Wyoming Department of Education ctEzine Fall 2022

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ctEzine Fall 2022 a publication of the Career & Technical Eduction team at the Wyoming Department of Education CTE Wyoming Department of Education 122 W. 25th St., Ste. E200 | Cheyenne, WY 82002 P: 307-777-7675 | F: 307-777-6234 | edu.wyoming.gov

© 2022 – Wyoming Department of Education; all rights reserved

Dr. Michelle Aldrich – Career and Technical Education Director | 307-777-3655

Mary Billiter – Perkins Manager, Career and Technical Education | 307-777-5329

Ilaine Brown – Education Consultant, Career and Technical Education | 307-777-3549

The Wyoming Department of Education does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in admission or access to, or treatment of employment in its programs or activities. Inquiries concerning Title VI, Title IX, Section 504, and ADA may be referred to Wyoming Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights Coordinator, 122 W. 25th St. Suite E200, Cheyenne, WY, 82002-2060 or 307-777-7675, or the Office of Civil Rights, Region VIII, U.S. Department of Education, Federal Building, Suite 310, 1244 Speer Boulevard, Denver, CO 80204-3582, or 303-844-5695 or TDD 303-844-3417. This information will be provided in an alternative format upon request.

Table of Contents

Richard Cisneros is a model candidate Trowbridge is exhausting

Finding enlightenment in a set of K-Mart Christmas plates

 Ron Rabou Renaissance

The Spirit of the West is alive and well in The Cowboy State. From the Tetons to the High Plain prairies, Wyoming is unparalleled in beauty, history, and outdoor adventures. Wyoming’s workforce is as diverse as its recreational offerings.

The Equality State has something for everyone. Served by seven community colleges and our state University, students of all ages can discover their new path in Wyoming.

The Career and Technical Education (CTE) team at the Wyoming Department of Education strives to provide quality CTE experiences that are equitable while growing a competitive workforce. Whether it’s skilled trades, applied sciences, or a post-secondary degree, certificate or credential, we’re here to help you discover what Wyoming has to offer you in your educational and career journey.

Information about each college and university is provided on pages 12 and 18. Find more information at Wyoming’s Post Secondary Education Opportunities

on the cover – An advocate for technical initiatives in Wyoming, Eric ‘ET’ Trowbridge has been working hand-in-hand with state and local government to find ways to increase tech opportunities for all Wyoming Residents. Shown here with Governor Mark Gordon, ET currently serves as the vice chair for the Wyoming Workforce Development Council.

ctEzine is released three times a year by the Career and Technical Education team at the Wyoming Department of Education.

Publisher: Dr. Michelle Aldrich

Editor: Linda Finnerty

Contributing Writer: Thom Gabrukiewicz

Graphic Design: Alison Reinemer

 Operations Manager for Powder River Heating and Air 2 Eric
 Director of Development & Enterprise Applications at Blue Federal Credit Union ................. 8
- a True
man......................................................................................................... 16
Richard Cisneros wears plenty of hardhats. He’s a Mas ter Plumber. A Master Mechanical Technician with the city of Gillette. A Professional Engineer.
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Richard Cisneros is a model candidate

If Wyoming experts were to create a recruiting poster for Career and Technical Education, Richard Cisneros would be a model candidate.

Cisneros, 42, is the operations manager for Powder River Heating and Air. Since 1978, the company has been the local heating and air conditioning resource for folks in Campbell, Crook, Weston, Johnson, and Sheridan counties in Wyoming, as well as Southeast Montana. The company is a full mechanical contractor operation that offers residential, commercial and industrial plumbing, heating, cooling, ventilation, sheet metal, and refrigeration service and installation.

Powder River’s service department has become Wyoming’s largest and its construction department has installed all types of HVAC and plumbing systems from residential furnaces, hot water heaters, to multi-zone air handlers and multi-million BTU boilers. Powder River averages 100 full-time employees.

And Cisneros, an Army National Guard veteran who still wears his hair “high and tight,” just fits that recruitment poster profile:

“I want you for Career and Technical Education.”

“I have to say it - my passion is for Career and Technical Education,” Cisneros said. “In Wyoming, CTE is absolutely important, because that’s where the jobs are. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for a college education - I have a college degree myself - but we’ve got to do more to get kids interested in Career and Technical Education, since some 60 percent of the jobs in Wyoming require CTE skills.”

‘A Unique Career Path’

Cisneros was born and raised in Gillette - his mother and father moved to Campbell County in 1978. His father worked in the coal mines for more than 40 years, and his mother was a stay-at-home mom until Cisneros - he has two sisters and a brother - entered elementary school,

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sisters and a brother - entered elementary school, when she joined the school district as a paraprofessional. All the Cisneros children are products of the Campbell County School District #1; his oldest sister is a nurse, his brother is an electrician and he and his other sister graduated from the University of Wyoming - she with a Master of Business Administration and he with a bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering.

“My career path - I guess you could say it was a unique career path,” he said. “I actually worked at the coal mines out of high school for several years, and joined the Army National Guard when I was 17 and did one tour in Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004. Upon my return, I went back to school in the 2005/2006 time frame, on the G.I. Bill - I actually started out pre-optometry at UW.

“Made a change two years after that, because I had worked a summer here at Powder River Heating & Air - that’s when I made the change,” he continued. “I actually worked as a plumber - and decided I wanted to be a mechanical engineer at that point.

“I got my degree in 2012, and I guess you can say it was all downhill from there,” he said, laughing. Cisneros wears plenty of hardhats. He’s a Master Plumber. A Master Mechanical Technician with the city of Gillette. A Professional Engineer.

“I designed a lot of mechanical systems for several years, then slowly worked my way into management here at Powder River,” he said. “Oh, and I retired from the National Guard, after 21 years, in 2018. So that’s a little bit about me, and

how I got here, I guess.”

A Typical Day

“What’s a typical day?” he said, laughing. “No, because of my background and my experience in all facets of the trade, I get to work with a lot of different people. And I get to do a lot of great things.”

In addition to its full mechanical contractor operation, as well as its construction and service departments, Powder River also offers in-house design and build services from licensed mechanical engineers like Cisneros. This gives the company the ability to work with customers to give them a system that best meets their functional and economic requirements. Powder River’s portfolio includes mechanical systems for upscale custom homes, office buildings, silos, truck shops, plant facilities, schools, hospitals, and power plants. As a result of that “on the job experience,” the company is familiar with all aspects of mechanical contracting, from remodels to new construction and from residential to commercial and industrial (mine) locations.

The company’s service department installs and repairs walk-in coolers, grocery store refrigeration systems, ice machines, heat reclaim systems, haul truck a/c systems, all types of building HVAC systems, boilers and hot water heating systems. And they offer customers service contracts tailored to their needs - and, of course, for any emergency needs, the service department is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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Let’s just consider careers in heating and air conditioning. By the numbers:

There are more than 212,509 HVAC technicians currently employed in the United States.

 2.6% of all hvac technicians are women, while 97.4% are men.

The average age of an employed HVAC technician is 55 years old.

The HVAC market is projected to grow by 6.1%

The average HVAC technician salary is $23.68 per hour in the U.S.

 Washington, DC pays an annual average wage of $77,235, the highest in the U.S.

In 2021, women earned 96% of what men earned.

 46,000 new HVAC jobs will be created by 2028.

 The technology industry is the highest-paying for HVAC technicians.

 HVAC technicians are more likely to work at private companies in comparison to public companies.

Since 1978, the company has been the local hearting and air conditioning resource for folks in Campbell, Crook, Weston, Johnson, and Sheridan Counties in Wyoming, as well as Southeast Montana.
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“I get to interface with all of those departments - and I’ve also worked in all those departments,” he said. The aspects of working with all facets of the trade is so beneficial in that I either know the answer, or can find the answer for anybody. Certainly, I don’t know everything, but I know the connections to get those questions answered.”

rural state with just a half-million or so inhabitants.

A Passion For CTE

Cisneros can’t really hide love of CTE - and it shows in the ways he gives back to the community, and all of Wyoming. He’s on Gillette’s Perkins Advisory Board. He’s a member of the Wyoming Department of Education’s (WDE) Perkins V Advisory Board. He’s on the Gillette College Advisory Board. He’s on the board of the Gillette Chamber of Commerce. He works with the Wyoming Construction Coalition. Oh, and he’s also on the Campbell County Library Board.

“Richard has been involved in helping to make sure that students in Campbell County have a great CTE experience at the secondary and postsecondary level,” said Dr. Michelle Aldrich, director of CTE Programs with the WDE. “His willingness to serve and his commitment to the skilled trades is unmatched. And while a busy professional engineer, he rarely misses an advisory council meeting.

“I wish we had more community members like Richard.”

“I am a big proponent of community service,” he said. “And company-wide, Powder River believes in community service as well. But, yeah, my passion is Career and Technical Education, mainly because I see the shortage of workers in our industry - and that’s not just mechanical industry, but in all construction trades.”

Another area where Cisneros said he wants to see growth in Wyoming is the use of apprenticeships. But that can be a hard sell, especially in a very

“We used to have a great HVAC program up in Sheridan, with Sheridan College, where we could send a lot of our students there, but that’s now not been functional for the past four of five years,” he said. “In Gillette, we’ve never been able to get it kick-started. They’d like to have 10 students to create a course. But I’ve been working with the dean of Career and Technical Education (at Gillette College) and we’ve been working on a few separate pathways to get this done.

“But because of Wyoming’s population, to meet that 10-student requirement, it’s pretty difficult for an individual apprenticeship trade,” he added. “So what I have pushed is to work together amongst all eight community colleges in Wyoming to see if we could do remote learning - so the classroom portion would be taught online - so you get three kids in this community, another five in this community, so you can get your required 10 to start a class, and then the employers in those communities would do the hands-on portion.

“And I am going to continue my work on that, until we can finally get it going.”
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The Last Word

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not knocking on a college education, I’m pro-education,” Cicneros said. “But I think the number of people we are sending down the bachelor’s and master’s route is disproportionate to the needs of the state.”

According to Wyoming Workforce Services, the state will add some 40,000 new jobs in the next 10 years - the greatest job growth is projected to be seen in heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers, with 1,672 new jobs. Other occupations with high projected job growth include restaurant cooks, construction laborers and home health and personal care aides.

“We need to be on that leading edge to provide that workforce, and it all starts with hCareer and Technical Education,” he said.

Cisneros said he routinely works with high school guidance counselors in Gillette to make sure they know there are other pathways to a rewarding - and profitable - career. And with Powder River solidly behind him, Cisneros just believes in giving a kid a chance to experience life in the trades.

“We’re a firm believer in hiring high school kids, and not that the Wyoming Legislature passed a law last year that allows us to do a studentlearner progra m,” he said. “Our first one, this past spring, I had a student for the high school who joined us for an internship program and he did one semester and he came here for his last period of the day, which was an hour, and then he would stay after with us, but he also worked at (Gillette grocery store) Smith’s, so when he could work with us later he would. After the semester was over, we hired him as a summer helper and he’s shown a lot of interest. All the guys love him, he’s such a quick learner, and we hope he’ll want to stay on and make this his career.” Cisneros said he believes that CTE education and CTE pathways need to be introduced to students when they enter junior high school.

“That’s what these kids need to see, that there’s a clear career progression, when it comes to CTE,” he said. “You know, the ditch-digger, the real manual labor, that’s not going to be your whole career. But there ‘s plenty of career progression in our industry, or any trade industry. You can go into project management, or project engineering. You still have to have communication skills, reading and writing skills. Critical thinking, problem - solving - all of that plays into our industry.

“And I think a lot of younger kids miss that, because they’re just not introduced to it. They don’t see the trades as a viable option - but it’s such a viable option, because of the growth in all the trades, the money to be made - and the fact that a lot of our workforce is getting ready to retire. And let’s face it, the whole country is realizing the shortage of workforce - and for Wyoming to be on the leading edge to produce this workforce, that’s huge for us.”

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Eric Trowbridge is exhausting.

We kid, of course.

‘ET’ (more about that later) is the kind of cat you always want to hang with; he’s a bundle of kinetic energy, gregarious to a fault. He’s as if a bolt of lighting got all condensed and took human form - yes, he’s a whirlwind of energy that’s tremendously infectious - and see, kinda exhausting (but in such a good way).

“Whenever you are around ET, you can’t help but be in a better place in your own head,” said Robin Sessions Cooley, Director of the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services.

ET, 37, is the Director of Development & Enterprise Applications at Blue Federal Credit Union, a job he’s had for a few months after selling his interest in Array, Wyoming’s first private accelerated technology and design school.

According to Blue, the Director of Development and Enterprise Applications “is responsible for collaborating on the development of strategy, development activities, operational support, and maintenance requirements for our credit union digital channel presence and enterprise business applications. The position combines managerial responsibilities with in-depth hands-on technical expertise. The Director is responsible for appropriate staffing, staff management, performance management, and continuous service improvement. The Director role is responsible for developing and maintaining an Agile project management framework to support the strategic direction of the credit union.”

“I never ever thought I would be working at a credit union,” ET said, laughing “But here we are - and I totally love it.”

(OK, let’s explain this ET thing, shall we - in his own words, of course:

“OK, it was like high school I think, one of my buddies, well we all had nicknames for each other and he would call me ET for my initials - or Stork,” ET said. “I was taking French at the time, so I learned ‘Je suis une cigogne,’ which means ‘I am a stork.’ That kind of wore off - and my mom gave me really great initials, so I just went ahead and embraced it. My mom and dad still call me Eric, but everyone else calls me ET; I am from the planet Vega, and yeah, I’m going back next year.”

Finding His Niche

ET was born and raised in Cheyenne and graduated from Central High in 2004.

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“I think that’s where I found the passion for what I’m doing now,” he said. “I loved speech and debate in high school - so no, getting up in public doesn’t bother me at all. Plus I was in theater and loved being up on stage, having the audience there, it was such a blast.”

audacity to say, ‘Can I keep some of the posters that you’ve made?’ So yeah, right there is where I found my passion for digital design.”

It was the staging of the play ‘Dracula’ at Central where ET said he first found his creativity outlet for computers.

“So I found this program called Adobe After Effects, and I did all the posters for the playthey wanted the vampire’s eyes black, so I learned how to paint them black,” he said. “I actually ditched one of my classes the day before the play opened to continue to do all these cool things in After Effects and I was actually in the stage area - where I wasn’t supposed to be, putting up posters - and someone said, ‘Hey, the senior principal is looking for you.’ I did get Saturday school for the ditch, but he had the

ET decided that his career path would be as an art director for the film and television industry. So he left Wyoming for San Francisco, and the Academy of Art University.

“I graduated in May of 2004 and found myself in San Francisco in September of 2004,” he said. “And after about a year, I was getting really antsy to get into the art director field, so I up and moved to Los Angeles and went to the L.A. Film School, also for art direction. I continued my studies.”

The interesting thing about the L.A. Film School, ET said, is that there were only four people pursuing a career in art direction - everyone else wanted to be a director, or a music producer.


“The thing about art direction is it’s a messy business - you’re always carving styrofoam, or painting, and on a film set, you’re doing one of the most unglamorous jobs, because you’re always working on the next set and you’re never around when the Hollywood actresses, the director and the lavish food tables are there,” he said.

After graduation, ET got a huge break - one of his professors told him that art director Steve Arnold was looking for an art production assistant. Arnold is best known for being actress Meryl Streep’s personal designer, but has also worked on such films as Forrest Gump, Van Helsing and Get Shorty.

“I ended up being his PA for about a year-and-ahalf, where we did Spiderman, Night At The Museum, it was all so cool, so fun,” he said. “But in the end, I figured out that the industry is really cut-throat so it just wasn’t for me. So I needed a job to supplement my PA jobs, so I started working at the Macy’s Christmas store, where I did not like selling $100 ornaments to tourists. Then I walked by an Apple store - and I was like, ‘What is this place? It’s all glass, and it’s clean and it’s modern.’ So I ended up going in and buying an iPod and was interacting with the staff and they were so friendly and helpful so I asked, ‘Are you guys hiring?’”

As it turns out, they were. But Apple is a tough place to break into - according to Forbes, the acceptance rate at Harvard is about 7%, while only 2% of applicants get hired at Apple.

“I went in, gave them my resume and then nothing,” he said. “About three months later, I was in IKEA and I got a call from an Apple recruiter who said they had a part-time theater presenting position, do you want to come in and interview for that? “Long story short, I got the job and ended up loving everything about Apple.”

But there were some consequences. To get his art direction certificate, ET racked up some $170,000 in private student loans.

“Realizing that’s what I thought I wanted to do was not what I wanted to do - that was a hard realization,” he said. “And having to call my mom, I mean, I loved Apple, and going to that part-time gig was my fun place - and it was actually paying me more than my art gig - so I called her and said, ‘Mom, I think I’m just going to work at Apple and see where it goes.’ Of course she said, ‘What about the loans?’ So yeah, I had to figure out a way to move up in the company.”

A Career With Apple

And for four years in L.A., ET managed to work his way up from part-time theater presenter to specialist to manager of the Apple Beverly Center location. He was all of 21 years old.

“Then, I got promoted to people leader for L.A., which was kind of a mix between business manager and HR, recruiting, staffing - I ran all the new employee on-boarding, I trained them on the Apple culture and I did that for four-and-a-half years when the HR manager said, ‘Hey, they’re opening up this new store in New York and they need like 1,000 jobs filled and they are desperate for a people leader, you want to go to New York?’

And in 2009, off he went, putting his two cats, Hoover and Kennedy, and himself on an airplane and arriving in New York and the Apple Upper West Side location. Everything was going ET’s way - until October 5, 2011.

“I was looking at a tweet from a friend that just said, ‘Oh, no, oh, no, oh, no’ and I knew right away that Steve Jobs had passed away,” ET said of Apple’s founder and savior. “It was like a truck hit me. Steve Jobs is a once-in-a-century type of guy. Even as a part-time sales person, you felt like you were a part of something, that you were part of changing the world, enriching lives.

“We all gathered at the store and we started asking, ‘What’s next for Apple?’ but I started asking, ‘What’s next for me?’ So I ended up watching his

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Stanford speech (the speech, given in 2005, is the most-watched commencement speech in history, according to CNN) where he had cancer and famously said you don’t regret the things that you did, you regret the things that you didn’t do. So I said, ‘What does that look like for me’ and what it looked like to me was entrepreneurship.”

And Array is Created

ET decided the first company he would create was apixal, a video game company. In Chicago. But plans change.

“So my brother and sister were starting to have kids (in Cheyenne) and I had been away from Wyoming for 10, 12 years, so to save money, I moved back in with mom and dad,” he said. “So here I am the typical entrepreneur, 30 years old and living in mom and dad’s basement trying to get this video game company going.” apixel was, in the end, a failure.

“It was a very interesting experience, because here I was, highly ambitious, and it totally fails,” he said. “It just didn’t work.”

But while trying to get apixel off the ground, ET met a few entrepreneurs in Cheyenne who were looking to create a technology school - and asked ET if he wanted a part in its creation. So for about a year-and-a-half of study, and asking around if a coding boot camp would be feasible in Cheyenne - the answer came from employers: “Why didn’t you open this yesterday.”

“And so, I had never run a school before, But I knew I could give it my best shot, So I put some curriculum together and yeah, Array was born,” he said.

“Seven wonderful, rewarding years.”

After Array, ET said Apple came calling - job offers in Hong Kong, New York, Chicago came in - but he decided that he wasn’t quite done in Wyoming. Governor Matt Mead had appointed him to the Wyoming Workforce Development Council (where he’s now the vice chair), and two Cheyenne mayors have tapped him to chair tech initiatives. And since he was already working with Blue, placing his students there, he thought he might just as well work there, too.

“I took a tour of the building, it’s amazing, and the culture here is amazing, we have so much fun, we dress up all the time - so yeah, I’ve found my place at Blue,” he said.

Others are glad he’s sticking around, too.

“He’s been there, done that,” Cooley said. “I only wish I had more opportunities to work with him. He is a mover and a shaker. He gets things done and can encourage and spur others along with his vision.

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Check out the opportunities at these Wyoming colleges and university

Casper College –Your Life, Your College, Your Future, Starts at Casper College.

Since 1945, Casper College has provided access to higher education resources that strengthen, support, and enrich the community. As the world’s economy changes, Casper College is training individuals to meet the demand for new skills and new ways of thinking. Casper’s Technical Education provides several paths to follow. There are more than 140 options to set your career in motion. Take a look to see what programs are offered that may fit your interests.

Central Wyoming College –Real People. Real Experience. Real Value.

Explore educational opportunities including certificate programs, associate’s, and bachelor’s degrees. Central Wyoming College offers Career and Technical Education that is industry driven and hands-on. Career Services are available for your job search. Their main campus is located in Riverton with outreach centers in Lander, Jackson, and Dubois designed to meet the needs of the communities they serve.

Eastern Wyoming College –A Great Decision for Your Future!

An innovative learning environment, Eastern Wyoming College provides academic excellence and community enrichment that champion’s student success. At EWC, you can start on the path toward your goals. Their variety of programs are aimed at helping you learn a new career or transfer to a four-year college or university. With affordable tuition rates and an easy transition from high school to college, EWC’s student experience is designed to foster personal growth with many outreach sites in the Community Service Area.

ET said he’s proud of the commitment to community Blue Federal Credit Union has - like building homes for veterans.
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That’s the kind of person we want - and need - to help forge the vision for Wyoming.”

The Last Word

After all of his tours of duty, ET knows the value of experimentation - and that’s the advice he’d give students who want to pursue their dreams.

“Just try something,” he said. “Look, my dream in high school was to be an art director, and I never really got close to that. I had a great, fun, fulfilling career with Apple. I’m a failed entrepreneur, a successful entrepreneur - every single experience you have leads

up to your next great thing. Look at it this way - I have a certificate from a film school in L.A., but I’ve had no formal college experience. Technically, Apple was my college - and I got paid to do it.

“So I would say this: Everything adds up to something you can’t see yet. You just have to be OK with that. Eventually, you will find exactly what you are passionate about - but have fun and don’t take life so seriously.”

Laramie County Community College –

LCCC lives through the power of inspired learning.

You can find your path at LCCC through the various program of studies based on your interest and goals. You can complete an associate’s degree, certificate or credit diploma, as well as prepare to transfer to a University. The Career Coach tool provides you with an opportunity to take a career assessment and browse careers and pathways that will lead you to that career.

Northern Wyoming Community College –

Your future begins now at NWCC.

Welcoming all learners, NWCC empowers student success through a focus on career goals and educational programming. By broadening your career options and discovering occupations that match your personal preferences and attributes, NWCC supports their students’ personal needs and goal.

Northwest College –

Your future, our focus – discover Northwest College.

Northwest College is a two-year residential college located in Powell, which is a close drive to Yellowstone National Park. With a strong focus on technical studies that builds a foundation for information systems, NWC students learn innovative practices for today’s workforce. NWC takes career advising to the next level.

Western Wyoming Community College –

Western is where passion meets purpose.

Find your passion at WWCC through an array of technical courses. Their two-year program provides a firm foundation to solve real-world problems. WWCC has a broad discipline of courses that prepare students for rewarding careers in almost any industry. Western is an award-wining college in both their on-campus and distance learning programs.

University of Wyoming –

The world needs more cowboys.

Rooted in the traditions of the West and surrounded by the rugged Rocky Mountains, the University of Wyoming is nationally recognized for their expert facility, top-ranked academics, and world-class campus. UW offers hands-on training and opportunities for students to earn certifications and hone their craft in their industry.

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ALBIN - In clarifying family dynamics, Ron Rabou found enlightenment in a set of K-Mart Christmas plates - on sale for $39.99 - all decked out with sprigs of holly.

Rabou, 49, is a fifth-generation Wyoming resident, and, yes, we are going to say it - a true Renaissance man. He’s a published author, an in-demand public speaker, a guest columnist for the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, a successful big-game hunting outfitter, owner of a real estate business, an amateur musician, and, most importantly, he’s an organic farmer. The family’s 8,500-acre spread 50 miles northeast of Cheyenne produces organic wheat, flax, hemp for grain, proso millet, chickpeas and buckwheat. He and his wife, Julie (a part-teacher and reading specialist at Davis Elementary in Cheyenne), are raising three boys - Carson, 18, Spenser, 16, and Mason, 11 - on the same 320 original acres his great-great grandmother, Margaret, homesteaded in 1905 to raise cattle on the high plains of Wyoming.

Out of tremendous pain, Rabou realized that instead of following what his family had done - and in truth not particularly successful financially - for nearly 120 years, he would break from tradition, shed what was expected from him as a male descendent on a Wyoming ranching operation - and forge his own direction. Create his own family traditions.

And that’s where the grief - and the K-Mart dishes - come into play. In 1999, when he was just 26 years old, Rabou returned to the ranch to do some fall cattle work with his father, Ed, and his cousins who also lived on the ranch. While working, Ed collapsed and began to turn blue. Rabou administered CPR, and cried for Ed to come back. Two days later, his mother, Evelene, and sister, Wendy Jacoby, made the painful decision to remove Ed from life support.

Finding Enlightenment


Enlightenment in a of Christmas Plates


Ed Rabou was just 58 years old.

“I credit this a lot, and oddly enough, it’s about traditions; we used to have what was known as the Rabou Family Christmas,” Rabou said. “You have to remember, this is one family tree, but with two separate branches. We live next to oneanother, we work with one-another, and now we’re expected to have Christmas with oneanother, because, you know, tradition - even though we didn’t actually get along all that well.

“So Julie says, ‘Nope, we’re not going.’ I mean, what, we’ve been doing this for 100 years. She says, “Yeah, we’re not going. I am not going to sit there and listen to them treat you nice, say nice things to you for one night of the year, when the rest of the year they treat you like (crap). We’re going to get your grandparents, and we’re going to have our own party.’

“It was the last Christmas I got to spend with my grandparents,” Rabou continued. “Back in the day, when (Cheyenne) still had a K-Mart, they used to put a circular in the newspaper, and my grandmother tore out an ad for these Christmas holly dishes that were $39.99. She put two, $20 bills in a card, along with the torn out ad, in a Christmas card and gave it to us. The next day, we took my grandparents to K-Mart and we bought those dishes.

“And now, at every Christmas, we bring out those dishes, and we remember my grandparents and we appreciate who they were - and what they blessed us with. And that started my journey of not having to follow in my father’s footsteps and die at 58 years old. It taught me that I could make my own path, be happy to be on that path - and make something of myself, all while giving back.”

Transitioning from Ranching to Organic Farming

After Ed Rabou’s death, Rabou knew that the family ranch wasn’t growing - it was simply sustaining the people who lived there. Rabou had bought his father’s shares in the family company, but he knew deep down that the old ways, the old business model, just weren’t working. So he went back to the University of Wyoming to finish his bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Business, all while still taking care of his father’s duties on the ranch. And after four years, with a new degree, the Rabous left the family ranch - and sold off more than 85 percent of what they owned - to create their own business; their own legacy. And it all centered on organic farming. Organic food commands premium prices in the marketplace; however, transitioning crops - and the soil they are grown in - to an organic certification takes three years under the U.S. Department of Agriculture rules.

But the Rabou’s are nothing but resilient.

“There isn’t a crop on this farm that isn’t already sold,” Rabou said. “I’m going to look at this business as a business - not as a tradition. Forget all about sentimentalism. Forget over a hundred years of history. Learn from it, I can appreciate itbut I don’t have to live it. I’m responsible for my own path - me being responsible for my family, and me being responsible for my own choices. I needed to take the risks. So now, here we are.

“We’ve taken this operation from 800 acres to more than 8,500 acres and we have completely overhauled our infrastructure, and I mean completely,” he continued. “The emphasis that we need to put into our business is not in our business. The emphasis that we need to put into our business lies in the people who make our business happen. So we’ve built this business on three pillars: communication, trust and


relationships. And without any one of those pillars, we can’t make things work.”

“Ron has risen to leadership positions within the agricultural industry, spoken to various agricultural groups around the country, and has received numerous nominations and awards,” Jacoby said. “Even despite struggles with the unpredictable weather and its effects, Ron reaches out to find new crops, new buyers, and new ways of farming to be successful.”

From the Rabou Farms website:

“The organic industry is incredible and is helping to ensure the food we eat is both safe and healthy. We are very proud to be a small part of this industry and are proud that the food we produce is wholesome for American families. The relationship with our customers is critically important to our operation and our commitment lies in being a highly reliable source that produces a high-quality product.

“We want to accommodate our customers and always welcome new ideas and suggestions. Our motto is, ‘A contract is only as good as the people who sign it.’ Any relationship that is great is mutually beneficial for both parties. When you work with us, you can be confident in the Rabou Farms stamp of integrity and quality.”

For Rabou, the next generation is his highest priority for the future. His goals don’t revolve around more crops, more land or the newest equipment. Instead, his focus is his family, faith, freedom - and the time to enjoy them all.

“I remember - and this is hard for me - standing at my dad’s hospital bed, knowing that we were going to pull him from life support, that would be the last time I talked to him live, that I felt his warmth and his thick hands from all the work outside, and that would be it. And I remember telling him that I would carry on his legacy. And

Organic food commands premium prices in the marketplace; however, transitioning crops - and the soil they are grown in - to an organic certification takes three years under the U.S. Department of Agriculture rules.
17 

what I meant is that I would go back to that ranch and keep that tradition alive.

“It wasn’t until years later that I realized that his legacy wasn’t the ranch - that’s a thing, right? His legacy is who he was - and who he taught me to be. Your legacy isn’t owning a farm. It isn’t owning the largest business. It isn’t what you expect it to be. Your legacy is what you’re teaching your kids to become - and have you taught them to be good citizens who contribute positively to the world.”

Rabou said he is tremendously proud of the way his boys are growing up to be men. Carson is a freshman at the University of Wyoming, where he’s a member of UW’s ‘Western Thunder’ marching band. He’s passionate about music and also plays drums for his band, Galactic Lemonz He hopes to someday become a pilot - all while pursuing his passion for music.

Spencer, Rabou said, is the epitome of an American farm boy. He’s already an experienced mechanic - with his own tinker shop, where he has been hired out to fix everything from

“It’s all about making the world a better place - at least, that’s what we’re teaching our boys,” he said. “Be productive - but always look for ways to give back to your family, your community, and the world as a whole.”
Ron has risen to leadership positions within the agricultural industry, spoken to various agricultural groups around the country, and has received numerous nominations and awards. Even despite struggles with the unpredictable weather and its effects, Ron reaches out to find new crops, new buyers, and new ways of farming to be success ful.

rototillers to ranch trucks. He also has his own “Johnny Popper” (antique John Deere) tractor collection, including various models of the B, H, D and L and a beautiful 520 model.

And lastly, Mason is a true outdoorsman at heart. Already a master angler, Mason would rather be fishing in Florida, Mississippi or Louisiana every weekend. Rabou said if you want to see his eyes light up, just mention bass fishing. Rabou said Mason has a passion for art and engineering - and the family looks forward to seeing what direction his passions take him.

“It’s all about making the world a better place - at least, that’s what we’re teaching our boys,” he said. “Be productive - but always look for ways to give back to your family, your community, and the world as a whole.”

“Our father instilled in each of us, his children, to keep striving towards our goals and never give up, reminding us that finding success through the struggles would make us stronger -- he always said, ‘Can’t never could do anything’!,” Jacoby said.

Ron has definitely lived his life in such a way!”

The Last Word

Rabou has some fairly simple advice to kids growing up in Wyoming - or anywhere else, for that matter - when it comes to choosing a career path: “If you do not have a clue about what you do want to do, at least figure out what you don’t want to do.

“And that’s where I started - I knew for damn sure that I wasn’t going to live like the way I lived (up on the ranch). I never aspired to be a farmer - but because of circumstances, that’s where we ended up. But if you don’t step out of your comfort zone and take some risks, you will never figure out what you want to become. And remember, too, it’s OK to change. It’s OK to do something different. I think we live in a world where people

live in a safety zone - the best example I can think of is the parent who wraps their kid up in bubble wrap before they go to the playground.

“In the end, what’s the worst thing that can happen?” he said. “You start over in the freest country in the world? Where there’s opportunity everywhere? For every single person I know of that owns a business, they are looking for someone who they can trust. Just don’t be afraid. It’s OK to be different. Don’t worry about what others have to say about you. It’s OK to change. Just because you start with one thing, it doesn’t mean that’s where you have to end up.

“Where you end up is the destination.”

A sea of organic chickpeas grow on rabou Farm’s 8.500 acres of land.
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