BILLINGS — Agriculture is Montana's leading industry, contributing over $2.4 billion to the state annually.
The first-ever Agricultural Celebration Week presented by the Billings Chamber kicked off virtually on Sunday, Jan. 24.
"We always meet in person. We have this 500-700 person event where we get to honor this industry, they get to be together. We couldn't do that this year, but we knew that it was still very important to honor this industry because they kept food on the table during COVID, and the clothes that we wear," Billings Chamber Member Experience Manager Alyssa Voeltz said.
Big sponsors of the week include Stockman Bank and Yellowstone Valley Electric Cooperative.
"People have to buy equipment still, they have to feed farmers still, they have to feed livestock, so you know it just never stops. So even though COVID comes around, AG still has to move," Stockman Bank Agriculture Loan Officer Tierani Brusett said.
The week was created to bridge communication and support between the community and those in the industry.
"There's lots of things I don't think people realize that involve agriculture. About everything does. It's out in the country, you don't see it that much in town, so this will be a unique way for people to see how the ag industry gets involved," Brusett said.
Throughout the seven days, people can engage in a variety of agriculture supporting and educating activities.
"We have a game card where you can get out and support those industries. I just don't think people realize. If you're drinking a beer at By All Means or at Uberbrew, you're supporting Montana Ag Industry, because their barley comes from there, or you go to trailhead spirits and drink his vodka. You know, all of that wheat comes from his family farm, so there's a lot of ways to get out and support the industry," the event's visionary Voeltz said.
People are encouraged to visit businesses that are being highlighted for their implementation of farm to table ideas.
"We did a cooking series, 'Ag around the table' series where we got to go into some restaurants and talk to chefs and really learn about all of the Montanans that they're supporting. You know we went into the Fieldhouse and every single layer of this burger was from Montana, it was just incredible," Voeltz said.
Another activity lets you guess the location around town of the plush version of the Yellowstone County Museum's two-headed calf.
They can actually go to Billings Chamber.com and we'll have a landing page of all the information. We'll have interviews with Yellowstone Valley Electric Cooperative, Casey Mcgowen at Trailhead Spirits, the cooking series, fun facts throughout the week, but we really want to challenge the community to download the gameboard. Go out and support these businesses," Voeltz said. "We do have prizes for you to win. Blogs that are posted, we've got social media contests for you to be engaged in. So don't let this week go by without learning and supporting this industry that works so hard for us."
This year's agriculture excellence award winner was Karen Yost of Nutralix.
Ag Celebration Week runs through Saturday, Jan. 30. The newsletter containing more information about the week, sponsors, or agriculture can be found here.