CROYDON, Morgan County — Prolonged drought and an unpredictable market are tough challenges for those in the ranching and farming industry, but the Wilde family in Croydon is making it work, in it for the long haul at six generations so far.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, who visited the Wild Valley Farms on Thursday for a tour, said for some, there is a magnetic pull to work the land.
"For a lot of people, it is a pretty good lifestyle," he said.
Edwin Wilde, one of a trio of brothers who with their father Eric run the operation, couldn't have agreed more.
"I was a car salesman for 16 years," he said, but quit to return to ranching so he could spend more time with his eight children.
The choice was either to spend long hours away from home and his family, or spend long hours on the ranch with them. There was no competition, he said.
Herbert visited Morgan County as part of his annual pledge to get to all of Utah's 29 counties and in particular, here, to learn about rural challenges and the agricultural industry.
Rep. Logan Wilde, R-Croydon, hosted the governor as one of the three brothers who are part of a network of ranchers who manage 33,000 acres in the Lost Creek area.
The Wildes run 3,000 sheep and 300 head of cattle on the property that has been in their family since the 1800s.
Like others in ranching and farming, the Wilde family chose to diversify their business, branching out to make use of waste wool to compress it into pellets for fertilizer.
The product contains nitrogen and is sold in 29 commercial locations in Utah. Once in the ground, the wool acts as a sponge to gather water for the plants, reducing the water consumption rate by as much as 25 percent.
"Wow! Who knew?" Herbert exclaimed after handling the pellets and listening to a description by Albert Wilde
"You don't think about it being a fertilizer," he added.
"Anytime you can use a waste product, that's good," Albert Wilde said, adding the two year expansion of their business is getting a good reception, especially with Canadian customers.
Herbert ventured high into the hilly country on a four-wheeler to see the condition of the land, which is drying up due to Utah's prolonged drought.
The Wildes tapped into money from the state's Grazing Improvement Program to bring water to their livestock from natural springs through a gravity fed pipe.
The grant, which the family matched with their own money, provided a network of man-made watering holes for not only sheep and cattle, but the abundant wildlife in the area, including bees and deer.
Along the trek in the hills, 77-year-old rancher John Toone ambled out of the bushes with his walking stick.
The governor shook his hand, introduced himself and talked about the value of ranching and farming.
"Probably the first conservationists and stewards of the land are ranchers and farmers," Herbert said.
"We are," replied Toone.
But Toone bemoaned how it is tough to keep family interested in the lifestyle to carry it on. It's tough work and there are other opportunities to steal children away.
"My three boys work at the cement plant" in Croydon, he said, adding that it takes a minimum of two incomes to keep ranching alive.
Toone drove a school bus for 30 years because ranching and farming doesn't provide health insurance.
He also doesn't get paid vacation or get sick leave.
Herbert said it is incumbent on the state and industry to help farmers and ranchers stay in business so Utahns can have local food on the table.
"What are we going do to attract young people to agriculture?" he questioned.
Albert Wilde said the Governor's Office of Economic Development has helped the area with its incentives for rural business through the Rural Fast Track program. There have been eight companies in Morgan and others that have been helped through the program, he said.
For lunch, Herbert met with other Morgan County elected officials at the Taggart Grill.
He sat next to Morgan County Councilwoman Tina Cannon and discussed local issues with her.4 comments on this story
Like other areas in Utah, Morgan County is in the throes of growing pains and grappling with the pressure of new development. Cannon said across the country, Morgan County is ranked as the eighth fastest growing county and 80 percent of that growth is happening in the unincorporated community of Mountain Green.
The area is toying with the issue of possible incorporation and how to develop appropriate infrastructure to meet the needs.
"Because the governor is a former county commissioner, he has really great insight into county government," she said. "He provided some good advice."