria and Marcheal Foch.  The grapes are picked and processed right at the vineyard, becoming wines with equally colorful names…S.O.B. (Son of a Berry), Cowgirl Blush and Wyoming Nectar.

The wines are full of “character.”  And no wonder – just look at these grapes.  They’ve got character in spades!

If you find yourself in Wyoming, pick up a bottle of a TMV wine and taste a little bit of my state with every sip!


agriculture, photography, Uncategorized

Ready for Cinderella


Wyokiddo, Outdoor Guy and I spent our Saturday exploring a Wyoming pumpkin patch.  We found four pumpkins to haul home for Halloween, navigated the corn maze and fed some pigs.  A great day, all around.

My favorite part, though, was exploring the pumpkin patch.  Doesn’t this  pumpkin look like it’s just waiting for Fairy Godmother to come along and work her magic?


agriculture, country life, photography, Uncategorized

Tender as She Grows

Garden Salad.jpgThis week, we were able to harvest our first produce from our garden.  Our lettuce is so prolific that I was able to send my mother-in-law home with a bag full of delicious buttercrunch leaves and a sack full of radishes.  This is quite a feat, considering I once killed a spider plant.


agriculture, country life, photography, Uncategorized

Leaving a Mark


Last month, Wyokiddo and I were invited to attend another branding, this time at the Smith Ranch.  The Smiths were some of the first friends we made here in our new home.  We were quickly invited for summer barbecues and holiday dinners.  They’ve become great friends and are definitely part of our Goshen County family.

This is my favorite photo from the branding.  I love the textures and the leading lines of the fence.  I’m working to download all the images I shot that day to a disc to give to their family.  I hope they love this photo of Mr. Waldon leaving a mark on his corral fence, because their family has certainly left a mark on my family’s heart.



agriculture, photography, Uncategorized, wildlife

Pure Heart

Hatch 4-45-2

In Response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Pure.

One of my daughter’s favorite activities in the spring is to visit the pheasant chicks her daddy raises.  She would sit in the barns with them for hours, despite the sweltering conditions, if only I would let her.

I love seeing the chicks, but I was more mesmerized by her interactions with them.  As soon as she sat down, the day-old chicks were checking out their new friend.  They would  hop on her and try to crawl in her boots.  They would even climb in her outstretched hand when she offered it.  Very gently, Wyokiddo would scoop up a tiny chick, hold it in her hands and whisper “I’m glad you made it!  Grow big little chick!” before releasing it back to the floor.  The innocence and pure love of those moments made my heart swell.

Soon the chicks will grow into adult pheasants and lose their cuteness.  And before I know it, my little girl will grow up as well.  My hope is that despite the toughness of this world, she will always keep her pure, sweet, beautiful heart.


agriculture, country life, photography, Uncategorized, writing


DSC_0100 BWLast weekend, I had the honor of attending a friend’s family branding to take pictures.  I say honor, because it is.  Multiple generations of family have worked the ranch and lived on that land, and the family takes that legacy very seriously.  Today, four generations of the family live and work on the ranch, which is operated as a working cattle ranch.  They run about 450 head of Angus/Simmental cattle and grow hay and wheat and occasionally some other grain crops.  The ranch’s extensive landscape also provides habitat for antelope, deer, birds and various other critters that scurry, slither and soar.

Branding is a tradition in this country as old as ranching itself, but the practice dates back to the ancient Egyptians.  In the unsettled West, before there were fences, brands were the only way a rancher could tell his cattle apart.  Today, brands are still used as a way to identify cattle and prevent theft.  Ear tags can fall out or be taken out.  Lip tattoos are not easily identifiable in the field.  So traditional brands remain.  States have strict laws for branding cattle.  Brands must be registered, and brand inspections are required before you can ship animals out of county or sell them.

That’s a traditional definition of a brand.  But today’s ranching families also believe in the modern concept of a brand – a series of ideas and tools used to distinguish a company from competitors and create a lasting impression in the mind of consumers.  The cattle brand is a living symbol of the ranch, its legacy and identity and its future.  So it was indeed an honor to be asked to take part in the annual branding – they trusted me enough to not screw up their image!

The morning was cold and foggy.  It felt other-worldly as Wyokiddo and I made the trek to the ranch, situated east of Cheyenne.  Wyokiddo was given a seat in the pickup that held the food, drinks and tools needed for the morning.  I was given free rein to roam about and take some photos.  I quickly got lost in the textures surrounding me.  Fringed chaps, worn work gloves, fraying rope ends, the soft brown eyes of a calf, the bright orange glow of the branding irons in the fire.

Put simply, the morning was a sensory adventure.  The makeshift corral was a heady combination of wet earth, manure and smoke.  The delicate layer of fog left a fine sheen on everything and the slight chill kept everyone covered up as much as possible.  Mother cows mooing and the roaring of the branding pot fire made intimate conversation impossible.

But really, no words were needed.  Each person knew their job and did it without hesitation.  Men on horseback roped the unbranded calves.  Teams of two would flank the calf to the ground.  One by one, each calf was branded, vaccinated and castrated, if necessary.  Then the calves were released and returned to their moms.  The entire process for each calf took less than three minutes.  To an outsider, it would have looked like complete chaos.  But it was a finely choreographed display of skill and tradition.  There was no arguing, no whining, no unnecessary displays of machismo or one-upsmanship.  Just friends helping friends.

That attitude is one of my favorite characteristics of the agriculture community.  When a neighbor asks for help, you help.  Not because there is something in it for you.  You do it because it is the right thing to do.  You do it because somewhere down the line you’ll need their help, too.  These hard-scrabble folks have been abiding by the concept of “pay it forward” well before the idea ever became mainstream.  You help and are helped in return because that is how a community works.

Someday, I hope to have my own brand, or body of work, through my writing and photography.  Until then I’m proud to ride for the brand of the agriculture community and their heritage.


P.S.  Here are a few of my favorites.

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