(By Lauren Chase, author of the new photography book, Ladies and Livestock, to be released October 1 exclusively on the Apple iBooks store.)
When I began traveling across Montana and collecting content for the Montana Family Ranching Project, I had no idea what all I would get to see and experience on the ranches. I went from knowing absolutely nothing about cattle production to being able to discuss topics like heterosis without just nodding along. Beyond gaining knowledge of beef and a better understanding of agriculture, something else stuck me as important: the longevity of Montana’s ranches. While many Americans can no longer relate to multi-generational family businesses, it’s still viewed with high esteem and awe.
It’s hard for me to comprehend what fifth and sixth generations actually mean. However, many of the women featured in Ladies and Livestock wear that title with pride. Their ranches have been within their families for more than 100 years…through droughts, fires, blizzards, poor economic times, and even differences in opinions on how the ranch should run. They have gone from log cabins and no electricity to some of the largest and most efficient ranches in the country…and all kept in the family name.
“We have had parts of the ranch in the family for almost 100 years. Each generation has loved it and the lifestyle as much as the next,” said Vicki Olson of Malta, Montana.
This attitude of ranch life is shared by women all across Montana.
“I get to spend every day with the love of my life and together we raise our children to appreciate this life as much as we do. Breeding good black cattle, riding great ranch horses and conserving the beautiful nature around us is not what we do…it’s who we are,” said Lori Swanson of Chinook, Mont.
Reflecting on stories from grandparents and parents, women learn to appreciate their heritage and livelihood on the ranch, and work hard to raise their children with the same upbringing and passion for cattle ranching. It’s important to remember that beef production is a business, but ran by families who hope that for many generations to come will still be raising healthy, wholesome and nutritious beef for the world.
You can read more stories about Montana ranch women in the Montana Stockgrowers Association’s new digital photo book, “Ladies and Livestock: Life on the Ranch,” which will be available for download on the Apple store for $14.99 starting October 1, 2014. Be sure to flip through the pages to watch video interviews with some of the ladies and follow MSGA’s social media sites for daily updates about Montana ranchers.