NIOBRARA COUNTY – Rhonda Pfister did not choose a career in agriculture.
Her husband, Jack Pfister, was the rancher. But when he passed away suddenly in 1997, Rhonda stepped up. She left her job at a car dealership and quickly learned the ranch’s day to day operations in addition to raising three young children.
Now, the Pfister family’s ranch is in its hundredth year, her daughters are grown and successful and Pfister is one of 19 Wyoming Heart of Agriculture Award recipients statewide.
“It was like somebody did notice all the long hours and being a single woman with children, it was kind of an uphill battle, so it was very humbling receiving an award like that,” Pfister said. “And to receive the award with the other women, they’re all very prestigious and have done a lot for agriculture and for our life in Wyoming. Putting me in the same status as those women who have done so much.”
Nineteen Wyoming women were honored for their contributions to the state’s agriculture with Heart of Agriculture awards during a special program Wednesday, Aug. 12, at the Wyoming State Fair in Douglas.
Pfister’s oldest daughter, Cally Lund, said she and her family are proud of Pfister’s work and happy she received recognition for it.
“She’s always given everything for agriculture, the ranch, her family,” Lund said. “And there’s really no one more devoted to maintaining that way of life than she is. She’s selfless and kind, and she puts her heart and soul into everything that she does and every decision that she makes.
Now a Municipal Court Judge in Casper, Lund watched her mother balance work on the ranch with maintaining her family life after her father died.
“She made sure that there was nothing sacrificed as far as her parenting,” Lund said. “She was there for all of our games, all of our parent teacher conferences, all of our events. We never went without as far as being able to attend and participate in doing all of those activities, so she handled it with such grace.”
Pfister runs a cow-calf operation on the ranch 35 miles north of Lusk with the help of a family friend. They sell yearlings and maintain their own herd of replacement heifers.
But she prides herself on being adaptable. The reason she’s a successful woman in agriculture is because she doesn’t subscribe to “old ways” of ranching.
“I am one of those women who doesn’t have to do every year the same as I did in the year before,” Pfister said. “I’ve always been really receptive to listening to advice and what other people have done and I’m willing to try something new and different.”
For Pfister, this profession is difficult but what she loves to do.
Hence the award’s name, the Heart of Agriculture.
“You have to really love what you’re doing,” Pfister said tearfully. “We are feeding a nation of people that at this point in time, a lot of them don’t know where their food comes from. We’re out here working in 50 below, 110 degree weather, trying to take care of our livestock and our land.”