Review: Montana Women, From the Ground Up — Passionate Voices in Agriculture & Land Conservation

(KRISTINE ELLIS, THE HISTORY PRESS, 2018)

By KATHLEEN MULROY

An abiding love of the land, a strong streak of independence, a willingness to work hard, and the determination to succeed are characteristics shared by every ranch woman profiled in Kristine Ellis’s non-fiction book, Montana Women, From the Ground Up.

Montana rancher Valerie Wadman says about her deep connection to her ranch: “…if it’s in you, it’s in you. It isn’t going to go away. That inner love for your land is the biggest asset you have if you are going to succeed in farming and ranching. It will give you the determination to make it work.”

The women whose stories are told in this book also share a thirst for new knowledge. They know how important it is to keep up with modern agricultural techniques.

Lee Jacobsen, for example, became the first woman in Montana who was licensed to artificially inseminate cattle. Rancher Donna Griffin says of modern ranching, “Now there is so much more to (ranching), it requires a broad knowledge of global markets and astute business skills as well.” She says that ranchers have to understand areas such as soil health, land conservation, livestock breeding, and trade opportunities.

As for raising children on a ranch, these women say that there’s nothing better for kids, whether they end up staying in agriculture or going on to other careers.

Glenna Stucky, who not only ranches but is deeply involved in her community, including 4H, says, “Kids who grow up on a ranch learn how to do chores, how to act around livestock, and how to respect animals of all kinds, as well as to respect the world around us.”

After raising her children on the ranch, Stucky feels fortunate to have been able to involve her grandchildren, and now her great-grandchildren, in the lifestyle she loves so much.

Linda Finley’s family has run cattle on their ranch since the late 1800s, so the land has been home to multiple generations.

She remembers that both of her grandmothers taught her to love working outside. Finley notes that her childhood was “cash poor but full of joy,” and she “thoroughly enjoyed it all.” She says of her life now, “I have quite possibly the best job in the world because I can do a hundred different things in a day.”

Ranching is not an easy life, but it’s one these Montana women love with a passion that has kept them going even in the toughest times. I finished this book with a real admiration for them, and a better understanding of their interesting lives. MSN

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