ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

5 questions with Michelle Erickson-Jones, farmer, rancher and Montana Grain Growers Association president

Tell us about your roles in agriculture? I am an owner/operator of a farm and ranch in south central Montana. I am a fourth generation farmer and work alongside my dad and husband. We raise wheat, corn, safflower, sunflower, malt barley, alfalfa ...

4041658+1rl02v16H9D5UXN_BkN09lgVjuI6ev4yo.jpg
Michelle Erickson-Jones is the president of the Montana Grain Growers Association and a farmer and rancher in south central Montana. (Submitted photo)
We are part of The Trust Project.

Tell us about your roles in agriculture?

I am an owner/operator of a farm and ranch in south central Montana. I am a fourth generation farmer and work alongside my dad and husband. We raise wheat, corn, safflower, sunflower, malt barley, alfalfa and forage grains. My husband and I also have a small cow/calf operation.

You are the Montana Grain Growers Association's first female president. What can be done to get more women comfortable in taking leadership roles in agriculture?

I saw a comment a few weeks ago that stuck with me in terms of women's involvement in commodity organizations. Someone said, it was not that they did not feel welcome; they were just choosing not to. They wanted to devote time to 4-H, PTA, church groups, etc.

I had honestly never thought of it in that regard. There are certainly a lot of organizations that need volunteers and usually not enough time to do it all. I am hopeful, though, that women who do love policy see individuals such as myself, or Whitney Klasna (Secretary of U.S. Cattlemen's Association), or Denise Conover (Chairman of the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee) or Janice Mattson (past-Chairman of U.S. Wheat Associates) and realize that they can do this, they can be successful, and they can be comfortable in these roles.

ADVERTISEMENT

I also think it is important for women to step forward if they are interested in these leadership roles. Sometimes we do not make it known that we are interested in an opportunity. If no one knows you are interested, they likely will not think to volunteer you for a role. I honestly elected myself to the Montana Grain Growers Association board in 2012 when I saw we did not have any candidates for director in my area.

Why did you decide to start blogging as Bigskyfarmher?

I have always liked writing and recently I have developed an interest in photography. I thought blogging was a great way to combine the two as well as provide my readers with a window into the life of a farmer. We are only 2 percent of the population, and my story is unique in a lot of ways in that I have spent so much time outside the agriculture community. I felt I had the ability to reach a lot of consumers in urban areas through my many friends from high school, college, and my career at UPS and Amazon.

You've written about your struggle with postpartum depression and the greater issue of mental health in rural areas. What do you see as the most important step to improve the outlook?

I think opening up about our experiences, offering a listening ear for others, and providing support whenever possible is an important step. For me, it was a huge relief just to be diagnosed with postpartum depression, because I suddenly knew that this was not normal, it was not supposed to be this hard, and there were options for recovery. Improving access to local mental health physicians and hospitals will also always be an important part of the equation for individuals who live in rural areas.

What do you see as the biggest obstacle facing your farm?

I think like many producers we are trying to find ways to improve our bottom line, cut costs and make it through the low price environment we currently find ourselves in. It is not easy to add another generation to the farm, and the transition period adds costs to the operation, and we are just working our way through that.

Michelle Erickson-Jones is the president of the Montana Grain Growers Association. She operates a grain and forage operation with her father, Bart, and husband, Travis, in south central Montana. Michelle and Travis also have 2 boys: Will (2 1/2) and Tate (11 months). Michelle returned to the farm full time in 2012 after working for UPS and Amazon.com. She has two master's degrees in business administration with focuses on operations management and mediation/dispute resolution. She can be found on numerous social media outlets and through her blog:

ADVERTISEMENT

Facebook:  BigSkyFarmHer

Instagram:  BigSkyFarmHer

Twitter:  BigSkyFarmHer

Snapchat:  BigSkyFarmHer

Blog: www.bigskyfarmher.com

Related Topics: FARMING
What to read next
This week on AgweekTV, the Casselton ethanol plant suffered a big loss with the death of its COO. We talk with owner Gary Tharaldson. This is the best time of year for people who like their produce straight from the farm. And, a South Dakota elevator takes a drastic measure to fill a serious labor shortage.
Leaders at Red Trail Energy, an ethanol processing plant in Richardton, N.D., showcased their new carbon capture operation facility. With very few other carbon capture operations in America, this newest climate-conscious operation sets southwestern North Dakota on the leading edge of carbon sequestration technology.
A legislative field event at Albert Lea Seed on July 26 highlighted the work that’s been done in the past decade by more than 50 researchers of the University of Minnesota’s Forever Green Initiative.
Landowners and community menmbers in Redwood and Cottonwood counties voiced concerns about proposed Summit Carbon Solutions proposed project at meeting in Lamberton, according to the Clean Up our River Environment organization.