When we have healthy soil, all Montanans benefit economically

July 12, 2017

Categories: Agriculture, Agriculture, Clean Water, Food, News, Northern Plains Resource Council, Plains Speaking

By: John Brown

John Brown

Thank you to everyone who took time to be a part of the Soil Crawl outside of Big Timber in June. And thank you to all of you who wish you could have come… we felt your support!

We appreciated the Indreland and B Bar ranches, who opened up their space for the benefit of the community, and who hosted Nicole Masters once again, and welcomed Tony Hartshorn and his Bozeman “Ninja” students.

It was great to be with so many neighbors from near and far. It was also really nice to see such a mix of people who are still learning every day, and who want to make their land healthier for the long haul.

I’m currently serving on the Soil Committee of the Northern Plains Resource Council. We’re a group of farmers and ranchers who are motivated by building the health of our land, by collaborating with our neighbors, by going back to the basics of giving to the soil and the community.   We see an opportunity like never before for family farms and ranches to thrive with low inputs, and for our rural communities to thrive, too.

Fighting monopolized markets

Soil Crawl attendees get a closer looks at soil layers at the Indreland Ranch in June.

Family-owned farm and ranch operations are essential to Montana’s economy, our environment, and our communities. But they struggle to survive under the current monopolized markets that force producers to sell more at lower margins, sometimes even at a loss. The health of rural communities is forgotten in that system, as is the health of the land.

We are working to change that.

We are also working to protect the resources needed by farm and ranch operations that are constantly under threat. This includes clean water, air, and soil. And, inevitably, this means we have to stand up for ourselves sometimes, and think outside of the box.

But there’s a huge amount at stake. We know that, 50 years from now, agriculture is still going to be the industry that Montana depends on the most. And our soil is the root of it all.

We know that healthy soil is one of the most important resources we have in Montana, and as stewards, we have to protect it. And with healthy soil, we can clean the air and water, too.

Northern Plains also believes in sharing our own know-how and inspiration with one another. By working together and unifying our resources, we can build stronger operations to stay competitive, even when the odds are stacked against us.

Our hosts, Roger, Wes, and Nicole showed us just that. By taking better care of the land we fight so hard to protect, we can be resilient against unpredictable weather and volatile markets. Building healthy soil is one of the tools we can use.

Standing together, not alone

One thing I’ve learned: people don’t have much of a chance standing by themselves.

But I’ve also learned that, when Montanans get together and stand up for and with one another, they can accomplish more than they dreamed possible.

The chemical companies all stand together. The big packers all stand together. It is critical that we, independent farmers and ranchers, open ourselves to new ideas and stand together as well, or we will never be heard.

And it’s not just farmers and ranchers I’m talking about. All of us in Montana are better off when the farm and ranch economy is healthy.

All of us are better off when rural communities are thriving. All of us are better off when the natural resources we rely on are healthy and abundant.

Standing together with our fellow citizens is the way we can protect independent agriculture – and many other things we value in Montana.


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