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Lisa Schmidt

I am a rancher. The land speaks to me. It offers natural consequences without ulterior motives that I understand. 

My husband, Steve, and I purchased the Graham Ranch, about 10 miles west of Conrad, in 2006. We both brought cattle to the ranch, but the Grahams had raised sheep. We wanted to honor the Graham family and the heritage of the ranch so we bought a few ewes. We bumped into a steep learning curve that year. Sheep are not like cows. Steve learned he didn’t like sheep. I learned that the sheep were now mine. 

I am a writer. Words explain things for me. They clarify my thoughts and feelings. 

I wrote my first magazine article while working on a cattle ranch in Utah. After I moved to Whitehall, Mont., I became editor of the Montana Farmer-Stockman. Then I branched out to write freelance articles for several magazines, including Range Magazine, Distinctly Montana, Texas Cattle Feeders and the Western Ag Reporter, among others. 

A fortunate happenstance offered an opportunity for me to combine my two loves. 

About 10 years ago, on one of my impatient days, I noticed that the Great Falls Tribune carried little news about agriculture. I wrote a letter to the business editor, pointing out that Tribune readers live in the heart of the Golden Triangle in a state where agriculture is head and shoulders above any and all other industries. This was an abomination! 

Jo Dee Black, the business editor at the time and one of the kindest people I’ve ever met, responded with far more grace and generosity than I deserved. She asked me to write about my experiences at the Graham Ranch. I jumped at her offer. 

Fast forward a few years: Radio seemed like a natural expansion for my ranch stories. Rick Haines, the owner of the Independent Ag Network, gave me the chance to find out. Now, every Saturday, AM radio listeners from Winnemucca, Nev., to Calgary, Alberta, hear about what happens at the Graham Ranch. So do KGPR listeners in Great Falls. Starting this week, you can read them here.

Fast forward again, to an October Sunday I wish I could do over. Steve collapsed on the county road while trying to get a cow through the gate. He was dead before he hit the ground. 

Now, my 12-year-old daughter, Abby, and I run the cattle and sheep. I have amazing friends who help even when I don’t know I need it. My son, Will, graduates from Montana State University in December. He will fill a spot at the Air Force pilot training school after that. I’m so proud of my kids that I might have to brag once in a while. 

I don’t speak for every rancher and I don’t expect everyone to agree with my perspective, thank goodness. I hope my articles and stories might start a conversation. 

I would love to hear from you. You can reach me at L.Schmidt@a-land-of-grass-ranch.com.

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