Last week’s Graying Pains story explored the challenges of family farm succession as Montana’s agricultural demographic ages, and a program designed to connect up-and-coming farmers in western Montana. This week’s installment explores the same issue — and a community college proposal to address it — near the state’s eastern border.
The 68-year-old old poultry farmer pointed out the hen houses he built decades ago, providing details of each wooden tenement's residents.
Hugh Spencer built the hen houses and accompanying grain bins, which look like high-density housing for chickens, shortly after he and his wife, Viki, purchased the land in 1981.
As Montana’s aging population continues to grow (18.9% of Montanans are now 65 or older), rural residents face the same aging challenges as their urban counterparts but often with fewer resources.
“Don’t bring in a rocker — I don’t need those kinds of things,” Pearl Hawkins told Seeley Lake Elementary preschool teacher Sheila Devins on her first day as a foster grandparent. “I’m going to get down in the beanbags with the kids.”
On March 12, a collaboration of 16 Montana newsrooms launched the first story of a series titled Graying Pains, months in the making, exploring Montana’s status as the demographically oldest state west of the Mississippi.