City Mice and Country Mice: Learning from each other at Urban Meets Rural Day

Tamara Choat
For the Star

What do you get when you take city residents on 120 mile-round trip tour on a 100-degree, July day in the middle of one of the biggest droughts Eastern Montana has seen? A true taste for the challenges ranchers face every day — but also an appreciation for the lifestyle that they love and work in every day, and an understanding of why cattle and beef are so integral to the culture of this area.

On July 8, the Fallon Creek Cattlewomen hosted approximately 60 attendees to the “Urban Meets Rural Day” at the Drange Ranch near Ismay. The event was designed to share information about the ranching way of life and build relationships between people who raise the food and those who consume it. 

Elizabeth Lutz of Miles City, her husband Dan and their three children under the age of 5 were some of the “city people” who came to learn about ranching. The Lutzes moved to Eastern Montana about two years ago, when Dan took a job as youth pastor at Grace Bible Church. They both grew up in urban Michigan, and Elizabeth said they were excited to attend to learn more about the ranching way of life.

“One of the things that struck us when we interviewed out here was there are hat racks at the church!” she said. “A lot of people who are part of our lives here in Miles City are involved with ranching in some way. Attending was a way to help broaden our understanding of the ranching life and to appreciate those who pour their lives into it.”

The full slate of activities started off with a barbecue hamburger lunch, followed by a pickup-drawn wagon train tour that showcased the day-to-day work of ranching and how the Drange family manages their grass and cattle. 

Jeanne Drange said her family wanted to show that ranchers take care of the land, and manage it in a way that improves the grasses, habitat and wildlife. “Some people still feel cattle are bad for the environment and we just wanted to counteract that misinformation. Our family has been here for 100 years; if we don’t take care of the land; we lose. That was the main thing we wanted to get across.”

Four wagons full of guests were hosted by tour guides Jess Drange and local cattleman and businessman Rob Fraser, along with Montana CattleWomen representatives Wanda Pinnow of Baker and Kelsi Gamble of Forsyth. The pasture tour included stops at water sources such as pipelines, windmills and “cow dams,” and included information about rotating cattle on a seasonal basis to maximize use of natural grasses in a rest–rotation cycle. Attendees also got to see wildlife including antelope. 

“My overall understanding of ranching changed by realizing just how much intention, detail, expertise and care goes into managing cattle and the land, how much hard work is involved with maintaining this process, and how much is dependent on uncontrollable variables,” Elizabeth Lutz said. “It really increased my level of respect and appreciation for ranchers.”

After returning to the ranch headquarters, the group tied into activities including dummy roping instruction, pasture golf, horseshoes, cornhole and a sprinkler. Members of the CattleWomen presented a short video on ranching and beef nutrition, and answered questions. The evening wrapped up with a steak buffet and homemade ice cream. 

“I think there were a lot of dusty, tired little kids taking naps on the way home,” said Drange, “but the two main things we wanted to provide were one, information about our way of life, and two, a lot of fun. I think we accomplished both.”


(EDITOR'S NOTE: Please see the the photo gallery Urban Meets Rural Day for more photos)