Hanson elected and new Presidents of Central MT Stockgrowers
March 1, 2023
CJ Hanson is the new president of the North Central Montana Stockgrowers Association. The association is an organization that represents the growing needs of North Central beef producers and ag interests through education, advocacy, community programs and other means. The organization represents Blaine, Hill, and Chouteau Counties.
I spoke with CJ about the association, their work, and plans for the future. He explained to me that the organization has a number of areas of focus. One that has been a high priority in recent years is the effort to ensure that school cafeterias in Blaine, Hill, and Chouteau Counties serve locally sourced beef to their students. "Our local cattle are going into our local schools. We currently have Northstar, Big Sandy, Turner, and Chinook getting local beef. That's a big thing we've been working on for about four years now." The emphasis on serving locally produced beef is important for many reasons. To begin with, CJ points out that "local beef is the best. Some of the best beef in the world is grown right here on the Hi-Line. In these three counties, especially, they grow great grade cattle. We have some of the best genetics in the world. I think it's important that the kids in the schools know that this beef is coming right from from our area. I think that it's something to be proud of." The effort to serve local food isn't just because it is nutritionally superior to feed lot beef shipped into the area. It is part of a larger effort to instill in our children pride in the quality of work that is done in our communities. The program that puts locally sourced beef into our schools is one area where the Stockgrowers Association is always in need of support. The need for beef donations as well as financial support for processing is a major effort. Currently, all of the beef processed for the program goes through Bear Paw Meats, who create openings in their processing schedule for the program. CJ remarked that Bear Paw Meats has done an excellent job in supporting the program and working with the association to ensure that local beef is served to our kids. The school program is one area where our communities can support the Stockgrowers Association. "We need donations, you don't have to be a rancher to be a part of this. Everyone can contribute. Donations for processing are very important right now. It can be $25 or $50. And then we put it in an account and that money goes strictly to the processing of our beef."
Other areas that CJ spoke about as goals for the Stockgrowers Association include returning to quarterly public meetings. The pandemic put an end to public meetings, resulting in most of the organization's meetings taking place on Zoom. Returning to the public eye raises visibility and provides a space for local ranchers to engage with the association directly. The association is also working toward better predator control in the region. "We do have some commissioners out of Blaine County that are trying to get government trappers back in here. So that's one example of what we're trying to do as an organization." The North Central Montana Stockgrowers Association also acts as a voice to the Montana Stockgrowers and the legislature on behalf of local ranchers. He explained that it is preferable to have an actual rancher that knows the business and needs first hand and from their neighbors, rather than someone who doesn't have a stake in Montana beef production or the local concerns.
"I'd also like to mention our long term goals. Our first goal is to grow our membership. Everyone, even if they don't own cattle, everyone in some way, shape or form is involved in our ag industry. It is important for Montana Central's counties to show our care and support for our livelihood and our way of life." Anyone who is interested in learning more about the Stockgrowers Association and participating in their work should reach out to CJ Hanson at 406-399-1004. You can also reach out to one of the directors or other officers. Another way to get updates and announcements
from the association is to check out and follow the North Central Montana Stockgrowers Association on Facebook.
"Any questions or if someone wants to donate, feel free to give me a call or any of our board of directors." One of the strengths of a local advocacy group is that officers are locals. CJ talked to me about the various directors and which communities they live in. "Lane Schmidt is heading up our Beef to School program. He does all the work. He figures out what schools need. He makes sure the beef gets to Bear Paw Meats. He has done an extremely great job on keeping that all lined up." Jeremy Hoffman is the Vice President of the association. The directors include: Weston Brown of Big Sandy, Cody Peterson of Guilford, Megan Raty and Lane Schmidt of Chinook, Gavin Maloney out of Turner, and Chancin Solomon from Havre. CJ also mentioned the organization's secretary: "Our secretary, she's kind of the heart and soul keeps everything organized, is Julie Snedegar. She keeps everything organized and under control."