Getting behind the wheel of a big tractor suits Denise Conover just fine. It’s something she says she enjoys.
“Just playing in the dirt. I don’t know, the fresh air. There’s just so much— I love watching crops grow, watching grass grow. I’m kind of a nature person,” she said recently on her Broadview farm.
Agriculture has been a part of her life since she was born. She grew up on a ranch near Rapelje and currently farms about 15,000 acres just north of Broadview with her two sons growing wheat, barley, and sunflowers.
She's out here on National Farmers Day, Oct. 12, a day to recognize the contributions our farmers make to our state and nation. Right now, the focus is on getting the rest of the winter wheat in the ground before the snow starts flying again.
Farming can be a tough and sometimes unpredictable life, especially dry land farming.
“We do everything we can, but it is still up to Mother Nature to bring it to fruition,” she says.
While 2022 has been a good year for crops, it has not been without challenges.
“Everybody goes, '$9 wheat, you guys must really be making a lot of money. You know at the end of the day, when you have got fertilizer that has doubled in the last year and everything is up—fuel prices are up and so is equipment,” she says.
While Conover has been around farming and ranching her whole life, life on this farm took a turn no one could have expected.
“We took one person, the main person out of our operation, and that was tough,” she said.
She's referring to her husband Bret, who was killed in February 2020 when a drunken driver in Arizona hit them from behind going well over 100 miles an hour.
“You never think that you are going to be one of those people that get affected by that. Your life changes in an instant.”
So, Conover has taken a more active role in helping with the hard work around the farm as well as still finding time to serve on the Montana Wheat and Barley board and the U.S. Wheat Associates, which helps promote food security worldwide.
She saw that firsthand with a visit to a refugee camp in Africa.
“170,000 people lived there with their children and grandchildren. And we got to see and hear the voices of some of the most vulnerable people on the planet. This is a picture of wheat- it says USA on it – makes you pretty proud.”
In November, she’ll head to Washington, D.C., to talk about the importance of food aid being included in the new Farm Bill.
It’s all part of a commitment to help feed those here and all over the world.
“It gets hard. It’s also a lot of work. You got to love it to do it,” she says.