Photographer Ami Vitale has spent the last five years documenting a tiny community of ranchers in Centennial Valley, Montana — "the Middle of Nowhere," as it is endearingly known. From early morning sunrises out on the range to late night jam sessions in dimly lit trucks, Vitale's camera lens has seen it all.
With a focus on biodiversity and sustainable living, the J Bar L Ranch does things a little differently from your average cattle ranch. The cattle are grass-fed and spend their entire lives roaming freely on pastures, naturally tilling the soil as they go. "Their motto is not to stress the cows and to live in harmony with the nature around them," Vitale said in an interview. That means that all wildlife are welcome and grizzly bears and wolves are frequent guests. "They have range riders who patrol and minimize conflicts with predators," she said. The ranchers' goal is to manage the ranch in such a way that balances the health of the livestock, land, wild animals, and the community. And the result is healthier, better-tasting beef.
Raising cattle in this way is extremely challenging, but "the ranchers share a deep love of their livelihood and the land," Vitale said. Below, a peek into the lives of the Centennial Valley ranching community and the bucolic beauty of the middle of nowhere: