CASPER, Wyo. (AP)--Life as a young rancher in Wyoming is funny sometimes, says Troy Pimentel.
"It will come along and kick you in the teeth, and then the next day it will pay your dental bills," said Pimentel, who runs a 1,200-acre operation east of Powell.
Dec. 6 was definitely one of those dental bill days for Pimentel, as he was awarded a brand-new 2004 Chevrolet pickup in Casper. Pimentel won the truck as Wyoming's winner in the Farm Credit Services of America Young and Beginning Truck Sweepstakes.
The purpose of the sweepstakes is to promote younger and newer ranchers and show support for them, according to Rick Griffith, vice president of the Farm Credit Services of America's Wyoming marketplace. Trucks were also awarded to sweepstakes winners in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.
Pimentel has owned the Whistle Creek Ranch in Park County for a little over two years, he said.
"I've got a few cows. I mostly run yearlings," he said. "I'm pretty flexible what I run. I've had everything from feeder cows to 300-pound calves."
Unlike a lot of younger ranchers in Wyoming, Pimentel, 34, was not born into the state's agricultural industry.
Born in California, Pimentel was raised in what was then the small town of Hollister about an hour south of San Jose. In the past 20 years, Hollister, which was a small "cow town" when Pimentel was growing up, has been assimilated into the massive "Bay Area City" of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose, he said.
"I don't have any desire to go back," he said.
So instead, he is doing the job he has wanted to do for most of his life in Wyoming.
"When I was real little I wanted to be a vet. Then about 10 or 12, I decided I wanted to be a rancher, and I don't think I have changed after that," he said. "I was lucky enough to know that going through school and stuff."
Pimentel worked on his great uncle's ranch during summers growing up and worked his way through college building fence, he said. After school, Pimentel worked at ranches from Chugwater to Klamath Falls, Ore.
Then, in 2002, with some help from his in-laws, Charley and Penny Whiton, Pimentel was able to get his land east of Powell.
"It is real tough" to start running a ranch in these times, said Pimentel's father-in-law, Charley Whiton, who owns a ranch outside Sheridan. "Ground is expensive, and cattle are expensive."
Like Pimentel, Whiton is a first-generation Wyoming rancher.
"I was the first stupid one," Whiton said with a chuckle.
"I was born in New York, just outside of the city," he said. "We came out here as kids to a dude ranch in Sheridan, and I just fell in love with it."
Griffith agrees with Whiton that it is not easy to get started in agriculture now, and that is why the Farm Credit Service of America is doing what it can to help the next generation.
"Our young and beginning producers, they are the future of the agriculture industry, and we realize it is a little more difficult to get started and established. And anything we can do to help those producers, that is our commitment," Griffith said.
"Ag is in danger of growing too old, so it was kind of neat to see someone foster the younger generation coming in," Pimentel said.
Besides giving away trucks, the Farm Credit Service of America provides loans to ranchers and farmers and scholarships for those getting an education in agriculture, Griffith said.