Published on Tuesday, July 11, 2017
When he was a senior in high school, Justin Hamilton’s family moved to a new irrigated ranch near Columbus, Montana. His parents also owned the ACE Hardware store in town. Early in his career, Justin worked all day at the store and did ranch work at night.
Finally, he decided that wasn’t working. It wasn’t a sustainable lifestyle. He wanted to be on the ranch full time. “I love doing it, it’s where my heart is at.” Justin explained to his parents.
After coming to a lease agreement with his parents, Justin approached his grandfather about taking on a larger ownership and decision-making role with their cattle. Like many farms, the transition has been a process, but Justin is excited to slowly turn the ranch in a new direction.
“On the cattle side of it, I'm a deputy brand inspector in Stillwater county. Basically, what that means is every sale or transaction of livestock, I have to be present, witness, then I write the paperwork and make sure it's a fair, honest transaction.” Justin explains. “So, through that, I’ve met a ton of absolutely fantastic people that don't always do things traditionally. Some people are going from gate to plate, some people are selling them as weaner calves. Some people are selling them at different stages.”
Seeing so many innovative ranchers has inspired Justin to push the boundaries and challenge the status quo on his own family’s ranch. Words of advice from an older cattleman still ring in his ears. “'In the cattle business, if you're not pedaling, you're going down hill. That means you're coasting. If you're pedaling, you're going up hill.' And the man said, 'I don't ever want to be coasting.' I don't want to be coasting either.” Justin adds.
To keep the ranch moving up hill, Justin knows keeping the future in mind is important. That means including his children and helping them build a work ethic, even if they don’t end up ranching when they’re grown.
“My sons are 10 and 12,” Justin explains. “How they got in the cattle business is they were each given one heifer calf. But before they got to actually put their own brand on her, they had to work 100 hours to get this heifer. Recently, my youngest son finally hit his 100 hours. We were branding the calves already, so we brought his heifer in and branded her. He was proud as a peacock of her.”
The boys aren’t the only ones that are proud of their accomplishments. “There was times where I gave him some really awful jobs and he stuck his nose to it and he got the job done. I was extremely proud when it was all said and done. They put their heart into what they're doing.” Justin beams. “With a work ethic like that, they'll never go hungry with whatever they decide to do in life.”
By watching their dad, Justin’s sons are also learning to be good stewards. It’s important to him that they work with the natural microorganisms in the soil while having as little impact on the land as possible. “You know, they aren't making any more land. So we have to take the land that we've got and make the most out of it every single season.” He says.
At the end of each season, Justin sets even higher goals for the next. That’s part of the motivation. “Every year you get to plant a seed. You get to watch the seed grow, whether it's corn, alfalfa, cattle, whatever it is. You get to harvest the fruits of that. You get to make management decisions based on what you saw and what you did all season long. So you can take the things that work and improve upon them. You can take things that didn't work and really improve upon those. Why I farm is to make the most out of what I've got. That is my goal.”
That’s why Justin Hamilton farms.
Author: Natalina Sents
Categories: Why I Farm, Why I Farm Roadtrip
Tags: Beck's Blog, Why I Farm, Beck's Hybrids, corn, cattle, Natalina Sents, alfalfa, Why I Farm Roadtrip, Ranch, Montana, Justin Hamilton