SIDNEY HERALD – NICOLE LUCINA – In the book, “Montana Women From the Ground Up, Passionate Voices in Agriculture and Land Conservation,” you will find the stories of women who are strong, independent farmers and ranchers.
The book was written by Kristine Ellis and was released this year. The book is a compilation of women across the state and their stories and accounts of what life is like as a woman in agriculture. In the book it states, “Since 1978 the number of farms and ranches operated by women has more than doubled.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, women are the fastest growing category. While women are stepping up to the plate on this, there has been a drastic number of farmers and ranchers retiring.
“Each woman’s story is uniquely her own, but the common threads running through all are their passion for farming and ranching and their determination to leave their land better than how they found it,” Ellis said.
This book offers you a look into each of those unique stories from these women. The book is a good representation of what life is truly like for the women in agriculture. Ellis wrote, “As you read what they have to say, you will be struck by their strength and endurance. These are dynamic, intelligent women who love what they do. It is their purpose and their passion, and I am grateful for their willingness to share their stories.”
The book tells the story of each woman and how they came to be a farmer or rancher. In most cases, these women grew up on a farm or ranch. While the book features longer stories up to a few pages long, it also has smaller stories throughout the book that are boxed off and a quick read.
Wendy Bengochea Becker of the Richland County Conservation District is featured in the book. It explains that Becker grew up with her three brothers on their parents’ farm. The farm was located in northern Richland County.
Becker received her master’s in animal science and returned home with her husband to run the family operation. “I’m a centuries-old farm family, from my family in Europe and my grandpa’s family. That’s all we ever were,” Becker states.
She added, “I feel very connected to it. I had always told my mom and dad I wanted to farm, always. But I was the girl, and I wasn’t the oldest. Dad finally realized I was serious about it and made the decision to let me run the farm.”
This was before Becker even finished school. She did everything you could imagine from feeding the animals, seeding crops, baled the crops and even took on all her father’s bookwork. “I did it all,” stated Becker. “I still wasn’t the boy, but he got over it. I told him then, if I come back, I want to buy the place. I don’t want to rent it. He said that was fine, he was going to retire. He went from ‘you can’t do it,’ to ‘well, of course you can.’”
While this is only one example of the stories found in the book, it was a good and interesting read. Back in 2012 Linda Brander started talking to conservation district (CD) administrators around Montana. Brander was looking to do an oral history project. Her goal was to protect as well as preserve the stories of Montana’s women in agriculture.
Brander received support from Laurie Zeller who is the CD Bureau Chief, as well as Mary Sexton who used to be the DNRC director. Brander also had help from previous administrator of the Glacier County CD and the administrator of the Broadwater CD. “They took the idea and ran with it,” stated Ellis.
By December of 2017, the women spearheading the project had 50 women who had come forward to tell their stories. One of the stories includes the one of Lee Jacobsen, who was the first woman in Montana that was licensed to artificially inseminate cattle. This book is full of women like Jacobsen who didn’t let being a woman stop them from pursuing farming and ranching.
Picture Credit: Book Cover, Montana Women From the Ground Up, Passionate Voices in Agriculture and Land Conservation, written by Kristine Ellis, Arcadia Publishing, May 7, 2018.