Project Statement

Ol Farmer Axioms
  • Plant in the dust, and the bins will bust
  • With fog you can bet, in 90 days it'll be wet
  • Wind from the east, an inch of rain at least
  • When the rivers run high, it's dry by July

The drought in the summer of 2012 and the minimal snow pack from the previous winter caused the Gallatin County River Commissioner to shut off water from the West Gallatin River to the Farmer's Canal in July. This is only the second time in the nine years that ditch rider, Ray T., has had to shut off the headgates from the West Gallatin to the Farmer's Canal this early in the summer. The Canal was built in the 1800's and the oldest water rights, measured in miner's inches, were established in 1860. Currently, the Association of Gallatin Agricultural Irrigators maintain the Canal.  Ditch riders throughout the Canal's long history have traversed the banks by horse, by foot, by pick-up truck, measuring out each irrigator's water allotment by adjusting the headgates that run along it's seventeen-mile course. 

The Farmer's Canal used to be maintained by farmers who lived along it's length, however now that community is lost and water rights are sold off to absentee owners. One former ditch rider laments this loss of community:

It used to be that you had neighbors, now you just have people who live nearby.