The Resilient Ranch: field day at Anderson Ranch!

Montana is rightfully called Big Sky Country, and it’s not unusual to drive 3 or 4 hours to attend a meeting, visit friends, or join a field day to learn about ranching or farming. On a hot and smoky day in August, Anderson Ranch in the Tom Miner Basin, near Yellowstone National Park, hosted several dozen folks who came to learn more about resilient ranching.

Andrew Anderson, who hosted the event with his wife Hilary, talked about putting modern livestock handling in place and the effects of low-stress stockmanship.

The Resilience and Today’s Ranch Field Day was sponsored by the Western Sustainability Exchange and the Tom Miner Basin Association, two organizations that work with ranchers and land owners, and local, state, and federal agencies to conserve Montana’s open space, farming and ranching heritage, and wildlife habitat, and strengthen rural economies.

Ranching in the Rocky Mountain West is a complex operation, involving range management, soil health, plant diversity, livestock handling, and predator management. The day’s workshops focused on soil health and carbon sequestration, low-stress livestock handling, avoiding conflicts with predators, and the value of range riding.


Montana’s NEW Range Riders

(Length: 8 minutes. Bree is softspoken, you may need to adjust your audio.)

While traditionally range riders – “cowboys” of old – were men, many of the range riders in the Tom Miner Basin today are women.

Listen as Bree Morrison tells about her life as a range rider, how she got to where she is today, and some of the challenges she faces every day.


The bounty of the Gallatin Valley!

Amaltheia Organic Dairy is more than an organic goat dairy and cheese maker and it’s more than the home of delicious organic whey-fed pigs. Amaltheia is also home to Nate Brown’s beautiful organic produce.

(Source: Nate Brown, Amaltheia Dairy)

In a valley sadly being encroached on by developers throwing up cheaply made and expensively priced homes for Bozeman’s growing population, Amaltheia proudly produces a full menu of protein and produce.

It is operations like Amaltheia, run by livestock raisers and cheese makers Mel and Sue Brown, and their son Nate Brown, produce farmer, who need to be honored, respected, and protected, for the hard work they do to deliver some of the best food in Montana.

Look at those root vegetables! Look at those peppers! You can do your part by shopping at your local farmers market. And while you’re there, hug a farmer and thank them for your food!


Does your strawberry taste as good as it looks?

Strawberries are my absolute favorite fruit, and I look forward to strawberry season every year. Depending on where you live that season can start as early as mid-June or as late as mid-July. This year we bought our last quart of berries at the farmers market the second week of August. They were amazing!

Every year or so, when the first California berries make their appearance,  we’re seduced into buying one – just one – box of strawberries at the supermarket. They always look so beautiful: large berries, bright red, the leaves still attached and fresh…

I imagine all kinds of wonderful treats made with them but first I just want to slice them up with a little honey and have them with yogurt.

Silly me!

Open the plastic clamshell that displays those berries in all their voluptuousness; like Botticelli’s Venus on the seashell. Hold that little beauty in your palm – OK, stop salivating! Make that first slice right through the center…

Oops… when did ripe strawberries have white centers? Where’s that wonderful strawberry smell? And the taste? Cardboard has more taste!


Where’s your beef … from?

B-Bar Ranch organic grass-fed White Park cattle, Big Timber MT

We all like to imagine that the beef we eat came from a cow living a happy-go-lucky life, frolicking on lush green pastures until a gentle and painless end. Obviously the average American does NOT want to meet their dinner while he/she is still standing.

However, the idea that you could, if you wanted, meet the farmer who raised your dinner, is not so far fetched. It’s just not so easy when you shop in any conventional big name supermarket. You’ll find miles of plastic-wrapped Styrofoam trays full of bright red steaks, roasts, and ground beef, but you’re not likely to see any labels identifying where it was born and raised.

Consideration for the animals and the consumers who eat them has been overtaken by the drive for profit. In response to the damaging impact of feedlot production, more and more farmers and ranchers are choosing to return to, and improve upon, traditional methods of raising cattle on grass.


It takes a community to raise healthy sheep!

Enclosed by surrounding mountain ranges, where black cattle and white sheep graze in sunshine filtered through a slight haze of wildfire smoke, a community comes together to concentrate on healthy animals, healthy soil, and healthy families.

In small conference rooms, living rooms, and farmers’ fields, there are ranchers teaching ranchers new techniques to manage – and reduce – parasite infestation in small ruminants. Dave Scott, NCAT Agriculture Specialist and owner of Montana Highland Lamb, led friends and neighbors through diagnostic systems to identify infected sheep and methods to help control parasites.


A Soil Crawl in Big Timber MT

Nichole Masters, the director of Integrity Soils, Auckland NZ.

When one of the world’s experts on soil health and land resilience (from Auckland, NZ, a 9,500 mile trek) is scheduled to lead a day-long workshop just 170 miles away, you – and 70+ other people – will do everything you can to be there!

Nichole Masters, the director of Integrity Soils, is a social ecologist, systems thinker, and a trained adult educator. She is passionate about getting farmers and ranchers back into control of their soil health and nutrients, and crop and animal management.

By adopting a “soils first” – ground up – approach, she teaches methods that have positive effects on both human and environmental health.

She demonstrated elements of the carbon cycle and described the importance of carbon and microbial life in the soil.

Following the highly energetic Ms. Masters across fields, pastures, and paddocks for 8+ hours reveals not only her knowledge, passion, and commitment, but her enjoyment of and sensitivity to soil as a living system. What’s under your feet is not “dirt!”

Learn more about measuring the BRIX of forage plants, how to improve biodiversity by feeding seed to cattle, how the soil breathes, and what on earth are dung beetles good for?


From Sex Worker to Farmer

His jaw dropped.

When 29-year-old China Dessale approached the Wain Hotel where she used to work as a commercial sex worker, carrying a basket teeming with cabbage, carrots, lettuce and eggs, the hotel owner couldn’t believe his eyes. He remembered China when she was 15 years old. In desperation, China had joined the same hotel to make a livelihood in Ethiopia’s risky commercial sex worker industry.

Today, China and 17 sex workers from Kombolcha work in a USAID Urban Gardens Program (USAID UGP) garden only a half kilometer from the hotel. The group originally started a poultry farm in 2006 through local implementing partner Nigat in the town of Kombolcha, in northeastern Ethiopia. Last year they diversified their portfolio and added vegetables to the thousands of eggs they were selling to various restaurants and cafés around town.

In 2010, the group graduated from the USAID UGP program and has been gardening nutritious vegetables since. In an odd play of events, their former care-taker has become one of their most valued customers. After graduation the group expanded its garden and with the 2010 savings purchased another 250 chickens.

(Repeat: This article was previously published on GoodFood World.
We thought you’d enjoy reading it again.)