During the Cattle Industry Convention in Tampa, Montana Stockgrowers Association multimedia outreach specialist Lauren Chase discussed “Big Sky Boots,” a multimedia project designed to show consumers the real world of modern cattle ranching.

Chase has spent the past year and a half gathering photographs for the book, traveling in sunshine and snow to ranches across Montana. The book takes the reader on a journey through a year in the life of Montana’s cowboys—through calving, branding, and shipping, and everything in between.

Big Sky Boots tells ranchers’ stories

During the convention, NCBA honored Chase with an award for outstanding journalism, in part for her efforts on the Big Sky Boots project.

“Our goal with this project has been to create a unique, fun, engaging and interactive way to tell the story of Montana’s ranching families that raise the beef that consumers all across the world enjoy,” said Chase. “There seems to be a growing disconnect as people, even here in Montana, are losing touch with what goes on at ranches and farms, and where our food comes from.”

Big Sky Boots is part of a larger project to bring beef eaters closer to the people who raise and care for cattle. The project uses social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to tell the stories of Montana’s ranching families through photo albums, audio slide shows, and videos.

The book connects the social media platforms to the printed page. “Something really unique to our book is that we have included QR codes that people can scan with their smartphones,” Chase said. “They can go to MSGA’s YouTube channel to watch a video of the rancher featured in the book and hear directly from him about his life. In that way we’ve really tried to marry the traditional print media with the social media that seems to be central in so many people’s lives today.”

One hallmark of Big Sky Boots is that the photos are largely untouched or enhanced by photo editing software. “A lot of books that are out there right now depict a romanticized view of the West and of the cowboy lifestyle,” Chase said. “We wanted to make sure to show life as it really is on Montana’s ranches. I think there is a tremendous amount of natural beauty in the pictures and it gives the reader a glimpse into the life of a real cowboy in Montana.”

Big Sky Boots is the first book in a series of five books that MSGA will develop over the next five years. The next book, already in production, will feature the women that are such an important part of today’s ranching families.

To learn more about this project and to pre-order a copy of the book, visit The Montana Stockgrowers website. The books are $75, which includes shipping and handling. The profits from the book will help support the continuation of MSGA’s “Telling the Story of Montana’s Family Ranchers” project into the future. 

The Montana Stockgrowers Association, a non-profit organization representing nearly 2,500 members, strives to serve, protect and advance the economic, political, environmental and cultural interests of cattle producers, the largest sector of Montana’s number one industry – agriculture.