Dusty from a day in the corral, 20-year-old Jedidiah Hewlett sits down at the computer in Carol and Dave Perry’s Clearmont, Wyoming, ranch office. Entering the password without prompting, he follows along as Carol guides him to QuickBooks  and lays bare the business’s finances.

Hewlett is an intern, and the Perrys are an open book. A quick lesson in running reports and generating cash flow statements follows.

Hewlett and the Perrys are taking part in the Rangeland Internship Program created by the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA), Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts, and the Wyoming Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. Looking to the future, members of these groups saw a need to facilitate the flow of information from one generation of land stewards to the next. Primary intern candidates are students with limited ag knowledge headed into careers in land management.

Jedidiah Hewlett dabbled in everything from changing irrigation pipe and moving cattle to entering expenses and generating financial reports.

“There are students that didn’t grow up in ag but love the outdoors and want to work in the industry in some way. They might end up in government agency jobs but lack the connection or ag knowledge,” says Haley Clark, WSGA programs director.

By matching progressive ranchers with students, they hope to bridge the knowledge and culture gap. Even if interns don’t go into ranching, they’ll likely work with ranchers through the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, or other agencies. “We hope we can give them a different viewpoint than they get at school and help them more easily relate with ranchers and other landowners in the future,” Clark says.

Lessons earned. Each intern declares their interests. Hewlett, who grew up on a small farm, wanted to learn about the financial side of ranching as well as grass management—two areas in which the Perrys excel. They started their ranching career with 10 cows and a Jimmy Carter-era loan complete with a profit-gnawing 22 percent interest rate. “We had nothing given to us,” Carol says.

They scraped their way to profitability, growing those first 10 cows to a herd of 400 and eventually purchasing their own ranch. “You have to know what you’re spending money on, and you have to make sure it’s worth it before you spend the money, not after,” Dave advises Hewlett. Profits, not tradition or emotion, drive their decisions. For instance, they forego raising replacement heifers, instead buying short-term cows to intensively graze irrigated acres.

It’s a practice Hewlett is filing away for the future. “The great thing about the internship is I can get out here and see how different people make the practices I learn in the classroom work,” the University of Wyoming ag business major and hopeful rancher says, noting he prefers to learn by doing. “Hopefully by the time I graduate I can put together a plan of my own.” The Perrys, in turn, hope they can ease the learning curve. “We encourage him to think outside the box. It’s never a bad idea until you try it and it doesn’t work,” Dave says.  

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