• W. H. Hiber crew planting sugar beets southwest of Billings, Montana near the Yellowstone River, ca. 1908. Courtesy of the Billings Public Library via Big Sky Country Digital Network.

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    Hiber, W. H. Planting Sugar Beets
    • Date
    • 1908
    • Creator
    • Unknown.
    • Description
    • There was a John Miller Ranch just southwest of Billings, near the Yellowstone River and adjacent to the Newman Ranch.
    • Standardized Rights Statement
    • http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/NoC-US/1.0/.
    • Partner
    • Big Sky Country Digital Network
    • Contributing Institution
    • Billings Public Library

  • "Abundant grain harvest of 1915 in the Judith Basin." Courtesy of the Hobson Community Library via Big Sky Country Digital Network.

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    Abundant Grain
    • Date
    • 1915
    • Creator
    • Unknown.
    • Description
    • This photo shows the abundant grain harvest of 1915 in the Judith Basin.
    • Rights
    • Https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/.
    • Partner
    • Big Sky Country Digital Network
    • Contributing Institution
    • Hobson Library

  • The Connerley Brothers brought the first combine to the Flathead Reservation for the 1909 harvest. Courtesy of the North Lake County Public Library via Big Sky Country Digital Network.

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    1909 First Combine of the Flathead Reservation
    • Date
    • 1909
    • Creator
    • Unknown phtotgrapher.
    • Description
    • The Connerley Brothers brought the first combine to the Flathead Reservation for the 1909 harvest, according to the notes on the back of this photo. Driver for the 26 horses was Ellis Connerley; machine man was Dick Connerley; and sewing sacks was Bi... more
      The Connerley Brothers brought the first combine to the Flathead Reservation for the 1909 harvest, according to the notes on the back of this photo. Driver for the 26 horses was Ellis Connerley; machine man was Dick Connerley; and sewing sacks was Bill Connerley. less
    • Rights
    • Https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/.
    • Partner
    • Big Sky Country Digital Network
    • Contributing Institution
    • North Lake County Public Library, Polson, Montana

  • University Heights apple picking crew in 1920. Courtesy of the Darby Community Library via Big Sky Country Digital Network.

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    1920 Apple Pickers
    • Date
    • 1920
    • Creator
    • Unknown.
    • Description
    • Pictures of 1920 Apple Pickers.
    • Standardized Rights Statement
    • http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC/1.0/.
    • Partner
    • Big Sky Country Digital Network
    • Contributing Institution
    • Darby Community Public Library

Montana's plains, mountains, and climate divides the state into sections most suited to different crops. In the eastern and central plains of the state, homesteaders grew grains and sugar beets. Many homesteaders planted fields of flax their first year out because it was a crop well suited to the freshly tilled soil. Some farmers used sugar beets as a rotation crop to increase soil productivity. During the early wet years of homesteading, farmers made abundant yields on their grain crops such as wheat and flax. By 1915, crop production was at an all time high in Montana with wheat yielding as much as 25 bushels per acre. By 1920, returning dry weather patterns plunged wheat production to around 2.4 bushels per acre. Because of production issues, many homesteaders lost their farms and moved into towns or out of Montana altogether.

The western section of Montana, on the other side of the Rocky Mountains, generally has a milder climate and more rainfall. Richer soils and more water made these lands sought after for farm production. Producers found that a variety of crops such as grain, hay, and fruit, including apples and cherries, could be grown in this ideal climate and orchards sprang up in many areas. Dry weather patterns impacted western Montana as well and dry years were also less abundant years for crops.