“Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bands” -Jefferson The family farm may be the most important institution in American history. In America, the ideal of freedom was more than the lofty words of politicians. In America, the dream that one could shape one's own destiny was made a practical possibility for many thousands of people because land was available. People flooding west thought little about the claims Native Americans might have to the land. They intended to struggle and to advance themselves, to "prove up." What a meaningful quote! As you know, March is National Agriculture Appreciation Month and we here at KSEN are saluting families from around the area for their commitment to Agriculture. According to the US Department of Agriculture, there were 29,800 family farms in Montana in 2009. Those farms encompassed 60,800,000 acres of Montana land with an average size of 2,040 acres. Those farms raised over 2.5 Million cattle, 175,000 Hogs and Pigs and 255,000 sheep. Ninety eight percent of all U.S. farms are owned by individuals, family partnerships or family corporations, leaving just 2 percent owned by non-family corporations. America's farmers and ranchers care deeply about the health and well-being of their animals. They care, because their job is to provide healthy food for consumers, including their own families! Farmers and ranchers take steps to ensure that their animals receive the best possible care - seven days a week - 52 weeks a year. That care includes food, water and shelter in addition to protection from disease, injury and predators. America's farmers are the worlds most productive. On average, each U.S. farmer produces enough food and fiber for 155 people in the United States and around the world. Agriculture is indeed the backbone of our country. Farmers and ranchers provide our daily bread! Agriculture contributes more than $2.5 billion each year to the Montana economy. According to Webster's Dictionary, Agriculture is the science, art or practice of cultivating soil, producing crops and raising livestock and in varying degrees the preparation and marketing of resulting products. Agriculture is so much more than that! For many of our neighbors agriculture is a way of life!