On the Trail

Travels with MFBF’s State Staff and Volunteer Leaders

Montana Farm Bureau wants to keep you “in the know” with the federation’s activities. Tune in regularly to see what your county leaders are up to and how MFBF is promoting agriculture!


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September 24th, 2016: Farmers & ranchers working together to fight hunger

2016_09_streits-family-14As a Montana farm or ranch families, we take great pride in raising safe, healthy and affordable food for your family and other families across Montana and around the world.

Advancements in agriculture have allowed a single famer to produce enough food to feed 155 people, which is up significantly from 1960 when that number was only 25. Your harvests are abundant, yet in Montana, a state where raising food is still the No. 1 industry, there are more than 139,000 households that struggle with food insecurity.  That number includes 45,110 children… a shocking and heartbreaking number.  How can we change this?

Since farmers and ranchers are America’s first harvesters, our industry has the ability to have a huge impact on this issue.  Here are a few ideas, but the sky is the limit and every little bit helps!

Develop a relationship with your local food bank

Working with your local food bank/pantry will give you a better understanding of the needs in your local community.  As an individual or a county Farm Bureau, developing a relationship with the people who are addressing this need gives you a great opportunity to put the Farm Bureau network to work.  This is an easy one… pick up the phone or stop by and simply say, “How can we help?”

Donate food to your local food bank

Protein is the most needed item, and one that every food bank cannot keep stocked on their shelves.  Consider donating some of Montana’s delicious, locally grown beef!  Maybe you had a bumper crop of sweet corn or potatoes or your garden produced more than you can eat…keep your local food bank in mind as you decide what to do with all of nature’s abundance.

mfbnSupport the companies that help fight hunger

Many of Montana’s commodities need to be processed before they are ready for store shelves.  The Montana Food Bank Network (MFBN) has a number of companies they work with to process the raw commodities, such as wheat, which can then be donated to the Montana Food Bank Network.  For example, Pasta Montana is their main supplier of pasta products and Milling Montana provides them with Our Neighbors Daily Bread flour.  When farmers and ranchers works with these companies (and others) they are helping to fight hunger by growing the grains needed for these products.

Hoofin It For HungerRegister today for Hoofin’ It for Hunger!

Montana Farm Bureau’s very own Young Farmer and Rancher Program is doing their part to help the fight by holding the Hoofin’ It for Hunger trail run October 8 in Miles City.  A great new addition: you don’t have to be there in person or be a runner to support us.  Simply go to 406running.com and register to be a Virtual Runner.  We’ll send you a Hoofin’ It race shirt and all the proceeds go to the Montana Food Bank Network.  In fact, over the past five years this event has donated nearly $30,000 and more than 12,000 pounds of food to the Montana Food Bank Network. Let’s increase that number. Sign up for Hoofin’ It for Hunger today!


September 21st, 2016: How to Rock the YF&R Discussion Meet

The 2015 Montana Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers Discussion Meet winner Jennie Anderson with her new Polaris Ranger, working on their ranch near Melville.

The 2015 Montana Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers Discussion Meet winner Jennie Anderson with her new Polaris Ranger, working on their ranch near Melville.

The annual YF&R Discussion Meet is fast approaching. This November at the MFBF Annual Convention, many young farmers and ranchers will leave their livestock and tractors behind to descend upon Billings and compete for a 2016 Polaris Ranger. If you are considering joining the competition, but perhaps are little uncertain of what to expect, here are a few tips to get you going in the right direction.

  • Know the Questions. Although you will not be asked to discuss every question at the Discussion meet, you won’t know which of the 5 possible questions you will be discussing until an hour or so before the round. So it pays to know and study all the questions. You can find this year’s questions here.
  • Prepare. Being competitive in the YF&R Discussion Meet does not mean you need to become a bona fide expert in all Ag related policy. However, it is important to develop at least a basic understanding of the issues being discussed. A great place to start when researching topics is the American Farm Bureau website www.FB.org. AFBF is a tremendous resource with lots of information on pertinent issues in agriculture and many more great links to other sources. Also, never underestimate the power of a Google search.
  • Develop Some Nuance. Knowing the questions and understanding the issues will get you a long way, but if you really want to win that Ranger, having some nuance in your arguments can help you stand out in the crowd. Begin developing your arguments and ideas for the discussion meet while you are researching the questions. If something strikes you as a unique angle or view on a topic, remember it. Write it down. Keep in mind that as with most things in life, ag issues are not black and white. Be sure when studying topics to also read articles with opposing views. To develop strong positions it is important to understand the other side. This will help set you apart!
  • Speak up! Preparing, studying and knowing what you want to say is great, but sometimes the hardest part of a discussion meet is actually saying it! In the heat of the moment it can be intimidating to speak up, but you can’t win that Polaris Ranger unless you talk. Don’t let other competitors monopolize the talking space. Have confidence in yourself, take a deep breath, and let your voice be heard.
  • But Be Nice. There is a reason it is called a discussion meet and not a debate. The grand purpose of a discussion meet is to foster communication and cooperation between individuals in an effort to solve complex issues. Therefore, excessive arguing, monopolizing talking time, or attempting to stump other competitors by putting them on the spot is counterproductive and discouraged. The judges will notice. This is not to say that you can’t disagree with your fellow competitors. Disagreements and differing views are essential to facilitating meaningful discussions and solutions.  So disagree, but be nice about it.
  • Keep An Open Mind. Come into a discussion meet round with a good idea of what you want to say, but be flexible. Listen to and consider what others are saying as well. A competitor that can incorporate other’s ideas into their position as well as having strong points of their own are generally the strongest.

Do not let the questions or the format discourage you. With a little preparation (hosting a local discussion meet is a great start!) this year’s discussion meet is anyone’s game. Good luck!

— Jennie Anderson, Sweet Grass County Farm Bureau member & 2015 Montana Discussion Meet winner


September 14th, 2016: Lessons learned working in Montana food banks

The Hoofin’ it for Hunger Hoofin It For Hunger5k, 10k and half marathon is an annual trail run (or walk!), hosted by Montana Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers and Fort Keogh. All proceeds benefit the Montana Food Bank Network. Since the beginning of this event in 2011, the race has raised $23,000 and donated more than 12,000 pounds of food to the Montana Food Bank Network. The race will be held October 8 in Miles City. Register today!

Montana Food Bank Network Volunteer Coordinator Elizabeth Weaver.

Montana Food Bank Network Volunteer Coordinator Elizabeth Weaver.

The following blog series by Montana Food Bank Network Volunteer Coordinator Elizabeth Weaver shares a little more insight to hunger issues in Montana, and why we’ve chosen to champion this cause.  

 What does hunger in Montana look like?

We all know that Montana is the Last Best Place, but for nearly 14% of our fellow statesman, this is not the case.  139,000 Montanans face hunger today without consistent access to affordable food.  One out of every five of these are kids.

How is this possible given Montana’s rich history of agriculture production?  The answer to that question is: it’s complicated. We all know Montana is a big state that is sparsely populated (which is why we love it), but when it comes to feeding people, its sheer size is an obstacle.

This spring, I visited eastern Montana as part of the Montana Food Bank Network’s Client Hunger Survey. Every other year we conduct this survey at food pantries in a dozen selected communities around the state. We chat with the clients visiting the food banks and ask them a series of questions to collect data that provides a true snapshot of hunger in our state. From chatting with folks in communities like Glendive and Wolf Point and Wibaux and Broadus I learned a lot about hunger in Montana.

I learned that remote communities are difficult for a convenient and centralized store to take root.

Freight of products to such locations cause the final price of the item to be too high for the customer to afford. Carmen from Broadus shared with me that their tiny town is mostly seniors who have trouble getting to the grocery store outside the town’s tiny IGA, which is too expensive for a retiree on a fixed income to shop at. The majority of the clients who access the Powder River Senior Center’s food pantry or emergency food box program are senior citizens. The same is true for neighboring towns.

I learned that many food pantry clients are working or are looking for work.

Some were even looking for a second job because their first job was only part time or they were not making enough to make ends meet. One client in Glendive told me that medical bills contributed to his need to utilize the food pantry. It was not an isolated incident either. What I learned was that when faced with the predicament between paying bills/rent/ medicine and paying for food, many households opt to pay the bills first.

I learned public nutrition programs are helpful but often don’t last long enough.

Senior Food Commodities can be limited in what foods are offered and seniors often have to drive or walk to the designated location to pick up those commodities. SNAP and WIC benefits are great at providing more access to needed food, but these benefits are often inadequate and don’t last past the middle of the month. Free and Reduced Priced School Breakfast and Lunch programs are great at feeding kids and making sure their tummies are full so they can concentrate in the classroom. However, these programs only operate when school is in session so dinner, weekends, and school breaks, kids have to find alternative resources for their meals.

The most important thing I learned was how hopeful and grateful people were for their local food bank or pantry.

These organizations are making a difference in the lives of our neighbors. Through the hard work of local food pantries and schools and community programs, food is being distributed in more communities across Montana than ever before. Thanks to the support of individuals and organizations like yourself, we are gaining ground in our fight against hunger and one step closer to ending hunger in Montana.

Elizabeth Weaver is the Development/Volunteer Coordinator for the Montana Food Bank Network, based in Missoula. As the only statewide food bank, the Montana Food Bank Network solicits, sorts, repackages, warehouses, and distributes donated and purchased food to charitable programs that directly serve hungry Montanans. From a main warehouse and office in Missoula, MFBN distributes emergency food across the state through a network of over 150 Partner Agencies.


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