Montana’s Gallatin Valley is flush with history. After Lewis and Clark discovered the lush high mountain valley, it didn’t take long for word of its fertile ground to reach the ears of those individuals eager to move west.

Fast forward nearly 200 years and it may seem that the demographics of this part of Montana have changed. Bozeman, which lies in the heart of the Gallatin Valley, is marked as one our nation’s fastest growing micropolitan cities. Productive farmland, once renowned for its ability to grow top quality wheat, is now known for how quickly it can grow houses.

Urban sprawl effects all of agriculture, but its threat is even more pressing to the remaining generational farms and ranches that dot the Gallatin Valley. A group of people realized the efforts of hardworking farmers and ranchers in the area often goes unnoticed, so in an effort to recognize the accomplishments of those agriculturalists, the Gallatin Valley Ag Appreciation Banquet began.

The Gallatin Valley Ag Committee is a joint effort between the Bozeman and Belgrade Chamber of Commerce. The committee is charged with planning and organizing the banquet and the Gallatin Valley Farm Fair. Both events are annual and aim to help agriculture maintain prescience in the community.

“People are getting further and further away from ag, so this committee just tries to make sure people know how valuable our farmers and ranchers are and how important they are to this region,” said Aimee Arnaud, committee member.

The banquet itself is a way for the committee to say “thank you,” and give a nod to exceptional farmers and ranchers in the area. The committee first gave the Outstanding Farmer/Rancher Award in 1977. Over the years, the committee has offered different award areas, but recently they have focused on what they value most. In 2020, the Gallatin Valley Ag Committee will award an Outstanding Farmer/Rancher and they will give a Service to Agriculture Award.

“The banquet developed as a way for us to honor those award winners and it is a really great way for people in the industry to get together in a way that they normally wouldn’t,” explained Arnaud, who serves as the chair of the event.

This year’s banquet will once again be held at the GranTree Inn in Bozeman on Friday, March 13, with a cocktail hour beginning at 6 p.m., followed by dinner. Thanks to the event’s generous sponsors, the dinner is entirely free to attending producers.

Award winners this year include: Outstanding Farmer/Rancher - Leland Heidema, Plain Vista Diary, Manhattan, and Service to Agriculture - Dr. Jacy Cook, DVM, and All West Veterinary Hospital of Bozeman.

The Gallatin Valley Ag Committee Ag Appreciation Banquet pays homage to the area’s deep agriculture roots by honoring those who have chosen to live off the land. The banquet also proves that agriculture is still very much a part of the Gallatin Valley.

“I think that ag just looks different here than it does in the rest of the state, but is no less prevalent. We have more vertical integration, which makes it a bit harder to see,” Arnaud pointed out.

Arnaud went on to explain that the next generation of agriculturalists returning to the Gallatin Valley are wanting to be a voice for the industry because it is the legacy they want to continue for their own families.

This award banquet and once a year social gathering is just one way an unsuspecting Montana community has chosen to show appreciation for agriculture.