Montana Soil Health Week Celebrates the Role of Farmers and Ranchers

by Grace McDonald

Every year during the first week of April, Montana will celebrate Montana Soil Health Week and every Wednesday of this week will be Montana Soil Health Day. These events help raise awareness about the importance of soil stewardship while celebrating the role of farmers and ranchers in Montana.

Soil Health Week stems from Montana’s 2023 Legislative Session when Northern Plains Resource Council, a grassroots conservation and family agriculture group, worked with other organizations, agencies, and individuals to develop a state resolution. The result was SJ 9, sponsored by Sen. Butch Gillespie (R-Ethridge) and co-sponsored by Sen. Janet Ellis (D-Helena). SJ 9 passed with overwhelming bipartisan support from both chambers of the Montana Legislature.

Montana producers credit the importance of agriculture to Montana’s culture, environment, and economy for the broad support this idea has earned.

“Agriculture is our state’s biggest industry, and highlighting the importance of healthy soils this week is so important,” said Northern Plains member and Shepherd rancher Annika Charter-Williams. 

“On my family’s ranch, and at many others around the state, we see soil health as a way to increase our bottom line and make the ranch more economically successful for the long haul,” continued Charter-Williams. “We want to encourage young people to consider a future in agriculture, and cultivating soil health is an essential tool in keeping operations prosperous.”

Events throughout the week will showcase how healthy soils can increase crop yields, strengthen food security, create greater climate resiliency, and improve nutrition.

“Soil Health Week and Day highlight the value of protecting and enhancing our entire soil structure along with the billions of microbes and organisms contained therein,” said Sen. Gillespie, who is a cattle rancher himself. “This process improves the vitality of the soil we cherish and conserve. Superb conservation measures and practices that build soil health leave an improved legacy for the next generations to come.”

Sen. Gillespie also points to the resources available to Montanans within their individual communities. “I urge everyone to reach out to their local conservation district offices for advice on participating in this journey to build an even better future for Montana,” he said.

To celebrate Soil Health Day, Northern Plains will be hosting an online screening of To Which We Belong, an award-winning documentary that features farmers and ranchers working to renew and revitalize landscapes through simple yet profound practices. The film shares stories from agricultural producers across the world, including some Montana ranchers.

The online screening is Wednesday, April 3 (Soil Health Day) from 6:30-8:30 pm, free to the public via Zoom. Interested parties can register at NorthernPlains.org/soil-health-day-film.

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Northern Plains Resource Council

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