As the days get longer and the weather warms, many of us begin to plan and dream of the upcoming growing season. Warmer seasons for many mean connecting with the land and enjoying the fresh produce from our efforts. This connection to our food and how it is produced is a fundamental aspect of our nature.
For those in Montana on the nearly 25,000 family farms and ranches, their connection is year-round. Whether they are feeding their livestock or protecting newly born calves from extreme weather and wildlife, ranchers are always on the clock. For farmers, they too are busy in winter months maintaining equipment for the upcoming season and monitoring global markets to decide when to move recently harvested crops to shipping points.
The dedication of these families provides all of us with the abundant, safe and diverse food we enjoy all year long. At your own tables this month, I challenge you to think deeply and with gratitude how agriculture impacts your life.
March 21 was National Agriculture Day, marked by the Agriculture Council of America and celebrated nationally. We in the Montana State University College of Agriculture and Montana Agricultural Experiment Station are proud to recognize National Agriculture Month.
Montana’s agriculture industry is as diverse as the state’s landscape – farming and ranching are woven into our history, and our modern-day family farms and ranchers are why it thrives today. Montanans feed the world with our livestock, wheat and pea and lentil crops. Our products are valued the world over for their quality, creating an economic impact in our state that exceeds $4 billion annually. Montana grows the most pulse crops (pea, lentil and chickpea) of any state in the nation, and we have the most bumble bee species, a master pollinator, of any state as well. The artisan microbrews we love so much come from Montana barley fields.
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With a changing climate, limited natural resources including water, and new and emerging pests and diseases, production agriculture has never been easy. Yet, like our connection to our gardens, Montanans remain resilient in the ever-changing conditions of agriculture. When we see the risk agriculture requires, I’m continually taken aback that our own Montana State University College of Agriculture is one of MSU’s fastest-growing colleges, one year shy of a decade of enrollment growth. That tells us something: young people have the same passion for how we manage our natural resources, food and fiber production. The future is in good hands.
We owe a great deal of gratitude to those who work in Montana agriculture and to those who will one day fill their shoes. Thank you to all who work in agriculture during this celebratory National Ag Month and every day.
Charles Boyer is the first vice president of agriculture at Montana State University. He oversees five academic departments and seven remote research centers across Montana, encompassing the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station. The MSU College of Agriculture has delivered agriculture teaching, research and outreach for Montana since 1893.