ASI Young Entrepreneurs Summer TourThanks to social media and smart phones, it’s never been easier to connect with people from all across the country. But there’s still value in sitting down face-to-face, especially in agriculture industries where deals have traditionally been settled more with a handshake than a contract.
While many young sheep producers have embraced social media and its ability to bring like-minded people together online, they’re also seeing the value in this old-fashioned approach that worked so well for their parents and grandparents. And that’s the value of the Young Entrepreneurs Summer Tour offered by ASI the past two years.
“Networking is one of the most important things in any industry, but it’s something that a lot of people don’t really utilize the way they should,” said South Dakota sheep producer Cody Chambliss, who was one of 18 young producers on the 2018 YE Summer Tour of northern Colorado. “These times when we can get together are so valuable, both now and for the future.”
Time spent discussing their own operations over meals or just on the bus between tour stops can provide invaluable opportunities and ideas when young producers from all across the United States are thrown together for three days.
“I think the group we had on the tour this year is a group that will be a part of ASI and active in this association for years to come,” Chambliss said.
The group toured the Double J and Harper feedlots, got an introduction to artificial insemination technology at Simpson Livestock, visited the Mountain States Rosen lamb processing plant and toured the Wildlife Services National Wildlife Research Center during their time in Colorado. They also took part in a lamb flavor sensory panel with industry leaders.
With participants traveling in from as far east as New Jersey and as far west as California, reactions to the Western sheep production system were varied.
“We’ve sheen a few large feeding operations. That’s nice because coming from Michigan we don’t have that out there,” said Cameron Lauwers. “It’s a whole different world out here. A lot of lambs in one area. It’s cool to see what they’re feeding and how they are sourcing all these different ingredients. I think a lot of them are actually coming from the Midwest, where I’m from, because you drive around out here, it’s totally different crops being grown. It’s nice to talk to the feedlot owners and figure out the flow of lambs – where they are coming from, how long they are being fed for and where they are going afterwards. It’s a lot of information to take in, but it’s been a good time. It’s a totally different way of raising lamb and it’s a different type of lamb with a different endpoint. So networking has been really beneficial. We’ve learned a lot and have a lot to take away from each other.”
ASI’s Chase Adams led the tour along with Karissa Maneotis of the American Lamb Board. The first tour in 2017 visited producers in the Sioux Falls, S.D., area, so organizers are in search of something a little different for 2019.
“The YE Summer Tour aims to provide a two-day tour for up to 20 participants annually at a cost to the participants of $200, with industry support offsetting the remaining expenses,” Adams said. “Through this effort, the industry’s goal is to foster networking and innovation among young producers across the country that will help support their continued involvement in the sheep industry for a lifetime.
“Continuing to engage young and beginning producers is absolutely critical to the sheep industry. The ASI Young Entrepreneur Summer Tour has been tremendously successful in providing a platform for these young producers to network and innovate while touring various segments of the industry. This tour exposes these young people to methods and techniques uniquely adapted to overcome challenges that they can take home and implement on their operations.”