Western wool producers hold convention in Evanston

A lamb stands in a field as other sheep graze. Evanston was recently host to the West Central States Wool Growers Convention, which brought about 200 people from the industry to the Machine Shop. (HERALD PHOTO/Mark Tesoro)

EVANSTON — Roughly 200 people converged on the Evanston Roundhouse and Railyards Complex over the weekend of Nov. 7-10 for the West Central States Wool Growers Convention, an annual meeting of wool growers from Wyoming, Utah, Idaho and Nevada. Uinta County’s Vance Broadbent, president of the Wyoming Wool Growers Association, said the weekend was a resounding success that allowed wool producers from the four states to meet, learn and share successes and challenges in the industry. 

Broadbent said the event began on the afternoon of Thursday, Nov. 7, with meetings of the boards of the various state associations. Later that evening the weekend kicked off with a welcome reception at the Strand Theater, followed by a holdover performance of the Sagebrush Theatre fall play, “Deer Camp,” which he said was lots of fun.

On Friday and Saturday, sessions and meetings began in the Portland Rose Room at the Roundhouse, while a trade show opened in the main level gallery of the Roundhouse. Lunches and dinners were held in the Machine Shop. 

Sessions throughout the weekend included those on opportunities for American wool, ewe and lamb husbandry and health management, flock genetics, strategies to improve profitability, electronic identification management, sheep health and nutrition, the marketplace and more, as well as updates from the American Lamb Board and the U.S. Forest Service. 

Broadbent said the weekend offered opportunities to discuss and learn about “everything facing the industry, meeting with other sheep producers and networking.” 

Broadbent specifically emphasized young producers. “It’s been one of my goals as president to strengthen young producers, or what we call emerging entrepreneurs,” he said. About 25 young producers met during the emerging entrepreneurs session, said Broadbent, including students from the University of Wyoming and Utah State University. 

Broadbent has been president of the Wyoming Wool Growers Association for about a year and half. He said, “There are lots of challenges facing the industry we’re trying to work through.” The West Central States Wool Growers Convention rotates to different locations in Wyoming, Utah, Idaho and Nevada. This is the second straight year it’s been held in Wyoming, as each state hosts two years in a row. 

Broadbent, himself a fourth-generation Wyoming sheep producer, said they received “lots of great feedback” about holding the convention in Evanston. “Everybody loved our facilities,” he said, including the Roundhouse, Machine Shop and the Strand, noting some people had questioned whether Evanston would be a good location for a convention, given the lack of a convention-specific center. 

Broadbent said a lot of work and effort went into bringing the convention together, specifically from Wyoming Wool Growers Association Executive Director Amy Hendrickson, Bridger Feuz with the UW Extension Office, UW assistant professor Dr. Whit Stewart and the executive directors of the Utah, Idaho and Nevada wool growers associations. 

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