It feels like our Montana farmers should get more than just one day of recognition. After all, agriculture remains one of the major economic contributors in Big Sky Country. The Montana Department of Agriculture notes that ag is a $4.6 billion industry in the state. Farms and ranches cover 58 million acres, with approximately 26,900 operators growing crops, raising livestock, or (usually) a little bit of both.

Montana farmers feed the nation.

Not only our nation, but much of the world receive food crops from Montana. The Montana Wheat and Barley Committee notes that about 80% of our grains are exported around the globe. Some readers might not realize that Montana is also the top producer of lentils in the United States. We rank 2nd for dried peas and 3rd in the US for garbanzo beans (source: Great Falls Tribune). Considered a "pulse crop" nearly 90% of lentils are exported.

Photo by Michael Foth, Townsquare Media
Photo by Michael Foth, Townsquare Media

Montana is the #1 producer of organic wheat.

We lead the nation as a producer of organic grains, beating out Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Wyoming for the top spot, according to the Organic Trade Association. Wheat (all varieties) is the biggest crop, with a staggering 457,360,000 bushels produced in 2020, per USDA crop reports.

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Farmer in Wheat Field
Credit: Tony Lomas, GettyStock/ThinkStock

Farm and ranch land is good for Montanans.

Farming can be a brutal business. A couple of back-to-back years of unstable prices, grasshoppers, drought, and hail can wipe out a struggling operation.  As more and more of Montana becomes filled with McMansions, some farmers face rising pressure to sell their land to the highest bidder and call it a day. Other large parcels of land get snapped up by out-of-state buyers. The next thing you know, there's a lock on the gate, and the friendly Montana farmer that gave you permission to hunt is no longer in the equation.

Next time you see a farmer at the gas station or Shiptons, tell 'em "thanks!" I bet they'll appreciate it.

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