Beyond the Weather: A Ranch Woman’s Perspective on Agricultural Stress

by Courtney Kibblewhite

From the pressure of marrying in to an established ranching family to how to get through loneliness and grief, Jenny Stovall gets “Beyond the Weather”. In an effort to normalize conversations surrounding mental health in the agriculture community, Northern Ag Network’s Courtney Kibblewhite interviewed Stovall for her perspective. Jenny (Singleton) Stovall ranches with her husband Turk on the Crow Reservation. Stovall Ranches include a feed yard, cow/calf operation, stockers, yearlings, hay operation, and most recently they’ve invested in a finishing yard in Shepherd, Montana called Yellowstone Cattle Feeders. Jenny and Turk have three children Kristian, Reagan & Gabe.

Courtney: What was it like marrying into another ranching family?

Jenny: So, I represent a lot of what ranchers’ wives are where they marry into the family, they marry on to a ranch. I came from a ranch, so I know what ranching is, but at the same time, every ranch is different, just like every business is different. And there is a very sharp learning curve coming into an established ranch since the 1930s. And “this is who we are,” and “this is what we do.” And the expectations of that are absolutely overwhelming. And for many, many years, in the beginning of our marriage, it was very hard and very stressful. But finally, you just have to accept your role and that you are who you are, and have an open mind. Use the words of my 93-year-old grandmother, “Let it roll off your back like water on a duck’s back.” That phrase has gotten me through a lot of potential disagreements, you just let it roll off your back. And you can do it. Life is doable.

Courtney: Stovall Ranches has grown substantially. Tell us about your operation.

Jenny: So, our ranch has changed a lot in the last 10 years, we’ve grown exponentially. And from the outside, it looks a lot different than it actually is on the inside. In 2008, we had 250 head of cows and now we’ve grown into a large operation with, over 10,000 yearlings and two thousand mama cows and two feed yards. With that has come a lot of growing pains with ensuring that we have the right people and equipment and the financial burdens and the weather and market risks and the capital required to operate a bigger place of business.

Courtney what is it like running an operation that size?

Jenny: It really doesn’t matter your size, how big or small you are. It’s, all a risk. And the bigger you are, the bigger the problems are. And it’s very difficult to just go through life, and just smile and wave the little rodeo wave. You have to focus on perseverance. The financial burden of it is almost overwhelming, where you feel crushed at moments in time. You always think the grass is greener on the other side. And you want to perceive that things are green on your side, even though they might not be.

Courtney: How has your upbringing helped you persevere?

Jenny: So, growing up as a kid on a ranch, we were taught that you just toughed it out. And you know, when you are dealt with a frustration or hurdle, you just figure it out. And a lot of times you’re on your own, independent and you don’t come back home until you figure it out. Like if a cow was gone and you’re riding and going to get it, you’re not coming home until you get the cow back! And that’s how we deal with life. We just figure it out. And sometimes that does get difficult.

Courtney: What do you mean “toughing it out” gets difficult?

Jenny: Oh, I’m sorry, impact of like, just having that tough attitude. And “I’m independent,” “I can get it done no matter what.” You know, the emotional and mental strain will wear you out. And it impacts your family in ways that you don’t see until probably it’s too late. You know, there’s always stress with all families, but when you’re not dealing with the stress outwardly, it will definitely impact everyone inwardly.

Courtney: How do you deal with stress?

Jenny: For me personally, I’ve really leaned on the other gals that are working with us. I’ve had the privilege to become friends with and really lean on the other ladies that are working with us on the ranch, because they understand it. They get it. They are just as isolated as we are.

I’ve also, had to have the courage to join a Bible study and actually just dedicate that time every week. I know other ladies have hobbies. I have milk cows, and every day I spend time caring for animals. If you can do something you love, at least once a week it makes a tremendous difference in life.

Courtney: How do you support your spouse in stressful times?

Jenny: In our family, we’ve had a lot of strife. My husband’s father died in 2011, his middle brother died in 2018, his older brother died in 2020, and his mom died in 2021. It has impacted him in a state where he just stays busy. And it’s impacted our family where, you know, especially as a wife, and a mom, you feel like you really have to just hold everything together. And you don’t really grieve, you just kind of hold it all together. You gotta just wake up, you got to be the one putting the coffee on and getting the kids going. People don’t really see the inside of it, just simply because we are isolated. And as a ranch woman, you’re not always in the spotlight, but you’re definitely the backbone.

But, you always just have to look to the future of your children and what your goals are. But when you’re in that period, it can be very dark, and just supporting your spouse in that spot that they are in, and not expecting them to be able to come out of that. The wife takes this role of, “I can do everything,” And “let me figure it out, I’ll figure it out” which is stressful on the wife as well. But when he is struggling, just knowing that I will always be there, and whatever chapter he’s in right now, I will be here. And knowing that is a great comfort to them. And it might take a month, it might take two months, it might take two years. And just trying to be supportive and then encouraging them to get help elsewhere. You know, and that’s where, where you can seek out professional help. Because when you break your arm, you go to a doctor. So, if your heart or your mind is hurting, you need to get some help.

Courtney: How can we as an agricultural community better support each other through tough times?

Jenny: As a community, we need to realize that we’re all in the same mode of life. We are only human, we’re not superhuman. And that it’s okay to be sad some days or need help or ask for help. And we that’s why we’re here is to help each other and just normalize the fact that we are all in the same areas of life and we’re secluded, and we’re isolated. And in order to keep our sanity, we need to help each other out.

I hope that anyone that may be hearing or viewing this message would realize they are not alone. You might feel alone, but you are not alone. We’re all hurting and we’re all going through something and there are people out there that are going through the exact same thing. It’s difficult, but there is help out there and is just one sort I hope you take if you do need help.

But just be there for your neighbor or friend. Being vulnerable towards them will open a door possibly for them as well as other people who might think “I do need help.” They can have that comfort level of being there for you as well as you being there for them.

Courtney: Thank you, Jenny for your leadership and vulnerability. Thank you to all of our friends out there who are making a point to take a little extra time to check on and learn from each other.

If your loved one or neighbor needs a little more support than you can give, please send them to for free counseling access for Farmers and Ranchers in Montana and Wyoming.

Thank you to the Montana Department of Agriculture, Wyoming Department of Agriculture, and the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation for supporting this work.

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