30 Days of Dirt Roads: The Stats

It's 9:27 on Sunday night. On Friday, I committed to participating in the 30 Days of Blogging Challenge, specifically, Ag blogging. I knew some days it would be a challenge. I knew there would be days I didn't feel like writing. Knew there would be days I didn't have time to write. Today, was all of those days. But I said I would. And I want to follow through. For me, and for you, the reader. So here I am, day two, at 9..uh, 9:29 on a Sunday night. I thought it would be a good idea to make sure we're all on the same page when I talk about a 'Dirt Road'. So for the duration of this series, when I say Dirt Road, I mean anything not paved. Gravel. Dirt. Mud. Prairie Trail. Field Path. All of which, incidentally, are used to transport agricultural commodities. And over the next month, you'll get to see all of them in action here on the 30 Days of Dirt Roads series. I also gave some thought to my motivation for choosing dirt roads as the topic of my first blogging challenge. In no particular order: ♦ I have a penchant for alliteration. And while this doesn't specifically qualify,.. 30 Days of Dirt Roads has a certain ring to it. ♦ It's a prolific topic. Dirt Roads are everywhere, easy to find, fun to photograph. ♦ They play a huge part in our own farming & ranching operation. Every commodity we produce starts on a Dirt Road, and most of them either ship or are delivered to a shipping destination from one too. Actually, once I started doing a little research into Dirt Roads, I got pretty interested in what I found. This is a map of all the roads & farms/ranches in the County we live in. It hangs on the wall in our office, and it made me wonder how many of those roads are Dirt Roads. So I did some digging. photo And while I couldn't come up with the exact numbers for our County, I did find a fascinating little 93 page document from the Department of Civil Engineering at Montana State University -Bozeman in 2000: Gravel Roads Part II, back to the basics. Catchy title, but it's pretty much everything you never wanted to know about maintaining a gravel road. Anyway, according to this mini-novel, of the nearly 4 million miles of road network in the Continental U.S. in 2000 (which would indicate the number includes Alaska), it was estimated that about 65% were unpaved. That's close to 2.6 million miles of unpaved roads folks! It goes on to say that the State of Montana had approximately 71,000 miles of roads, with a whopping 76% unpaved...which adds up to only a little over 17,000 miles of paved road under The Big Sky. (I'm guessing the numbers have changed a little in the last 14 years-- but you get the idea) That's not a lot of blacktop to transport the nearly 4 billion dollars worth of ag commodities being produced in our State annually. Which brings me back to the point of this whole series. Dirt Roads are an integral, necessary part of the food chain. In my County. In Montana. And judging by the numbers, all across our Country. Check back in with us tomorrow,... we'll be talking about the shared use of the Dirt Road. Ag producers aren't the only ones frequenting the backroads of America. And what you learn might surprise you. We'll see you soon on the Farm (and a Dirt Road!) -Shauna