By Charlie Denison
Janos Lengyel of Hungary didn’t know what to think when he arrived in the unfamiliar territory of Montana.
First, his plane sprung an oil leak, causing him to arrive in the United States 40 hours late. On top of that, his luggage was lost.
He was wearing shorts when he arrived in Billings, where the weather was cold and windy, he said.
“It was very complicated to get here,” Lengyel said.
Lengyel is one of several international farmers who participated in this year’s American-International Charlolais Association tour of the United States, which began with a pre-tour through Montana.
On Monday, Lengyel and the other international farmers from Hungary, Australia, England and Canada, visited Lee and Connie Eaton’s ranch outside of Lindsay for lunch and a tour of their farm.
At the Eaton farm, Lengyel had an opportunity to relax, eat good American food like steak strips, rolls and chicken the Eatons provided and enjoyed
seeing a different kind of cattle operation.
“Here they have 10-20 acres for one cow alone, it seems,” he said. “It makes a big difference.”
Lengyel’s farm, which he works on with his wife and two sons, is considered one of the largest pig farms on the south side of Hungary near the Yugoslavian border. They have 8,000 pigs and 400 cows on 600 acres.
But his ranch is nowhere near the size of the Eaton ranch, he said.
“This is huge,” he said.
The opportunity to travel and see farms in other countries as part of the Charolais Association is highly valued by Lengyel, and is also valued by Lee Eaton, a former president of the Charolais Association from 2006 to 2008.
“It’s a real informational deal,” Lee said. “It’s been a blast this year to host it.”
As part of the Charolais Association, Lee has traveled to Scotland and the Czech Republic, he said, and both experiences were phenomenal.
“In Scotland I got to go to Sterling Castle and see the William Wallace monument,” he said “But the best thing about it was the hospitality. They treat you well overseas. Now we get the chance to duplicate that.”
The visiting farmers said the Eaton family did just that.
“The people have been very hospitable,” George Bloomfield of North Queensland, Australia, said.
This was Bloomfield’s first visit to Montana and he was amazed, he said.
“This is certainly an eye-opener,” he said. “It’s interesting, too, because a lot of this country reminds me of home, only we get 100 inches of rain a year and you get about 12.”
Even fellow Americans on the tour were surprised with how the Eaton ranch and the surrounding area was so rural, vast and unique.
“It’s a different world,” Glenn Turk of Pennsylvania said.
The Eaton ranch was the third location of the pre-tour. The first stop for the group was in Great Falls, then they explored Jane and Lloyd DeBruycker’s AB Cobb Ranch in Dutton. Following the afternoon at the Eaton’s, the group went to Sidney and then spent the night in Glendive.
Connie, Lee’s wife, was happy to host for once after traveling with Lee in the past.
About half of the people on the tour she had met before, Connie said, and it meant a lot to her to be the host.
“We had a wonderful time,” she said. “They were really impressed with the cattle and family operation and the pasture. The country side was completely different for some of them.”
She especially was pleased to have Hungarians at her ranch. In many ways, Hungarian and American farmers are similar, she said.
“Just like here, farming is hard for Hungarians economically,” she said. “A lot of the younger people don’t have the work ethic, either. They’re making a lot of progress, though.”
Lengyel addressed similar sentiments about life as a farmer in Hungary, but he said the climate differences alone makes him glad he does not farm in Montana.
“Life must be hard in these conditions,” he said. “The long winter, the cold weather, the wind,” he said.
Nevertheless, Lengyel said he feels fortunate to have the opportunity to travel and see the different operations.
He hopes the rest of the travel will be smoother than the start, he said.
On Friday, the group meets with 160 others in Oklahoma City and together they will tour seven states, venturing all the way to San Antonio, where the two-week tour will come to an end with a ceremony.
Published May 19, 2010