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Cowboy Howard Moss of Dixon, Montana July 1999

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History of Farming and Ranching: A Study of the Local Culture by St. Ignatius High School
A Local Legacy

There is a problem in Mission Valley, Montana. It's losing its farmers. Dairy farming, potato and grain farming, cattle ranching, horse ranching and hog raising are still occurring in Mission Valley, but there are fewer farms and ranches of 100 to 1,000 acres. The big farms are being divided into smaller 10- to 40-acre "ranchettes" that are being sold to people from cities of nearby states. They come to escape the noise and traffic of city life but have no roots in the local traditions. The longtime local farmers and ranchers are worried that the newcomers will make it more difficult to preserve the area's native culture and traditions.

Five students from St. Ignatius High School helped the farmers. The students collected stories, historical documents, art and geological information about the farms, ranches and culture of Mission Valley. They also recorded "oral histories" -- stories told by the citizens. The students' teacher used the materials they had collected in history class. Teachers refer to materials such as these as "primary sources," because they tell a story you won't find in a book. Not only have the students learned about their local heritage, but also the farmers and ranchers have found a way to pass on the traditions that are important to them.

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