The next time you’re tempted to peg every millennial as entitled, whiny, and self-centered, consider Kalyn McKibben.
McKibben grew up as the fifth generation on a ranch near Wyandotte, Okla., a small burg nestled in the northeast corner of the state. As with many ranch kids, a love of the land and the agricultural lifestyle hooked her from an early age. Kalyn was homeschooled through middle school, and only left full-time ranch life to learn more about it: first to high school (so she could be a part of the FFA), then to college at Oklahoma State University where she majored in animal science and agricultural economics. While there, she served as the Oklahoma Collegiate Cattlewomen president, was named the Lloyd Noble Agriculture Research Scholar, and won the 2016 OSU Outstanding College of Agriculture Senior.
“When I got to college, I realized that the opportunities are endless for anyone who wants to go into agriculture,” McKibben says. “Now that I’ve graduated, my goal is to be a positive light in this industry by communicating to consumers what producers really do every day and why we should appreciate them so much.”
Not only has McKibben been a lifelong ranch kid, she’s also been a fan of the ranch cowboys’ ultimate competition: the World Championship Ranch Rodeo in Amarillo, Texas.
“My family has been attending the Finals in November for 10 or 15 years,” she says. “When I started going with them, I realized all the things the Working Ranch Cowboys Foundation does. Of course, I was first drawn to this scholarship because that was what was applicable to me at the time. That was definitely something I did not want to let slip through my hands.”
During her senior year in high school, she applied for, and won, two scholarships administered by the WRCA: one sponsored by the Pryor Creek Ranch Rodeo, and one general scholarship from the Foundation.
“I’ve got a four-year degree under my belt and I don’t have anything holding me back from pursuing my dreams and my career goals,” she says. “So many of my friends and fellow college students are burdened with a lot of debt, so for me it was priceless.”
That’s not all McKibben got from her annual trips to Amarillo, though. One year, a young bronc rider from the Keith Cattle Company and Robbins Ranch rodeo team noticed her walking the trade show, and in her words, “he saw me, reached out to me, pursued me, and didn’t give up.” She and Connor Grokett were married in October and moved to Osage County, Okla. They hope to one day have a WRCA ranch rodeo team of their own.
In the meantime, as Kalyn is working to launch her professional career she remains grateful for the help she got along the way.
“The WRCF desires to support kids in this industry,” she says. “Whether you’re going into an ag-related field or a completely different industry, they realize the value of supporting ranch-raised kids because those kids have a unique background and they can advocate for our industry.”
Editor’s note: The WRCF seeks to help the ranching community in crisis and they rely heavily on donations to meet those needs. If you would like to help them support working cowboys in times of crisis, become a member today by visiting wrca.wildapricot.org/Donate.