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LEGACIES // An author's note

“The word ‘legacy’ resonated immediately.

I scribbled it on top of the first outline I made for this, the Montana Farm Bureau Federation’s centennial celebration story. It leads to the question that quietly rumbles in every human conscious: Does what I do matter?

So I started asking farmers and ranchers: 'How do you describe a legacy?'

Many answered with a long, pregnant silence. Others might have sighed, or chuckled, or evaded the question entirely. That question showed me more misty eyes shaded under sweat-brimmed hats and nervous knuckles white on worn-down steering wheels than I’ll ever reveal.

More than once, I felt my own throat swell tight to hold back tears as they wrestled for the right words: kids, grandkids, land, endurance, service, values...

I spent a year asking this question around kitchen tables, in harvest combines and in sorting pens across the state. I asked it in research libraries and of newspaper clippings. I searched for a usable past to help make sense of who we are today and where we might go in the future.

When I started writing this book, I thought a legacy was simply a memory to admire.

Now I understand legacies are examples from which we learn.


Excerpt from the 'Author's Note' in Legacies: The values, principles and purpose of the Montana Farm Bureau Federation by Laura C. Nelson. Order online at



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