This week we salute all the men, women and children in Teton County who operate farms and ranches here, raising food to feed the country. March is National Agriculture Week, a time for communities to recognize those whose work helps feed our nation.
Teton County has approximately 686 farms keeping 887,436 acres of land held free from subdivision. These farms and ranches not only raise cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, poultry and horses, but they also provide habitat for wildlife from deer to elk and from badgers to grizzly bears. Most Montana farms and ranches do not receive any compensation from the state for hosting public wildlife so the least those of us who aren’t landowners can do is say thank you for helping keep Montana’s abundant wildlife.
We can also say thank you to those farmers and ranchers who work under inhospitable conditions (calving in -30 weather, for example, or fencing in 90-degree heat), who put the health and comfort of their animals first, and who work always to improve the condition of cropland and rangeland, who are good stewards of the land through the generations.
It’s never been easy to be a farmer or a rancher. The work is physically hard, the revenue received for commodities is set by the buyers (not the sellers), and there’s no way to pass increased production costs on to the consumers. But despite the tough lifestyle, most farmers and ranchers wouldn’t change a thing. They and generations of their families have put down deep roots into Montana’s soil, and they have become part of the land. Nothing is more heartbreaking than to see a farm or ranch family go out of business.
So this month, when you’re at the grocery store or a local restaurant, taking in a show at the Roxy Theatre or fueling up your rig, take a moment if you see a local farmer or rancher and thank them for their efforts to grow foods that you enjoy. Let them know that their efforts are appreciated and that they are not taken for granted. And, as always, buy your food as locally as you can and support the efforts of local farmers and ranchers.
Our hats are off to Teton County’s farmers and ranchers. We hope March’s below normal temperatures begin to warm up and that 2023 brings adequate precipitation and temperate weather that will help farmers and ranchers grow successful crops and animals this year.