Hyattville couple nominated for Ag Hall of Fame

Jessica Robinson

The Wyoming Livestock Roundup recently announced Keith and Linda Hamilton of Hyattville as the recipients of the Agriculture Hall of Fame award.

Each year, two Wyoming citizens or couples are recognized for their involvement in the state’s agriculture industry. According to the Wyoming Livestock Roundup’s website, since 1992, the Ag Hall of Fame has honored 67 Wyomingites.

“I was totally shocked and surprised when Dennis Sun called and told us we had been selected for the award,” Linda said. “I feel humbled and honored that Thea Nuckolls Lemmel, a long-time friend whom we worked with in both the Wyoming Farm Bureau and the Wyoming Woolgrowers Association, submitted the initial nomination. It was very heartwarming to think that others I have worked with on the South Big Horn Conservation District Board and the Hyattville Community Center Board took the time to write letters of recommendation to the Wyoming Livestock Roundup selection committee in support of the initial nomination.”

“It is a tremendous honor to be associated with the prior inductees,” said Keith. “Very humbling. The letters of support from the Wyoming Federal Bureau, Wyoming State Grazing Board, and others make you feel like your efforts were worthy.”

Keith has been involved in agriculture all of his life and has been an active part of the ranch since he was very young. His great grandparents came to Hyattville from Tooele, Utah where they were engaged in raising livestock and were involved in mining. His great grandfather, Francis Walters, came in 1893 and ran a general merchandising business. He later purchased a local homestead and raised cattle. In 1928, sheep became a part of the operation.

Keith’s mother, Eleanor Walters Hamilton, was raised on the Walters Ranch. As time passed, his mother and father Merle took over the ownership and management of the Walters Ranch. In 1972, the name was changed to the Hamilton Ranch.

For Linda, her roots in agriculture go very deep. “I have been involved in agriculture my entire life, as I was raised on a cattle ranch in the Sandhills of Nebraska near Merriman,” she said.

Linda’s great-great-grandparents from both sides of the family homesteaded in the Cherry County area around 1890. She said both families were cattle ranchers and fourth and fifth generation descendants have continued ranching in that same area.

Keith and Linda met at Northwest College in Powell and the couple was married before finishing their education at the University of Wyoming. Keith obtained his degree in animal science. After graduating from college, they moved back to the Hamilton Ranch in Hyattville where they have raised cattle, sheep and farmed the land.

The couple is no strangers to serving the state and their community. On behalf of the Hamilton Ranch, they have been longtime members of organizations including Wyoming Farm Bureau, Wyoming Stock Growers Association, Wyoming Woolgrowers Association, American Sheep Industry and Wyoming Chapter of the Public Lands Council.

Keith previously served as vice president and president of the BHC Farm Bureau and for 22 years represented northwest Wyoming on the Wyoming Farm Bureau board of directors. He was the immediate past chairman of the Wyoming State Grazing Board. Locally, he served for 13 years on the BHC School District No. 4 board of trustees.

Currently, he serves on the Big Horn Basin Sage Grouse Working Group and has been there since its inception. He is a member of the Worland Dist. Bureau of Land Management Grazing Board, the BHC Predatory Animal Board, and the National Farm Bureau Federal Land Committee. He also is the Wyoming representative on the National Public Land Council.

In the past, Linda has served as a 4-H leader along with serving on the BHC 4-H Council. She was the president of the Washakie County Woolgrowers Auxiliary and the Wyoming Woolgrowers Auxiliary. She was on the initial founding committee and was the first president of Wyoming Ag in the Classroom. For eight years, Linda served on the Wyoming Association of Conservation District Board. She served one term on the Northwest Alumni Association Board. For several years she was the chairman of the Hyattville Old Timer’s planning committee.

Currently, Linda is a member of the South Big Horn Conservation District Board, where she was first appointed in 1991 to fill a vacancy and has been elected since then. She served as chairman for several years.

Linda is also appointed to the Wyoming Non-Point Task Force Committee. The governor appoints committee members.

Locally, she is a member of the Hyattville Methodist Church where she has served on various committees over the years and currently is the treasurer of the Hyattville Community Center and co-organizer of the Hyattville Cowboy Carnival.

Agriculture has brought rewards for the couple. Keith said it’s having a lifestyle that enables him to work with his family on a daily basis, seeing the rewards of his decision-making and to know he is producing products that help make the country stronger.

For Linda, one of her biggest rewards has been that she has never had to live in a big city. “I have had the privilege of being able to live in isolated, rural communities where I have been able to become acquainted with all of my neighbors. I have been able to enjoy the wide open spaces of both Nebraska and Wyoming.”

However, the reward of living the western life has also created some difficulties. “Being involved in agriculture has meant that I have always lived a long ways from town, and my family, as well as the Hamilton family have had to set a lot of priorities on what we can and cannot do,” said Linda. “Animals and crops always need tended to, so going on vacations, attending events outside of local communities, visiting friends and relatives, have been limited.”

There are daily challenges with ranching. Keith said weather events such as tough winters, drought and hail always present tough challenges when owning and operating a livestock/farming business.

Another difficulty Keith shared was burdensome government regulations that come with issues that include wilderness areas, endangered species, labor shortages and predators.

Linda echoes the same challenges involving weather, commodity prices and labor availability.

Through the rewards and difficulties, the Hamiltons have developed memories over the years. “There have been many fond memories many of which involve watching our kids and grandkids develop and grow around the many activities they are exposed to in a ranching environment,” Keith said.

Linda has a lot of fond memories both in Nebraska and Wyoming. “I will always cherish the years I spent in Nebraska helping with ranching duties,” she said.

Her fondest memory while growing up were the large neighborhood brandings where local ranchers got to together to help each other brand calves. “They were not only work events, but social events for the community,” she said.

Linda’s father enjoyed participating in a little calf and steer roping, so she remembers the many hours they travelled to and from those events.

On returning to the Hamilton ranch, Linda said she has been much more involved in the daily operations than when she was growing up. Her favorite part of ranching has been her involvement with the sheep enterprise. She said she likes all phases of the sheep operation from working sheep, lambing ewes, and helping trail sheep home from the forest permit near Burgess Junction.

Linda also enjoys helping with haying when her services are needed. She said she is not fan of calving, but does enjoy other segments of the cattle enterprise.

“I also enjoy witnessing the enthusiasm the grandkids have for all phases of the operation,” she said. “It’s great fun to see them learning about both sheep and cattle and assisting with the irrigating and the farming.”

The couple will be recognized at the Wyoming Ag Hall of Fame Picnic on Aug. 18 at 5 p.m. at Riverside Park in Douglas.