Thursday, November 30, 2023

Young Wyoming Rancher Helps Other Native Americans Succeed Through Ag


by Kelly Rutter, Recruiting Outreach Specialist 

Odessa Oldham learned the importance of agriculture to Native Americans as a child raising and showing sheep on the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico. She learned the value of a quality FFA program when, at age 13, her family moved to Lander, Wyoming, and her new advisor helped put her and her siblings on the path to running their own ranch.

Now a senior at the University of Wyoming, Odessa is helping other Native American youth embrace their agricultural roots as a way to build a better future. Odessa spent the past several weeks learning various aspects of ag lending at FCSAmerica. She takes these and other experiences with her as she heads to the second annual Summer Leadership Summit for Native Youth in Food & Agriculture at the University of Arkansas School of Law. Odessa co-founded the program with Janie Hipp, formerly with the Tribal Relations Department at the USDA and now with the Arkansas School of Law.

In its first year, the leadership summit provided 44 students representing 23 tribes with an all-expense-paid week in Fayetteville, where they shared their cultures, learned about ag-related careers and developed business plans for small ag enterprises. Seventy-five students from 43 tribes have been chosen to participate in the 2015 summit, July 21 to 25.

Many of the students who attended last year had no ties to agriculture. Many more started the week uncertain about their future, saying they were unlikely to attend college and unsure if they wanted a career in ag.

Summer Leadership Summit

By the end of the week, Odessa saw a shift. The number of students who said they were likely to continue their education had grown. Several left determined to implement their business plans. A community garden grows on a reservation in California, Odessa says, because summit participants returned home and convinced tribal leaders they had a workable business plan. Two young women from South Dakota have shifted their educational plans to include ag-related studies.

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Source:  Farm Credit Services of America

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