Steve kneels in a field in front of his passive solar home in Shepherd, Montana. “Healthy soil is just the basics of everything,” says Steve. "There needs to be an appreciation and focus on soil to mitigate the problems of modern agriculture. What we’re trying to do is jump start getting that biology to be back in balance again and that will build soil.”
Steve waters his worm bed soil as part of his soil regeneration efforts.
“I think the real opportunity with soil health is that agriculture could actually be part of the solution…there is a problem but we have a solution. I think that it could really change the narrative of climate denials,” says Steve.
Steve shovels vermicast into his trummel.
Steve examines restored soil with his daughter Annika, son Ressa, and two of his grandchildren, Stevie and Miriam.
Jeanie Alderson and Terry Punt: Ranchers
Jeanie Alderson and Terry Punt graze their Omega Beef Inc Wagyu cattle at Bones Brothers Ranch on pastures that have been in the family for generations. “Success is hard to measure but the fact that we’re still here and we’re still ranching means we have weathered challenges and built something that lasts. I'm proud of that. I'm grateful to my parents and grandparents who always thought ahead and who knew how to diversify and also how to conserve. The cattle you see here we raise these calves to butcher and sell directly to customers,” says Jeanie. "Our other business, Bones Brothers Ranch raises calves that go to feedlots. It's known as a cow calf business. It is harder for Bones Brothers to be innovative -- the cost keeps going up but the prices that we make keep going up and down. We’ve had some good years and then some harder years. In the cow calf business it is harder to stay independent," says Jeanie.
A mother cow and calf stand on a pasture. "Our cow calf operation sells feeder calves that go to feedlots. The Feedlot system takes a huge amount of water and the whole system that feedlots are connected to takes an immense amount of fossil fuels. It takes a ton of cropland to feed animals that are in feedlots, it takes a lot of water and you have a lot of waste. All those problems come from confining animals. We use a lot of fossil fuels to winter our cattle in both our businesses, but the scale is different. It’s just very different when you have animals out on pasture. With careful management and also some luck we conserve land and water. I think animals can be part of the solution instead of part of the problem, and I really wish more people understood that,” says Jeanie.
Terry stands with his cattle.
Jeanie stands in a pasture with her cattle. “These cattle never go to a feedlot. This business is all about grass. When these calves get old enough we take them from pastures to the butcher. I think grass is our most important crop . Obviously both our businesses depend upon these grasslands but we also need these lands for sequestering carbon, and now we understand more about the importance of our soils and our native grasses. I think keeping grasslands whole and intact should be something that every one of us should really be caring about,” says Jeanie.
A Wagyu cow at Bones Brother Ranch in Birney, Montana.
Rachel and Luc Bourgault: Local Producers
Luc and Rachel Bourgault operate Lower Piney Heirloom Vegetable Gardens just outside of Clearmont, Wyoming.
A hoop house at Lower Piney Heirloom Vegetable Gardens growing produce.
Rachel extends homegrown green peppers to a customer at Landon's Greenhouse Saturday Farmer's Market in Sheridan, Wyoming.
Rachel packs homegrown corn with Luc at Landon's Greenhouse Saturday Farmer's Market in Sheridan, Wyoming.
Carol LeResche: Local Producer
Carol LeResche enters one of her high tunnels outside of Sheridan, Wyoming where she operates Clear Creek Valley Produce. "I want to tell my story because I believe that producing local food does a lot to bring people together in communities. I think that's very important. That's what I've tried to do with the people I sell food to," says Carol.
An onion in Carol's organic garden. "It's a different thing to start really working towards producing food for others. It takes a lot more thought and a lot more work -- but it's very rewarding too," says Carol.
Flowering organic mint in Carol's garden. "My favorite part of being a local producer is the gardening part. The part about putting something in the ground and taking care of it and then seeing it grow -- and being surprised all the time at the enormity of what is happening from a seed to a plant," says Carol.
Carol stands in front of her refrigerated trailer near her garden. "I'm growing vegetables...I am all involved in food and what it means and how it's important in a community," says Carol.