Nebraska Extension in the Panhandle has recognized a Scottsbluff-area rancher-veterinarian and a long-time supervisor with the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources for their years of service to agriculture in the Panhandle. A Torrington woman who covered Extension activities for years for the Scottsbluff Star-Herald newspaper was recognized for Service to Extension in the Panhandle.
The ag honorees are Arden Wohlers of Scottsbluff, a retired veterinarian who still operates a cattle ranch along the Niobrara River, and Tom Hayden, supervisor at the Bridgeport office of the Department of Natural Resources. Sandra Hansen of Torrington, who spent nearly two decades at the Star-Herald newspaper covering agricultural and regional news, was honored for Service to Extension.
The Service to Panhandle Extension Award, initiated in 2015, recognizes persons or groups whose contributions have furthered Extension activities in the Nebraska Panhandle. The Outstanding Service to Panhandle Agriculture Award recognizes persons or groups who provide outstanding service to agriculture in western Nebraska. Award criteria include value of work done or cooperation with UNL specialists or educators; leadership in agriculture; community service other than agriculture; and level of impact on Panhandle agriculture.
Tom Hayden is long-time supervisor of West Field Office Operations for the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (DNR), supervising the Bridgeport Field Office. He has been a State of Nebraska Employee for 56 years, all of those with DNR except for the first five years out of high school in 1962.
In 1990 he was named supervisor of the Bridgeport office. He is responsible for measuring stream flows across western Nebraska in the Niobrara and Platte rivers, administering surface water rights, and settling complaints between irrigators.
According to the DNR Quarterly newsletter: “Over the years, Tom has cultivated lasting relationships across irrigation district managers and staff, representatives from Colorado and Wyoming, individual irrigators, and our federal counterparts tasked with water management. It is the relationships and Tom’s steady hand that have helped keep peace in the valley …”
In addition to working with irrigation districts, natural resources districts, and public within the field office area, Hayden oversees and supervises the satellite office in North Platte. Tom assists in the administration of the North Platte Decree, the South Platte River Compact, and the Niobrara River Compact.
As much as anybody, Hayden has an encyclopedic knowledge of the flows of the Platte River and the many streams and springs that are part of its hydrology
Arden Wohlers, retired veterinarian and University of Nebraska-Lincoln employee, operates a ranch along the Niobrara River in Box Butte County along with his wife, Sharyn. Wohlers, who received a DVM degree from Colorado State University, was a partner and owner of Pioneer Animal Clinic in Scottsbluff from 1975-98, then served part-time from 1998-2012. In 2001-2002 he was hired to continue operations of the UNL Panhandle Veterinary Diagnostic Lab during its transition before closing. From 2004-08, he continued as an Extension Veterinarian for UNL.
Wohlers, a fourth-generation rancher, continues the family legacy started in 1874, taking over the ranch from his father about 20 years ago. Looking for a challenge, a change of pace and more profitable than a commercial cattle operation provided, he experimented with bison, yak, Irish Black cattle and polled Hereford on black. He decided on the Akaushi breed after visiting Heartbrand ranch in Texas and liking the promotion and marketing opportunities they provided. He started raising Akaushi cattle about five years ago.
He has volunteered in numerous organizations at the community, state and national level, including the Scottsbluff-Gering Chamber of Commerce Agribusiness Committee, Riverside Discovery Center, Scotts Bluff county health board, the Nebraska Veterinary Medical Association, Nebraska Cattlemen Foundation Board, North Platte Natural Resources District Board of Directors, Governor’s Riparian Vegetation Management Task Force, and USAID. He is a member of a number of professional organizations.
As agriculture editor at the Star-Herald newspaper in Scottsbluff from 2000 until 2017, Sandra Hansen regularly promoted the 4-H program and its value to area families. 4-H personnel in the Panhandle noted that she was always able to find space in the newspaper’s weekly Farm and Ranch section, and elsewhere, for 4-H and Extension stories and photos that were submitted to the newspaper.
In addition, Hansen was in charge of publishing an annual special section following each Scotts Bluff County Fair, which included photos, stories and pages of fair results.
As editor of the Farm and Ranch section published every Sunday, she regularly published news submitted by Extension from throughout the Panhandle. She also covered numerous Extension events, such as field days and educational workshops.
According to Jack Whittier, director of the Panhandle Research and Extension Center, the Star-Herald, over the years, has played a pivotal role in helping the center accomplish its mission.
“The weekly Farm and Ranch insert in Sunday’s edition of the Star Herald is an invaluable resource for our Extension specialists and research scientists to communicate information to their readers,” he said. The newspaper publishes regular features submitted by Extension, including Panhandle Perspectives articles and Jack’s Insights, a monthly column written by Whittier.
In addition to her time at the Star-Herald, Hansen has been an editor and reporter at the Torrington Telegram and also an office manager for a Peter Kiewit company in New Mexico. In recent months she has been relaxing from the pace of daily journalism and looking for further opportunities to write.