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Howard Moss, Cowboy - Dixon, MT
Howard Moss, Cowboy - Dixon, MT July 1999. Photo: Marta Brooks

History of Farming and Ranching: A Study of the Local Culture by St. Ignatius High School

Five St. Ignatius High School students present and preserve their area's native traditions using text of interviews with farmers and ranchers of the Mission Valley of Montana and with 26 8 x 10 photographs. The text of a report summarizing their findings was written by their teacher Marta Brooks. Students in Brooks' English and history classes used the "heritage education" approach to the study of local culture. They collected stories, oral histories, historical documents, art and geological information that reflect the merging of landscape and culture. Project materials include interview transcripts with local residents involved in dairy farming, potato and grain farming, cattle ranching, horse ranching and hog raising. Included also is an agriculture report on Lake County by Jack Stivers, County Extension Agent.

Montana's agricultural communities rely mainly on cattle and grain production, yet, on the local level, Montana's traditional farmers and ranchers are becoming a dying breed. Although new technologies, improved marketing strategies, and government involvement may have improved life for some farmers and ranchers, life has become more complicated for the rural farmer, who has been beset by successive financial crises and changing global weather patterns. At the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, 40 Montana farmers and ranchers gathered to voice their discontent with agricultural trade barriers that are pinching them more than other farm communities because of a lack of diversity. Moreover, the 1990s saw a decrease in Mission Valley in the numbers of farms and ranches of 100 to 1,000 acres. They were being replaced by 10 to 40 acre "ranchettes," and with them an influx of new urban born-and-bred emigres from California or other states, who had come to escape city ills but who had no roots in the local traditions and heritage. The change in the local landscape with the inevitable change in the local culture that followed have raised the concern of the long-time local farmers and ranchers and prompted this project to document and preserve the area's native culture and traditions before they are obliterated.

Originally submitted by: Max Baucus, Senator.

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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