In a previous post I listed some ideas for finding, or creating, a high wage job in Montana.  Let’s talk about another point.

Innovate In Agriculture

Innovation in agriculture can also increase income for farmers and ranchers. First, adding more automation and technology helps get more done with less manpower, thereby increasing efficiency and profits. The second approach is to add more value to traditional farm and ranch products before going to market. Branded Montana beef can sell for more, but you need to identify niche markets and buyers willing to pay for the difference. Wheat Montana is a famous Montana example of similar vertical integration and innovation in grain. Niche markets can be more lucrative if you can tailor your products for buyers with specific preferences that they are willing to pay more for.

Steve and Cathy Cottom are partners in a seed potato farm in southwestern Montana.  With only about 10,000 total acres of seed potatoes being grown in the entire state, this relatively small agriculture industry is able to bring in significant income.  Because the Montana farms are isolated enough to grow seed stock without contamination, the purity of these potatoes allows them to be sold at a higher rate to potato farms in neighboring states like Idaho and Washington.

Plus, technology helps make the farming process more accurate and efficient.  From starting seed stock in university labs under a microscope, to automated tractors with GPS steering and guidance, to weather stations on the farm that can predict water usage and disease risks, breakthrough innovations have greatly increased the productivity, and in turn the income, for the Cottom’s farm, as well as many others across the state.

And let’s not forget an often-overlooked potential for high-wage jobs in the agriculture industry.  The support industries for agriculture, which includes those who help provide the expertise, inputs, and equipment to help grow, market, and transport the crops and livestock, provide tremendous opportunities.  We’ll highlight these fields and their benefits in a future post.

Montana is our home and we want to raise our families here, yet without more high wage jobs many of our kids and grandkids must leave to find work that can support them and their families.  Innovation in the agriculture industry is one way we can create more high paying jobs for them.

Do you have other ideas on how to bring high wage jobs to Montana? Please let me know your thoughts.