Earth Day: Farmers and Ranchers Know the Value of Recycling



The celebration of Earth Day began on April 22, 1970 as a celebration worldwide to demonstrate support for environmental protection. Although many Earth Day celebrations are held by urbanites who plant trees, pick up litter and tout the virtues of “saving the Earth,” farmers and ranchers have simply been using environmentally friendly practices for many years, including recycling. They have known the value of saving old to make new long before the practice became trendy in the 1970s.

The Marchesseault family in Dillon has repurposed many materials. “We built a calving shed out of lumber salvaged from a service station that was being torn down,” noted Southwest Counties Farm Bureau member Bonnie Marchesseault. “We use old tires that have been turned inside out for feeding mineral and salt, and use old tire rims to place salt blocks on to keep them off the ground.  We use old fence posts for fire wood in the house as well as in the shop.” 

She adds they used an old cross arm, from the power line going through their place that the power company replaced, for a floor joist for shed construction. “We use old horse shoes for gate fasteners on pole gates and bent nails are straightened out and used again.”

Jennie Anderson says their ranch (along with many other ranchers) uses worn out, giant tires from dump trucks as water tanks for cattle. “The tires work well because they are durable, hold a large capacity of water and are relatively cheap. It is a great way to recycle something that can no longer serve its original purpose and is hard to dispose of,” says Anderson, the Young Farmer and Rancher Chair of Sweet Grass County Farm Bureau.  “To make into a water tank, the top of the tire is cut off, then the tire is placed on a level surface. Next you plug the tire hole with cement or bentonite, develop a spring and fill it with water.”

Creativity doesn’t cover only ranch supplies; recycling used farm products can be used for home decorating.

“I'm remodeling my bathroom with boards I've salvaged from an old corn crib at our place this summer,” explains Darcia Patten, president, Powder River/Carter County Farm Bureau. “The wind took down the corn crib, so I decided to make good use of the beautiful old boards by incorporating them into a bathroom redesign.”

Nicole Hackley, Richland County Farm Bureau, uses molasses tubs—large, heavy plastic or rubber containers holding cattle protein supplement—as planters. Once the cattle have consumed the supplement, Hackley rinses them out and paints them with decorative designs. “You can be creative with the painting, and they are perfect for having plants on your deck, walkway, anywhere.”

In addition, many ranchers use old railroad ties and oilfield pipe to construct sturdy corrals. They recycle used oil to heat their workshops. Since the start of hay being baled, farmers and ranchers have used baling wire and baling twine for a variety of purposes once the bale is fed. There’s not a barn in Montana that doesn’t have baling twine dangling from a nail for future impromptu use. Of course, converting farm waste into fertilizer has long been a common sense agricultural practice.

For many people Earth Day is April 22, but remember every day is Earth Day for farmers and ranchers.

Source:  Montana Farm Bureau Federation

Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS.

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