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Innovating for the ‘New West’

Malou Anderson-Ramirez
Malou Anderson-Ramirez, co-founder of Anderson Ranch and the Tom Miner Basin Association, works on her ranch in southwest Montana. Anderson-Ramirez is dedicated to regenerative ranching practices to improve the economy and the conservation of the "New West." | Photo by Louis Johns

Rancher and co-founder Malou Anderson-Ramirez talks about what it means to preserve business and the land in America’s rural West.

From the scenic western outpost of Big Sky, Montana, Malou Anderson-Ramirez, took time from her life as co-founder of Anderson Ranch and the Tom Miner Basin Association, to convene at HATCH with other innovators. While at the event, which aims to amplify innovative thinking and spark collaborations, Anderson-Ramirez discussed what it’s like to be a “Keeper of the New West.”

Stoetzel: From your perspective, is rural entrepreneurship and innovation being overlooked?

Anderson-Ramirez: I think that one thing being overlooked has been the intense need for the rancher and the rural community to become the conservationists of their landscape. It’s really important [to have a strong entrepreneurial community], because then people are proud of what they’ve started as a grassroots – together.

It’s really difficult for ranchers now to sustain small ranches, and medium-sized ranches, and it’s in those private land sectors that are the most fundamental piece for wild landscapes staying wild, large landscapes staying large. The biggest barrier is the paradigm shift of knowing that regenerative practices, and the new way of ranching, is just as wonderful and romantic as the old traditions, and the historic ways of the Old West. That’s the big challenge. The new way of thinking is, you work more efficiently to get profitable.

Stoetzel: Could you expand on what that means to be a “Keeper of the New West”?

Anderson-Ramirez: It’s a term coined by a journalist friend of mine. I think that “Keepers of the New West” is such a beautiful way to say it because we are proud of the movement coming into this whole idea of being the conservationist. This is a really exciting time to be in agriculture. We have this incredible impact ahead of us that we can shift – completely change – a lot of the conversations. In that change, we can make amends for the mistakes of the past and why traditional agriculture degraded landscapes in the first place.

Stoetzel: Do you think ranchers are a part of the national economic conversation?

Anderson-Ramirez: I don’t know if they’re part of the conversation. They certainly have conversations about it, but I don’t know if they are a part of it. I’m not an expert in that. I think that what we can do is change our food systems, and change our food policy around what we’re eating, and where it’s coming from. It’s taking the ego out of ranching, and putting it into more of like, “We are no longer apart from a system. We are part of that ecosystem.”