My name is JM Peck. I was born and raised on my family’s cattle ranch in Melrose, Montana. I attended the rural Melrose School before attending Beaverhead County High School. After high school I graduated from Montana State University and worked outside of agriculture for many years before being offered the opportunity to return to the family ranch.
I suppose I have been a Farm Bureau member for a long time, as my parents have been members as long as I can remember. When I graduated college and joined the “real” world, I became a member but this was mainly to take advantage of the great insurance. For many years I always paid my dues but never took the time to understand or be involved with what the Federation does. After moving home, a friend of mine got me involved with our local chapter and I have been active ever since.
Growing up on our ranch I was aware of the issues affecting our operation and agriculture more broadly. For us, the major issues have always seemed to be water resource management, public land policy and wildlife management. After becoming involved with my local Farm Bureau, I quickly realized that these issues were widespread and that there are many other issues affecting agriculture in Montana and around the country. On a whim, I applied through Farm Bureau to attend a training in Washington D.C. about food and consumers. I didn’t know much about what I had signed up for but somehow, I was chosen. I would say this trip and training seminar serves as one of my inspirations for being more involved and wanting to become a better advocate and leader for agriculture.
There are a multitude of issues affecting agriculture today. There are core issues that are shared across agriculture and there are issues that affect different geographic areas and different types of producers. I believe the most important issue of the day is the relationship between producers and consumers. If we cannot effectively communicate with our consumers then they will get their information elsewhere. Locally, we are going to be most impacted by water, wildlife and public lands policy. Through the ACE program, my goals are to become a better listener and communicator. In a world were information travels so fast, real communication between people is often lost.
On a local level I hope to use my newly learned skills and techniques to better communicate with people in my community about their concerns and discuss the issues that affect agriculture and where our food comes from. I plan to do this by meeting with local organizations, giving presentations and leveraging our County Farm Bureau to provide better outreach to our community. I am always trying to be more active on social media and want to be a voice for agriculture and food production with our policy makers.
When I first had the opportunity to return home and work on the ranch it was the “fairy tale” I had always dreamed; riding horses, chasing cattle and driving tractors. My first awakening was when the ranch finances became my responsibility. The next was when I began seeing that there are people who seemingly have a strong dislike for our industry and a misunderstanding about where our food comes from. It was then that I started to realize that continuing to ranch would require more than riding horses, chasing cattle, driving tractors and paying bills. It would require being a leader and advocate for agriculture and the safe, abundant and ethically sourced food supply we enjoy in our country.