Stewards of the Land: The Women of Montana Agriculture

One of the nation’s top-producers of cattle and wheat, Montana is well-known for its abundance of farms and ranches, each run by those dedicated to agriculture in the state. Although the contributions of farming in Montana are well-known, the women behind these operations have been largely overlooked, despite being one of the fastest-growing categories of farmers and ranchers according to the US Department of Agriculture.


 In our new book Montana Women: From the Ground Up by Kristine Ellis and the Broadwater and Glacier County Conservation Districts, the stories of these women in agriculture are brought to the forefront through an oral history project six years in the making. Working with the Department of National Resources and Conservation (DNRC), the book features stories from over fifty different women, and their experiences with conservation and agriculture in Montana.  Here, we’ve featured two of the women from the upcoming book who have embodied the principles of conservation and stewardship during their time on the land.


Pauline Adams Webb

Left: Pauline Adams Webb at thirty-one, 1951. Right: Pauline Adams Webb in 2015. Both reprinted from Montana Women: From the Ground Up by Kristine Ellis for the Broadwater and Glacier County Conservation Districts courtesy of the Webb family and Denise Thompson, Broadwater Conservation District (pgs. 136 and 138, The History Press, 2018).


Left: Pauline Adams Webb at thirty-one, 1951. Right: Pauline Adams Webb in 2015. Both reprinted from Montana Women: From the Ground Up by Kristine Ellis for the Broadwater and Glacier County Conservation Districts courtesy of the Webb family and Denise Thompson, Broadwater Conservation District (pgs. 136 and 138, The History Press, 2018).


A ranch-owner for nearly forty years from the Broadwater Conservation District, Pauline Webb came to Montana from Iowa after marrying her husband Earl Webb in the early 1940s. Webb was known as a fiercely independent woman, and had been a schoolteacher in Iowa prior to her marriage. She continued to teach while working on the ranch with her husband, and was a member of several social societies in the Townsend area, including the Red Hat Society, leading a 4-H group, and other local groups. Pauline was passionate about both teaching and agriculture, keeping a garden where she grew “practically all of [her] vegetables,” and spent many years teaching children about the importance of agriculture. This devotion was lifelong, and even at an elderly age, Pauline travelled to a pecan farm to get pecan seeds in different stages of development to show her students in a HeadStart program. Stewardship was also important on the ranch, where Pauline and her husband employed several conservation measures, such as avoiding overgrazing by keeping a small cattle herd. Pauline passed away in 2016, but throughout her lifetime advocated how important it is that people understand “where their food comes from,” hoping to close the gap between those who buy food, and those who produce it.


Dorothy Whitten Hahn

Left: Dorothy and her team of horses for bucking hay in 1949. Right: Dorothy in 2017. Both reprinted from Montana Women: From the Ground Up by Kristine Ellis for the Broadwater and Glacier County Conservation Districts courtesy of the Hahn family and Ross Campbell, DNRC (pgs. 62 and 66, The History Press, 2018).

Left: Dorothy and her team of horses for bucking hay in 1949. Right: Dorothy in 2017. Both reprinted from Montana Women: From the Ground Up by Kristine Ellis for the Broadwater and Glacier County Conservation Districts courtesy of the Hahn family and Ross Campbell, DNRC (pgs. 62 and 66, The History Press, 2018).

Also from the Broadwater Conservation District, Dorothy Hahn married a rancher 26 years her senior and moved to Montana knowing little about farm work. However, she “took to it like a duck does to water,” as she puts it, taking part in all aspects of running the ranch. Though it was more typical at the time for men to run the ranches while their wives managed things at home, her husband Paul stressed that they “were in this together,” including her in all ranch-related decisions. This teamwork helped them to endure several strings of bad luck, the first of which involved the stated declaring eminent domain on their first ranch to replace a local dam. With the purchase of their second ranch, the Hahns became very dedicated to the conservation of their land, instituting measures including efficient irrigation, minimum tillage, and cover crops. In recognition of this effort, the ranch received the 2018 Environmental Stewardship Award from the Montana Stockgrowers Association. Today, Dorothy’s ranch is mostly run by her sons and grandsons, but she remains involved with community events and cooking midday ranch meals.


To read Pauline and Dorothy’s full stories, and to learn more about female stewards and conservationists, check out Montana Women From the Ground Up!


What do you think of these remarkable women in agriculture? Let us know in the comments below!







 
Posted: 6/6/2018 12:00:00 AM| with 0 comments


Related Titles from Arcadia & The History Press
Montana Women From the Ground Up: Passionate Voices in Agriculture & Land Conservation
Growing up on the family ranch, Linda Finley fought hard to gain the acceptance and respect as a ranch hand that her brothers took for granted. Arlene Pile barely remembers learning to ride a horse and run machinery—she was so young. She learned to drive on an 8N Ford tractor ...
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