Generations of Montana ranchers work to keep legacy alive

For generations, family-owned farms and ranches lined the Montana landscape. Now, families say big corporations and wealthy investors are moving in.

Mariah Shammel woke up, fed the cattle and looked out over the neighboring pastures other Montana ranchers once cared for.

“There’s three and four families that have worked those places that are now taken off,” said Shammel. “We’re losing these family farms.”

Now theirs is the only home in sight that continues family ranch operations, besides their parents right down the road.

“My husband is the fourth generation, so my kids are the fifth generation to be in this place,” she explained. “My in-laws are just a couple miles down the road where he was raised, and then (our house) is where his grandfather lived.”

Farmers and ranchers make up about 5% of Montana’s total population — that’s over 50,000 people.