Posted 9/13/16 (Tue)
By Cecile Wehrman
Divide County has a new extension agent, but the name is one that will be familiar to many in the area.
Brandon Biwer, who grew up in the Stanley community, is the grandson of Leonard Biwer, who held the exact same post from 1970 to 1987.
“I don’t think this office has changed a lot since Leonard left. It’s got the same 1970s paneling,” said Biwer, seated in the very same space his grandfather once occupied.
Brandon is the son of Neal Biwer (DCHS Class of 1974) and Cherlyn Binde, daughter of Harley and Marlene Binde, rural Ray.
Though he may seem almost born to become an extension agent, that wasn’t Biwer’s original aim.
Having grown up on the family’s small grains and cattle ranch, he graduated from North Dakota State University with a degree in Natural Resources Management in 2007 and also worked seasonally for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as a fireman at the Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge. His duties involved range ecology and vegetative studies as well as helping with prescribed burns.
After ranching with the family for several years and also training horses -- he has a particular love for starting colts and also for training herd dogs -- Biwer had the opportunity to go to work for a year in Kazakhstan, helping a company called Global Beef set up a 155-head cattle ranch on the southern edge of the Siberian steppe.
“That was an interesting year,” he said, which involved living in primitive conditions in a little village with no running water. While helping train native Kazakhs to move beyond their traditional subsistence form of agriculture industry, Biwer also had to bridge a language barrier.
Roughly half of all native Kazakhs are ethnic Mongolians and the rest are German/Russian, with Russian being the dominant language.
“I learned a lot of Russian in the year I was over there,” but, he said, he is far from fluent in the language.
Where once he thought he was more interested in a career in a federal conservation arena, he became more and more interested in ranching and agriculture, in general, over the years.
Returning to the U.S. in 2014, Biwer worked in Texas training horses and then came home in the summer of 2015, going to work for an ag producer in White Shield and acquiring a fiancee.
When the position of Divide County Extension Agent opened up last spring, it seemed a great fit.
“I love farming and ranching so I’m excited to work in a job that helps promote that lifestyle in rural communities,” he said.
Since starting work last week, much of Biwer’s time has been taken up with training. He met Friday for the first time with members of the local ag improvement association, and they are hosting a Divide County Crop Meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 21 from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Crosby Community Center.
Besides inviting members of the community to meet Biwer, the events will include a presentation by speaker Prashant Jha, a weed scientist at Southern Ag Research Center in Huntley, Mont. A meal will be served and topics will include a recap of small grain variety performance in Divide and Williams counties.
As time moves forward, Biwer said he is interested in stimulating more youth interest in showing cattle and would be interesting in trying to offer a herd dog training clinic.
In the weeks to come he will also be assessing the possibility of resuming a regular extension newspaper column.