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inside Calving 5 Pollinator garden 9 Crop, grazing rotations 10 Monitoring stations 12 Ag Appreciation dinner 14 Tractor obsession 17 Wine grape growers 21 26 Invasive weeds 27 Flood warnings Rural legislative issues 28 Hay prices 30 Farm protection 33 Horse sense 35 Organic greenhouse 36 Raising pigs 38 FFA members compete 42 March snowpack report 43 Montana FSA 44 Around the county 46




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March 22, 2017 - 3

4 - March 22, 2017

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A calf on the Linse ranch in Ronan gets milk from its mother.

Harsh winter, spring mud can complicate calving By Linda Sappington Valley Journal


A dairy calf that needs to be bottle-fed is kept warm in its own igloo in Charlo.


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n extra-cold and snowy winter affected local farmers and ranchers, especially those who calve in January and February. “It just makes everything harder, takes more feed, and machinery breaks down easier,” said Jack Stivers, Montana State University extension agent for Lake County. Tom and Mona Linse are retired schoolteachers and fourth-generation ranchers in Ronan. “It was hard to feed, there for a while. Our four-wheelers couldn’t make it through the snow, and we had to plow paths to the calf shed,” Mona said. Even though ranchers feed silage for energy and lay windrows of straw for the cattle to bed down, the cows do need to be checked more often in the bitter cold, just in case “a little one doesn’t bounce up right away,” Mona said. Middle-of-the-night checks are the difficult ones, see page 6

March 22, 2017 - 5


from page 5

she said, but she was grateful her 19-year-old grandson was there on the night shift. This year the Linses tried the theory of feeding their cattle late in the day, rather than in the morning, to discourage the cows from giving birth at night. (See related column below). It seemed to work — every one of their calves was born in the daytime. Mona noted they had a high rate of twins, which will help make up for a few calves they lost. Charlo ranchers Trent and Melissa Coleman also keep a close watch on their herd. The registered Limousin expectant cows and heifers are checked “every half hour, every hour, through the night,” Melissa said. “We don’t leave them out to calve on their own.” LINDA SAPPINGTON/VALLEY JOURNAL

A Linse calf makes its way through a muddy field during the spring thaw.

Evening feeding may result in daytime calving



ach calving season cattlemen experience a middle-of-the-night calving incident that would have been easier to manage or had a more successful outcome if it had happened in the daylight. Ranchers may have heard that feeding cows in the Jack Stivers, late evening MSU Lake County Extension Agent encourages more cows to calve during the day. Recently MSU Extension Beef Cattle Specialist Racheal Endecott reviewed an article by Jaeger, in Professional Animal Scientist, which compares two sets of calving data with different feeding times. One group of cows was fed between 6 and 8 a.m. (15 years of data, 1,210 observations), and another group of cows was fed between 4 and 6 p.m. (5 years of data, 537 observations.) The research divided the day into six 4-hour periods starting at 6 p.m. and recorded the number of cows who calved during each 4-hour period. Cows that were fed in the morning had nearly equal distribution of cows calving during each period of the day. This resulted

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6 - March 22, 2017

Always proudly supporting local, organic, sustainable growers. VALLEY JOURNAL FILE PHOTO

in nearly equal proportions of cows calving between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. (52 percent) and those calving between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. (48 percent). Cows that were fed in the evening did not have equal distribution of cows calving during each period of the day. In fact, 85 percent of cows calved between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. and only 15 percent calved between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. There are many factors in addition to timing of feeding that can override the timing of calving. Research in cattle and other species suggests that physical activity, daily variations in hormonal secretions, ambient temperature, or day length may play a role.

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The weather contributed to the use of additional colostrum supplement this year, Melissa said, to help the newborns get going. The Colemans prefer to calve during the chilliest time of winter so the calves aren’t born in wet muck. “That saps the energy out of them, versus the good dry

cold,” Melissa explained. But several feet of snow means Trent has to plow the fields as well. Because the Colemans artificially inseminate their cows and heifers, they know the anticpated birthdate of each calf and can keep their expectant moms in a field


with good drainage if the weather warms. Another Coleman family of ranchers, Larry and Dee, were also done calving before the temperatures warmed, the rain began to drizzle and the fields became muddy. “We kind of lucked out,” Dee said.



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March 22, 2017 - 7

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Plant a pollinator garden with free seed News from Lake County Conservation District id you know we can thank pollinators for one out of three bites of food we take? Help the Lake County Conservation District attract more beneficial pollinators to our county. We have designed a pollinator-friendly seed mix, filled with flowers, legumes, and native grasses specifically designed for Lake County and now we want you to help us plant it. The seed mix contains more than 25 species of beneficial, pollinator-friendly plants including Prairie Coneflower, Yarrow, Sunflower, and various clovers. We are providing seed free of charge for county residents to establish pollinator garden plots. Seed will be provided for plots of up to 2,500 square feet. Site preparation is required prior to planting with an expectation that the pollinator garden will be managed and tended to over time. Our staff will assist you by providing expertise for site selection and planting. Pollinators live in a wide variety of habitats and use a wide variety of pol-


len sources. With less and less habitat, pollinators are declining. This is why it is important to have a variety of plants that pollinators will use in your own backyard. Pollinator gardens are a great way to increase native pollinators and beneficial insects. This mix contains plants with varying blooming times to provide a food source for pollinators all season long. Flowers of all different shapes, sizes, and colors are included in the mix to attract a variety of different beneficial insects. Some of the insects that are attracted to pollinator gardens include bees, butterflies, and moths. These insects are responsible for pollinating the fruits, vegetables, and nuts that we eat. Whether you are a backyard enthusiast or a large-scale agricultural producer, we’d love to work with you to improve pollinator habitat on your property. To get more information on how you can have your own pollinator garden, email, stop by our office at 64352 Highway 93 in Ronan or give us a call at 406-6762811, ext. 102.

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March 22, 2017 - 9


Crop, livestock rotations catching on By Caleb M. Soptelean Valley Journal


ifferent ideas about crop and livestock rotations are catching on


10 - March 22, 2017

locally. That’s the word from Ben Montgomery, a district conservationist with the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service in Ronan. He explained that alfalfa growers can harvest their crop for hay three or four times over six to 10 years before it begins to play out and yields start to decline. It takes two years to renovate a field in order to plant a new alfalfa crop, he said, hence the idea for growing other crops during that time. Farmers may grow barley or wheat by planting in April and harvesting it as hay in late June, or they can plant Willow Creek

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winter wheat or fall triticale — a cross between rye and wheat — that can be grazed on through the winter and harvested in mid to late June. Farmers can utilize their bare ground from June through October by planting a warm seasonal crop such as millet, sorghum grass, sunflowers or grazing corn while at the same time planting brassicas that will grow underneath the aforementioned crops. Brassicas include radishes, turnips and collard greens, for example. Such crop rotations are good for the economy because farmers buy seed and cattle can graze off of these crops, thus reducing hay costs. Farmers have been experimenting with some of these crops over the past several years, Montgomery said, and now there is enough knowledge about them for him to promote it.

An emerging livestock renaissance I

ntensive grazing, also referred to as mob grazing, incorporates a simple strategy to reduce actual input costs while maximizing conservation values. What is intensive grazing? In the case of small or large-scale ranches, it simply requires the strategy of moving your livestock, every 12 hours, into small confined pastures that have not been grazed up to 40 days. The pasture is never grazed below 9 inches of growth, which encourages a quicker, thicker regrowth and a deeper, hardier root system. It also chokes out the weed seed germination cycle. The small pasture area creates a heavy livestock fertilizing and tilling process through livestock trampling. It also provides a steady, naturally sweet and savory new feed in which the livestock learn to expect every 12 hours. The livestock and the rancher become unified within their relationship. The conservation values are huge. Thicker thatch conserves on water usage. Deeper roots create a hardier, drought resistant crop. Greater bio-available nutrients are released through enhanced soil microbial activity. Savings are garnered by eliminating periodic mechanical tilling, petroleum based fertilizers and deadly

herbicides. Albeit, the labor input is greater to create small electrified pastures, twice per day, to accommodate livestock shifting. Other tips: Enhanced re-mineralDavid Passieri ization of your lands St. Ignatius can be attained through a thoughtful livestock mineral supplement which goes right back into your soil. Organic status can be attained which may increase your market demand and profits. Some would agree that purchasing calves in the spring and selling them in the fall is the best way to minimize overwintering risks and maximizing annual profits. The alternative would be to calve in the late winter months and to provide high quality hay/alfalfa livestock feed, known to be fertilized and preferably of a non GMO product which will maximize nitrogen release back into your fields; let someone else pay for the nitrogen rich fertilizer that directly benefits your land. And finally, allow some feed waste by dropping a large round in place, without spreading. This will cause your livestock to thoroughly trample and fertilize that immediate area, producing massive soil enrichment, thus growth next season.

Ag Aspects

The small pasture area creates a heavy livestock fertilizing and tilling process through livestock trampling.


Lina Sturman utilizes intensive grazing methods with her sheep by using moveable fencing.

Another strategy he touted is livestock rotation, which involves moving cattle more frequently through center irrigation pivots, for example. The cows are moved every day into new paddocks, which are created by use of temporary polywire fencing. The strategy results in cattle grazing over a designated area in a circular fashion. The outer fence consists of permanent electric wire.

Livestock rotations make the grass grow quicker, which enables cows to add weight faster. It also reduces erosion and the need to spread herbicides and fertilizers. “People are looking closely at it,� he said, adding that the NRCS has been showing it to local farmers through tours.


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Courtesy photos Above, a graphc shows the locations of monitoring stations across Montana. Right, a solar-powered data collecting station records wind speed, wind direction, relative humidity, air temperature, rainfall, solar radiation, vegetation greenness and soil moisture and temperature at varying depths.

New statewide monitoring system benefits agriculture, land managers News from the University of Montana ontana landowners across the state now have access to hourly reports of soil moisture, temperature, soil quality, rainfall and more. The Montana Climate Office launched the Montana Mesonet information network this past summer, installing wireless weather stations at 13 sites across Big Sky Country. Based at the University of Montana, the climate office embraces a cooperative approach that addresses a diverse set of information needs. The expansion of Montana Mesonet will benefit landowners, watershed groups, agencies, nonprofits, commercial interests and others. “No one entity can ensure sustained operation and success of a statewide climate and soil moisture information network,” said Kelsey Jencso, climate office director. “This statewide


12 - March 22, 2017

network is being advanced by Montanans for Montanans.” The network data collecting stations will help landowners learn about drought, estimate when to irrigate crops, help schedule crop planting and harvesting, predict long-term stability of croplands and watersheds, predict changes in rangeland and forest productivity in relation to changes in soil moisture and temperature, predict pest and disease outbreaks, and predict changes in runoff that could lead to flooding. Quantifying even small changes in water availability is significant for Montanans who make decisions that balance risks and costs. In 2014, 27,800 farm operations on about 60 million acres of land in Montana earned $4.2 billion in revenue. Agriculture is such a large Montana industry that any increase in efficiency from more accurate weather and soil

moisture information can translate into millions of dollars in statewide savings each year. The monitoring stations are solar powered and transmit data to the Montana Climate Office server via secure cellular communication. The data collected at each station includes wind speed, wind direction, relative humidity, air temperature, rainfall, solar radiation, vegetation greenness and soil moisture and temperature at 4-inch, 8-inch, 20-inch and 36-inch soil depths. The climate office stores and analyzes the data at UM, but users can access, monitor and download information at any time online at Data is shown in graphs and maps and can be summarized and viewed by county, watershed or ownership unit. The office also recently assumed leadership of the Montana Community Collaborative

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Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS). Since Jan. 1, 143 volunteers have reported rain and snowfall amounts across the state. These citizen-scientists provide essential data about precipitation between National Weather Service sites and other weather networks. Several of the stations were installed in collaboration with Montana State University’s Agricultural Experiment Stations, and 16 new stations will be installed this summer in partnership with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. This soil-climate network, the first in the state, was funded in part by the Montana Research and Economic Development Initiative and continues to be supported by the Montana Forest and Conservation Experiment Station, a state-funded research agency at UM’s W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation.

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March 22, 2017 - 13

Forest activist, logger to speak at Agriculture Appreciation Dinner B


Ranching farmilies share a meal at the 2016 dinner.

ruce Vincent will speak at the Ronan Chamber of Commerce’s 38th annual Agriculture Appreciation Dinner for local ranchers and farmers, which will be held Friday, March 31, at the Ronan Community Center. Vincent is a third generation logger from Libby. During the past 25 years, he has given motivational speeches throughout the United States and the world, has testified on natural resource issues before Congress and has appeared on several news programs such as “60 Minutes.” Bruce has been named Timberman of the Year in Montana, National Forest Activist of the Year, and was the Agri-Women’s 2007 Veritas Award Winner. In 2004 Vincent received the inaugural Presidential Preserve America Award from President Bush. Local ranchers and farmers may pick up their Agriculture Appreciation Dinner tickets at several Ronan businesses. Social hour begins at 6 p.m. with dinner following at 7 p.m. Bruce Vincent

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Montana agriculture provides abundance all year

s the days get longer and the weather warms, many of us begin to plan and dream of the upcoming growing season. Warmer seasons for many mean connecting with the land and enjoying the fresh produce from our efforts. This connection to our food and how it is produced is a fundamental aspect of our nature. For those in Montana on the nearly 25,000 family farms and ranches, their connection is year-round. By Charles Boyer, vice-president, Whether they are feeding Montana State University their livestock or proCollege of Agriculture tecting newly born calves from extreme weather and wildlife, ranchers are always on the clock. For farmers, they too are busy in winter months maintaining equipment for the upcoming season and monitoring global markets to decide when to move recently harvested crops to shipping points. The dedication of these families provides all of us with the abundant, safe and diverse food we enjoy all year long. At your own tables this month, I challenge you to think deeply and with gratitude how agriculture impacts your life. March 21 is National Agriculture Day, marked by the Agriculture Council of America and celebrated nationally. We in the Montana State University College of Agriculture and Montana Agricultural Experiment Station are proud to recognize National Agriculture Month. Montana’s agriculture industry is as diverse as the state’s

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landscape — farming and ranching are woven into our history, and our modern day family farms and ranchers are why it thrives today. Montanans feed the world with

our livestock, wheat and pea and lentil crops. Our products are valued the world-over for their quality, creating an economic impact in our state that exceeds $4 billion annually. Montana grows the most pulse crops (pea, lentil and chickpea) of any state in the nation, and we have the most bumble bee species, a master pollinator, of any state as well. The artisan microbrews we love so much come from Montana barley fields. With a changing climate, limited natural resources including water, and new and emerging pests and diseases, production agriculture has never been easy. Yet, like our connection to our gardens, Montanans remain resilient in the ever-changing conditions of agriculture. When we see the risk agriculture requires, I’m continually taken aback that our own MSU College of Agriculture is one of MSU’s fastest-growing colleges, one year shy of a decade of enrollment growth. That tells us something: young people have the same passion for how we manage our natural resources, food and fiber production. The future is in good hands. We owe a great deal of gratitude to those who work in Montana agriculture and to those who will one day fill their shoes. Thank you to all who work in agriculture during this celebratory National Ag month and every day. Charles Boyer is the first vice president of agriculture at Montana State University. He oversees five academic departments and seven remote research centers across Montana, encompassing the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station. The MSU College of Agriculture has delivered agriculture teaching, research and outreach for Montana since 1893.

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for the love of green and yellow

Farmer shares tractor obsession, memories Story and photos by Karen Peterson Valley Journal

Tim Orr


im Orr lives on a farm at the foothills of the Mission mountains, in the same location where he grew up. His home is surrounded by fields, a dense forest of pine trees trim the upper east side, and the view looks picturesque even when the fog rolls in over the mountains. Orr is a farmer, among other things. He enjoys seeing new life forming — the grass in the spring, the baby cows, even the weeds. But the thing he loves most about farming, the thing he spends every extra

minute tinkering with, is the tractor. For him, the tractor is a symbol of everything he values, including hard work and family. And he enjoys spending hours working his fields from the seat of a tractor. “I can’t explain it,” he said. “There is just something about sitting on one of those tractors, watching the furrow turn, the smell of it, the dirt getting wet.” Even his mailbox is John Deere green and yellow. His obsession with tractors began when

he was a kid. He played with toy tractors and thought about tractors. But the magic happened when he was about 7 or 8 years old in the 1960s. His older brother sat him on a tractor, showed him a few operating procedures, and let him control the wheel. Orr drove slowly around the field, his feet dangling above the deck. While his family members stacked hay onto the tractor’s trailer, he kept the Model M John Deere putting along. He never forgot that moment. And he

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has always had a particular affection for green and yellow tractors, especially the older models. Orr said the transition from horse to tractor happened a few generations ago for his family. The first tractor was built in 1892, and it was slow to catch on. Before the tractor, farmers harnessed plows to horses to till the soil, cut and rake hay. Orr said his grandfather wasn’t interested see page 18

March 22, 2017 - 17

Tim Orr drives one of his beloved tractors in the 2016 Good Old Days parade in St. Ignatius.


from page 17

in replacing the horse. Orr’s father also hesitated to change to the new method, but he eventually switched over. Orr’s father ended up spending hundreds of hours working the fields from the seat of a tractor. One thing was apparent when Orr was a kid. “With the tractor, you didn’t have to feed it,” he said. Orr developed a treasure trove of tractor stories to tell 18 - March 22, 2017

his children. Peggy Orr, his wife of 42 years, warns with a smile that once he gets started, he can go on for hours about tractors. He talks about farmers making heroic efforts to get the crops done, like sitting on a tractor for as long as 72 hours, which was sustained with the help of the occasional meal and jug of water. He said the American farmer worked until he couldn’t see straight, although adding headlights to tractors helped with that problem. Around the mid-eighties, Orr taught all five of his children to drive tractors. He told the kids cautionary stories about his childhood, like the time his brother was run over Farm & Ranch


by a tractor – but luckily wasn’t hurt. When his daughter was about 6 years old she helped get one of the old tractors started; other times she helped feed the cows. “I’ll never forget her out there helping in that little blue coat,” he said. Orr likes listening to tractors run. He fondly recalls digging into an old GS, getting covered in oil, and working on it until he got it to start. “It’s a beautiful sound,” he said of the pop-pop noise from the old engines. He also likes the way old tractors look with shiny green paint, which was why he hit the tractor jackpot one day.

Orr said it’s interesting to look at tractors and see how they’ve evolved through the years.

“There was this guy in Arlee named Dennis Black (who restored old tractors),” Orr said. Orr was fascinated with Black’s ability to turn a rusty old tractor into a shiny green machine, and Black liked the quality of Orr’s hay. So, they made a trade: hay for a few tractors —lots and lots of hay. “Sometimes it would take me four or five years to pay one off,” Orr said. Orr’s collection of tractors grew. One of the tractors he bought happened to be the original Model M that his fa-

ther drove. He is particularly proud of that one. He stores it in a newer shed that he built to protect his collection, which has currently grown to about 14 tractors. Small model tractors also line a few shelves in his house to show how tractors have changed. Orr said it’s interesting to look at tractors and see how they’ve evolved through the years with more horsepower, better fuel economy, a change from three wheels to four, sometimes, and electric starters and power steering. One of the best additions was the development of a more comfortable seat. Farm & Ranch

Orr doesn’t ever plan on retiring from farming, although he is looking forward to retiring from other work in the next year. “We need a lot of things, but this world needs farmers; we really have to have food, so we need someone silly enough to stick with it,” he said. And after retirement, he plans to spend time restoring more tractors, maybe one of the first ones ever built. He doesn’t have one of those — yet.


March 22, 2017 - 19

20 - March 22, 2017

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Montana ‘uniquely situated for wine’ By Caleb M. Soptelean Valley Journal


ine production in Montana is about to explode, according to local vineyard owner and wine producer Larry Robertson.

Robertson, a soil conservationist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Ronan and a Polson resident, is excited about wine’s potential locally and across the state. Robertson owns a six-tenths-acre vineyard on Finley Point and said he plans to soon begin operating the first commercially

licensed winery in the world that uses steam treatment for processing wine grapes. The labor and time intensive process is a “pain in the butt,” he said, but the heat-treating process, which is like pasteurization, will result in a wine that is anti-bacterial without adding sulfites and will not oxidize after being exposed to air.

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This means the taste will not change after a bottle is opened, he said. “I do it to make a better, more flavorful wine,” he said of the heat-treatment process. “It sucks all the flavor and color out of the the fruit so you have a better product.” see page 22

March 22, 2017 - 21



from page 21

He already has a permit from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and earlier this month was close to passing a county inspection and getting a state permit to start his “small scale micro winery.” Robertson has had his vineyard for three years, but he’s been making wine since he was an eighth-grader in Minnesota. He has made grape and cherry wines under the “Arrogant Bastard” label. A lot of Montana wine grapes are a cross between Riparia, which is a river bottom wild North American grape, the French Vinifera and several other varieties, including Petite Pearl, Crimson Pearl and Verona, he said. “This is such a unique area” for wine grape growing, he said, explaining that because Montana’s wine grape growers have to irrigate, they can withhold water and stress the grapes, thus producing a better product. More than 90 percent of the cold-hardy wine grape growers in the northern U.S. don’t have to irrigate, so this option of withholding water is not available to them, he said. “We grow cold-hardy grapes with a California Napa Valley irrigation strategy to improve the grape quality,” he said. 22 - March 22, 2017


Larry Robertson plans to begin a commercial wine-making operation soon, using a technique that does not require the addition of sulfites.

“We grow cold - hardy grapes with a California Napa Valley irrigation strategy to improve the grape quality.” LARRY ROBERTSON VINEYARD OWNER, WINE PRODUCER

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Painter and winemaker Another local wine producer is also a painter: Dana Berardinis. She moved to the Flathead Lake area in 2005 from Ohio to be a river guide and began making wine the next year. “I started making jams and canning and it grew from there,” said the Woods Bay-area resident. “The whole idea of a self-sustaining life drove me to making my own wine.” She picks grapes and fruit from various area vineyards and orchards and likes to experiment. “Every year I come up with new ideas,” she said. Last year she made strawberry rhubarb and is experimenting with huckleberry. She has also made apricot and cherry wines. This year she plans to release a Marquette grape wine. Berardinis barrel ages her fruit wines 10 to 12 months, while her grape wines are aged for 18 months to two years. Berardinis produces 500 to 600 cases of wine a year (at 12 bottles to a case), and distributes her product in liquor stores and specialty wine shops from Whitefish to Missoula. Since she’s a painter, Berardinis also makes the labels for her bottles using her own artwork. She hosts wine tastings from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Friday from May through October at her business, which is located in the Bickford Building at 220 N. Main St. in Polson.


Dana Berardinis sells her award winning wines in downtown Polson and at regional liquor stores and specialty wine shops.

see page 24

Farm & Ranch

March 22, 2017 - 23


A jug of Pinot Noir before fermentation from a 2016 harvest waits to become a sparkling wine. Left: Diana Sheffield harvests Pinot Noir grapes at Tavenner vineyard.



from page 23

Sparkling California girl Another lady has plans to start selling wine commercially: California transplant Diana Sheffield, who moved to Polson in 2008. Sheffield and her parents, Mary Frances and Gino Caselli, planted a one-acre vineyard on the south shore of Flathead Lake in 2013. Sheffield’s focus is on making sparkling wine by using Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay grapes, some of which come from the Tavenner Vineyard. Sheffield explained that sparkling wine 24 - March 22, 2017

is like champagne, but only grapes grown in that French region can use the famous name. Sparkling wines are not quite ripe — they’re harvested at three-quarters of their sugar level — but have sugar and carbon dioxide added to the bottle, which produces the fizz when opened. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in vitaculture and emology at UC Davis and interning and working in Calistoga in the Napa Valley, Sheffield moved to the Flathead Lake area so that she could start a commercial wine business, she said. Somers secretary Steve Cummings has served as secretary/treasurer of the Montana Grape and Winery Association since its inception

three years ago. Cummings, who owns a vineyard of less than an acre in Somers, said a lot of Flathead Lake wine grape growers began by growing the Frontenac, a cold-hardy hybrid developed by the University of Minnesota, five years ago. Then the Marquette varietal came along and did better at ripening. Now many are turning to the Petite Pearl, a hybrid developed by Tom Plocher, an independent grape breeder from Hugo, Minnesota, Cummings said. Plocher, who is the only independent grape breeder in the U.S., according to Cummings, will be speaking at an upcoming wine conference about developing new grape varieties. Wine conference A number of wine grape growers, wine

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producers and wine lovers will be participating in a conference March 30-April 1 at KwaTaqNuk Resort in Polson. The conference, which will be hosted by the Montana Grape and Winery Association, will include workshops on winemaking and grape growing and pruning and water management on Saturday, April 1. Wine testing and tasting sessions will be held Friday afternoon, March 31, with a banquet at 7 p.m. Forty non-conference attendees can attend the banquet for $65 each. For more information, go online at or call Dan Getman at 406-871-5499.



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Stop spread of hearty invasive weed A

long-feared weed enemy has invaded Lake County. Newly identified in patches around the county, Rush Skeletonweed has arrived. It is extremely important that the weed be located and eradicated before it spreads. Rush Skeletonweed is a deep-rooted forb in the sunflower family, growing 1 to 4 feet in height. Sharply lobed leaves, similar to those of dandelions, form a rosette that withers as the flower stem develops. Other leaves up the Jack Stivers, stem are inconspicuous, narMSU Lake County Extension Agent row and entire. Each rosette produces one flowering stem, with multiple spreading or ascending branches. A distinguishing characteristic of Rush Skeletonweed is the presence of coarse, downward-pointing brown hairs near the base of the stem. Flower heads are produced near the ends of stems, either individually or in groups of two to five, each with nine to 12 flowers. Seeds are about 0.1 inch long, with a slender beak at the top with numerous tiny bristles. The leaf, stem and roots exude milky latex when cut or broken. Rush Skeletonweed has a slender, simple taproot that can reach more than seven feet deep. Without control measures, this weed will produce a mono-culture of interconnected plants, where a single plant can become an entire colony. One plant can also produce up to 20,000 seeds with 90 percent capable of germinating. Successful control of Rush Skeletonweed requires sustained effort, constant evaluation and a variety of strategies. Refrain from driving vehicles and machinery through infestations during the seeding period and limit access to property. In small infestations, diligent hand pulling or grubbing two or three times per year for 10 years is an eradication option. Mowing is not an effective control due to the deep roots. Neither is cultivation since it spreads the root fragments and may increase the infestation. Competitive plantings such as alfalfa and other legumes will compete for soil nutrients and may shade Rush Skeletonweed plants. Continuous grazing with sheep can reduce or prevent production of seed although moderate grazing seems to be more effective than heavy grazing since heavy grazing decreases the competitive

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Rush Skeletonweed

ability of desired species. Herbicides must be used at the proper times and with the addition of surfactants due to the rubbery plant surface. Four biological control agents have been released in North America: a mite, a midge, a rust and a root-feeding moth. Biological control does not guarantee short-term weed control. Several years are required for them to multiply to population levels that effectively suppress Rush Skeletonweed and will never eradicate the weed. What can you do? Large infestations of Rush Skeletonweed are just over the border in neighboring states. It is very important to take measures to prevent the spread of this weed in our county. Prevention and eradication are the goals for managing Rush Skeletonweed. Sightings of suspicious weeds should be left in place for a couple of reasons. The first is that transporting the plants can readily spread weed seeds. Secondly, by immediately notifying the Lake County Weed Control Department or MSU Extension Lake County office, personnel can positively identify Rush Skeletonweed. Agents can enter the location into GPS for further monitoring and then begin steps to eradicate the weed. For further information, contact Lake County Weed Control 406-883-7330 or MSU Extension Lake County 406-676-4271.


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News from Montana Department of Natural Resources amaging floods caused by ice jams are a fact of life along many Montana rivers and streams. With warmer conditions coming, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation would like to remind residents that the heavy ice covers on waterways could break apart in some areas, producing prime conditions for ice jams and associated flooding. “Montana experiences the highest number of reported ice jams in the continental U.S., with most occurring in


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February and March,” said DNRC Director John Tubbs. “Flooding can happen in any community and it can happen quickly. Residents in flood-prone areas should take steps to safeguard their families and property.” Potential impacts from melting snow and rainfall including pooling of water in areas where storm drains or ditches are clogged with snow and ice; pooling of water in low-lying areas; and potential ice jams on small creeks. Michelle Phillips, a DNRC floodplain specialist, said it’s important that residents living near a river or stream

have a flood evacuation plan, and consider the following steps: —Purchase flood insurance. In most cases flood insurance must be purchased 30 days before a flooding event. —Keep extra drinking water on hand. Flooding can compromise local water systems. —Shovel or plow snow away from homes and structures. —Be ready to transport valuables; or, where practical, elevate them.

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Legislators are still in session in the Capitol building in Helena.

Stockgrowers Association pleased with legislative actions News from Montana Stockgrowers Association he 65th Legislature is beyond the halfway point and from the Montana Stockgrowers Association’s view, it has been successful for agriculture in Montana. MSGA continues to take a leading role in representing the livestock industry during the legislature and works closely with other agricultural groups to ensure our industry will continue to be the number one economic driver for the state. Going into this legislative session, MSGA’s No. 1 priority was to work with the Department of Livestock to develop a structurally balanced budget and ensure the Department was maintained as a standalone agency. Thus far, the DOL has successfully provided an in-depth analysis of its budget before the Joint Appropriations Subcommittee on Natural Resources and Transportation. The committee took executive action on Feb. 17; the budget moved forward as presented. MSGA was actively involved in numerous livestock specific legislation over the first 45 days. MSGA supported both SB 73, which extends the Montana livestock loss program until 2023, and HB 256, which includes specific criteria for what


28 - March 22, 2017

Montana Stockgrowers Association was actively involved in numerous livestock-specific legislation over the first 45 days. qualifies as a legal electric fence. One bill that would have negatively impacted the livestock industry in Montana was HB 419. This bill would have removed the provision that requires bison be certified by the state veterinarian as brucellosis-free before transport. This would have put livestock at risk of exposure to brucellosis outside of the Designated Surveillance Area. MSGA aggressively opposed this bill, and it was tabled in committee. In addition to livestock bills, SB 203 would have had a significant impact on agriculture. If passed it would have allowed for animals that have been seized by law enforcement under suspicion of animal cruelty to be sold before the owner is convicted. MSGA worked with Senator

Eric Moore to oppose this bill, which ultimately failed on the Senate floor. MSGA also opposed HB 243, which prohibited outfitting on inaccessible state lands. This would have levied a fine on the grazing lessee of no less than $500/section for allowing access to these parcels. This bill, like attempts in previous sessions, was tabled in committee. There have been two pieces of legislation addressing the spread of noxious weeds in the state. HB 126 revises the Montana Pesticides Act to generate additional revenue for the Department of Agriculture to administer the noxious weed program. More importantly, this bill will maintain Montana State University Extension as the lead in farm pesticide

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applicator certification and training programs in the state. The second bill, HB 434, creates the Montana Wildlife Habitat Improvement Act. This program will be administered by Fish, Wildlife and Parks, utilizing federal Pitman-Robertson funds. The grants will be used to fight the spread of noxious weeds and improve wildlife habitat. During the first half of the session, MSGA has supported a number of water related bills that will benefit agriculture. HB 110 ensures water right holders can file their stock water claims and have them included in final water adjudication. HB 368, eliminates the 500-foot setback requirement of a well from a lagoon; allowing for the setback distance to be between 100-500 feet, based upon soil conditions and elevation. HB 339 is a compromise bill on exempt wells, it balances senior water rights and the needs of the development industry. Although there are still some major funding issues, such as the finalizing the state budget and infrastructure demands, agriculture has maintained a strong presence and is well positioned as the legislative session moves toward adjournment in April.

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While extremely cold winter weather drove hay sales up at the start of the year, the rush to buy hay has thawed with warming spring temperatures.


Local hay producers experience market shift By Karen Peterson Valley Journal


ot every hay farmer in every region of the state has the same experience, but several hay farmers in the county are looking at leftovers this year. “You can try and predict what will happen but you never really know,” said Dana Tryon, St. Ignatius hay farmer. He is experiencing a surplus of hay and a low return on what he has sold this year compared to years in the past. “It makes you think about rotating the crops and growing something else,” he said. He is still trying to sell the alfalfa and alfalfa grass crops he grew in 2016. The United States Department of Agriculture Market News Service in Montana reported that farmers on average sold a lot of hay during the first few months of the year, due to a harsh round of cold 30 - March 22, 2017

and snow, although the rush to buy hay is slowing down. “Buyers became very aggressive buying large supplies to ensure they could make it to grass time without having to purchase additional hay,” according to the report. “This helped producers move through supplies in what many worried would be a year with carry over.” The initial rush to buy enough hay to get through winter caused some producers to run low on supply toward the end of the season, although the market report states that milder temperatures in March are causing most buyers to show little interest in immediate hay delivery. Each farmer’s experience can be different and changes depending on customer demand; some producers got lucky and sold a lot of hay during the worst part of winter, but others didn’t have a customer base with a high demand.

Tryon said he thinks his surplus of hay happened because his regular customers couldn’t use all the hay he produced and many farmers around him also had extra hay. Growing a field full of green hay, mowing it down and turning it into bales involves many hours of work. If everything goes right, the farmer starts selling hay as soon as it’s cut, but several factors can change the intended result. The price of hay goes up and down each year, he said. The weather changes with too much water or not enough, and livestock prices also affect how much people can pay for hay. “You’ve also got the price of water (for irrigation) and taxes,” he said. “It’s a lot of work, but I love it”. He has a second fulltime job to help pay the bills and even out the uncertainty of farming. Tryon said farming is a lot like gambling in that you never know for sure

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what the outcome will be. And the price he is getting for hay is lower this year. He was getting about $160 on the first cutting and $170 on the second last year, but this year he is getting about half that amount. Tryon, who started farming about 25 years ago, said he hasn’t experienced prices this low. He added that while people were buying hay at a higher price in the early part of 2016 after a summer drought lowered production, “This year, I can’t sell it.” Tryon isn’t counting on getting a better price for his hay this fall or next winter. He looked at market predictions and thinks the price will be around $85 per round bale, but he really hopes he is wrong. “There is a lot of water this year, which is good, but everyone will have more hay, and it’s going to be tough to break even,” he said.

“In the 80s, we waited 10 years for it to get better, and we lost a lot of farmers. But hopefully we don’t have to wait that long for prices to get better. All I can say is that we wait for God’s blessing, and keep going.” PAUL HUNSUCKER, POLSON FARMER

The occasional “good year” keeps him going. He hit everything right with grain, hay and cattle after the 2015 crop was sold, and he hopes he can hang on through the tough years. “This farming is not a get rich thing,” he said. He isn’t sure what he will do if his hay crop doesn’t break even this year. He could change crops or buy cows to eat up the leftover hay, but the cattle prices are low, too, he said. Paul Hunsucker of Polson also grows hay. He has farmed in the area for 40 years. He said farming is a tough business, and it helps to try and plan for a bad year or several bad years, but when farmers don’t do well, it creates a ripple effect through the local economy. “You don’t go out and buy more land or other things like vehicles,” he said. “It creates a challenge for everyone, but you have to plan for it, tighten your belt, and keep going.” He also experienced lower hay prices this year, and has leftover hay, but the market has always been shifty, he said, so he assumes it will happen. “This year was a tough year,” he said. “We had more cold weather and snow, but we still have an over-supply.” He can remember once having a bad decade in the farming business. “In the 80s, we waited 10 years for it to get better, and we lost a lot of farmers. But hopefully we don’t have to wait that long for the prices to get better,” Hunsucker said. “All I can say is that we wait for God’s blessing, and keep going.”


Hay prices have dropped significantly from last year.


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Many factors, including an abundance or lack of water, irrigation costs, and livestock prices affect an ever-shifting hay market.

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Keeping barns and outbuildings lit and locked can discourage would-be thieves.

Fend off farm felons By Rob Zolman Valley Journal


hroughout the past few years, the relatively tranquil environment of the farm and ranch has seen a significant up-turn in the frequency of theft and vandalism. Although ag-related or rural crimes may be considered less serious than urban-type crime, lost profits, increased insurance deductibles or premiums and higher costs of doing business absorbed by farmers and ranchers from rural crimes are indeed very serious. By creating situations in which the potential thief is likely to be seen or heard and fostering an environment in which the opportunity for theft is more trouble than it’s worth, the criminal will often move elsewhere to look for easier pickings. The advice given below may be simple, but it can help to reduce opportunities for crimes against you and your property. Some criminals seek rural areas for their remoteness and ease of not being detected while owners are away. “When you are going out of town, let your neighbors


know so they can watch your house,” Lake County Sheriff Don Bell said. Beware of any suspicious visitors – strangers may Farm & Ranch

not be what they seem. These people could be claiming to be lost, looking to buy scrap or even looking for work. “They are looking over your belongings to see what they can steal,” said Bell. “Don’t let them in your house.” Thieves do not like to be seen and hate bright lights. Install automatic timer and motion sensor lighting to illuminate critical areas like fuel tanks, grain bins, shops, outbuildings, barns and your home. A security light being activated could also be an indicator there may be an intruder on the property. “Having a noisy dog also helps,” Bell said. Practice closing the barn or shed doors when not in use, especially if they can be seen from the road. Visible valuables are an open invitation to a thief. Machinery, tools, vehicles and equipment are popular targets for the opportunistic thief, especially if a key is left in the ignition. These items should be uniquely marked, inventoried and photographed. If they are stolen and later recovered it will be much easier for your March 22, 2017 - 33

“Having a noisy dog also helps.” LAKE COUNTY SHERIFF DON BELL

property to be identified and returned. Your pets, animals and livestock are also potential targets for criminals. Effective identification methods of ear notching, branding and tattooing are difficult to alter. Although these steps may not stop the most determined of criminals, they may discourage thieves from stealing your livelihood.


Barking dogs may help deter criminals from stealing property.

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Organic produce and plants are growing inside Westland Seed’s new greenhouse on Round Butte Road in Ronan.

Westland Seed adds organic greenhouse, market garden By Caleb M. Soptelean Valley Journal


Jamie Sagmiller works in the greenhouse. 36 - March 22, 2017


estland Seed is doing something organic. Jamie Sagmiller said the business opened a greenhouse last May and plans to have two ready by mid-March, along with a market garden that will begin soon. The greenhouses will feature bedding plants and flowers, hanging baskets, vegetables, tomatoes, peppers, herbs and perennials. “We believe in locally-grown food,” Sagmiller said. “We reduce our carbon footprint because we’re not shipping it long distance.” He said the organic greenhouse operation should be certified by the state sometime this spring. In addition, the business is planning to begin growing an organic market garden on a half-acre this spring. The garden will include fruit, vegetables and cut flowers that

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will be sold in the store. Twenty-eight varieties of Native American heirloom vegetables will be available, including Hidatsa squash, Hopi and Arikara sunflowers and Cherokee purple tomatoes. William Schlegel, a local botanist, and Barb Foust will help Sagmiller in the greenhouse, while Dave Brewster will manage the market garden. Westland Seed plans to gradually expand the market garden to three acres, although more could be added as 13 acres total are available. A nursery that will include fruit trees is also planned. “We’ll have little pollinator gardens with edible herbs and flowers” growing next to the market garden, Sagmiller said. Strips of wildflowers will also be grown to help with the pollinators. “If you use chemical fertilizers, you gradually deplete your soil,” he said, noting the

Organic gardening has numerous benefits T

he benefits of gardening organically are many. First, food grown without dangerous pesticides and herbicides is safe for us, and our children, to eat. Second, using organic methods protects our natural environment: soils are healthy, waters are protected from dangerous runoff, insects, birds, and water creatures are all unharmed by dangerous chemicals. With organic methods, your soil becomes alive with organisms such as mycorrhizal fungi, which, through a symbiotic relationJames Sagmiller ship with plant roots, increase a plant’s ability to uptake moisture and nutrients. These fungi, along with beneficial soil bacteria, create an ideal, sustainable environment for crops — exactly the opposite of degraded soils exhausted through repeated use of chemical fertilizers. At first, planning to “go organic” might seem difficult,

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garden will be built with organic soil amendments such as kelp, compost, fish bone meal and covered crops such as peas that will be tilled under the soil. The greenhouses, which use only organic fertilizer and pest controls, are using Peaco-Big Arm potted soil and peat moss in their bedding containers. Produce such as onions, leeks and micro-greens will be available when the greenhouses open in mid-March, Sagmiller said. Since 1973, Westland Seed has sprouted and evolved. It was known as the Charlo Seed Plant in 1973, when Ken Sagmiller purchased it and changed the name to Western Seed and Supply. In 1978 he purchased the Peavey Co. Mill at 36272 Round Butte Road in Ronan, and then changed the name to Westland Seed in 1985. Jamie Sagmiller’s brother, Dave, took over the business when their father died in 2003. Since that time, Dave Sagmiller has expanded the business to include sporting goods and guns, and most recently, the greenhouses.



but I assure you the rewards are worth the time taken to learn easy ways of gardening organically. Siting, fencing, and soil building are first steps. Find a location for your garden that receives full sun, preferably one with wind protection. If a site is windy, you can put lattice or privacy webbing on your fence to slow down the blast. Shelter belt plantings of native trees and shrubs are excellent too. Because deer are so prevalent nowadays, an 8-foot-high fence is the best way to shield your garden. Other methods are less effective. I made my fence out of game fencing and 10-foot metal posts. A 6-foot fence that hides what is on the other side will work also; if deer cannot see what is on the other side, they will not leap over. Deer will eat anything if they are hungry enough. A soil test is very helpful before you begin your garden spot. You can immediately see what nutrients you have in your soil and which ones you need to add more of. It is also good to know the analysis of purchased soil amendments (marked with the letters N-P-K on fertilizer labels). For high nitrogen contents (N on the label) choose blood meal, cottonseed meal, alfalfa meal, and composted manure. Amendments with high phosphorous (P on the label) include fish bone meal and rock phosphate. Potash, a source of potassium gathered from salt deposits, (K on the label) is abundant in kelp meal, alfalfa meal and wood ashes. Keep in mind wood ashes and bone meal become alkaline (higher pH) as they decompose, and cottonseed meal becomes more acidic (lower pH). It is helpful to have a test kit and know your soil’s pH and NPK content. Nitrogen promotes good green growth, phosphorous promotes flowering and fruiting, and potash encourages root growth and ripening of fruits and seeds. To kill out grass and weeds for a new garden spot, use something safe that will shade the ground. Some options are: landscape fabric with weights on it, newspaper covered with moist, heavy organic straw, or black plastic weighted down. It takes a few weeks to kill out most plant material, but some perennial weeds will remain and seeds will sprout again. If you are planning well ahead, you can immediately plant a soil-building cover crop to shade the soil until you plant vegetables. If you need to start right away, till the soil, add organic amendments, plant your seeds and transplants, then mulch. When you plant seeds, choose organically certified seed if possible, especially for food plants. Heirloom seed varieties, which are all open-pollinated, are excellent for organic gardening, because being generations-old, they are well-adapted to climates where they have been grown Farm & Ranch

for a long time. Heirlooms often ripen in succession rather than all at once, frequently are more nutritious, have exceptional taste, and seed can be saved from them to plant next year. Another plus is that many heirloom varieties were developed to last well in storage—a valuable trait for local sustainability and for gardeners who want to be self-sufficient. Mulching your garden is important to conserve moisture and provide for living soil organisms. Landscape fabric, organic straw, compost, or composted grass clippings work well. (Fresh grass clippings or other fresh greens will draw nitrogen out of the soil rather than add nitrogen.) Be sure to include a home for pollinators in or around your garden. Native wildflowers are best; they will attract and foster native species of bees and other insects. Another effective tactic is to release ladybugs, lacewings, praying mantises and other pest-eating bugs in your garden at proper times. It is helpful to provide bird, bat houses and Mason bee houses. Most gardeners new to organic gardening have anxiety about controlling pests and diseases. Healthy, thriving plants, combined with preventative methods are the most effective ways to begin. A diversity of crops will help confuse damaging insects (the scent of marigolds, for example confuses some pests). Crop-rotation will prevent a host of pest and disease problems. Plan your vegetable layout so that the same kind of plant is not grown in the same spot for at least four years. Collars made from toilet paper rolls or plastic cups will deter cut worms. Netting will prevent birds from eating strawberries. Light insect fabric on row covers will protect all cole (brassica) crops from cabbage loopers; and straw mulch around tomatoes will make a home for beetles, which will eat aphids off the tomatoes at night. Garlic spray over your vegetables will confuse most damaging pests and prevent infestations if timed at monthly intervals. Safe pesticides and fungicides, such as BT, horticultural oil, neem oil, insecticidal soap, pyrethrum, and diatomaceous earth are each effective for certain listed pests. Always follow directions and precautions to the letter with any pesticides or herbicides. Take advantage of the latest technologies to assist your organic garden. A few of these include: season-extending high or low tunnels, solar-powered heating and cooling, and frost-protection fabrics. Using these can improve yields significantly. Happy organic gardening! March 22, 2017 - 37

It’s a pig deal


Local woman raises twisted tails for 4-H youth By Linda Sappington Valley Journal


rize porkers are better when purchased and raised locally, according to one woman who has raised piglets to supply the 4-H program for five years. “Pigs are one of the easiest animals to raise, and probably about the lowest maintenance animal there is,” said Diane Krantz, owner of Rosey K Show Pigs in Charlo. She was involved with 4-H as a child — but only with sewing and cooking. “I had no pig experience at that age,” she said. Now all Krantz’s grandchildren are in the Mission Valley Ranch Hands 4-H group. Before she decided to breed sows, 4-H’ers had to pur-

chase their livestock from out-of-area auctions at a much higher price. The experience of raising a market animal is 4-H’s goal, yet she’d also like to see participants raise a few bucks in the process. “They’re having to put feed on top of it,” Krantz said. “With all their hard work, it’s nice to make some money at the end.” When a sow is bred, a common litter of 10-12 piglets arrives in three months, three weeks, and three days. Some sows get testy when the babies are born, Krantz said.

“A mama pig can get pretty ornery (protecting their babies), she said. Once the piggies are weaned — at about 6-8 weeks — they are vaccinated, wormed and the males castrated. Then participants can choose from Krantz’s York, Hereford, and Hamshire varieties. Most 4-H’ers don’t have a favorite, Krantz noted. “Some want straight white, some want females — they’re easier to get along with than males,” Krantz said. “Course, all baby pigs are cute.” Youth who choose a swine project pick up their piglet in late March, when pens are free of snow and excess

“A pig has a plow on the end of its nose because it does meaningful work with it. It is built to dig and create soil disturbance.” JOEL SALATIN, AMERICAN AUTHOR

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4-H’ers handle their pigs in the show ring at the Lake County Fair, above. Below, a sleepy swine rests in the fair barn.

mud. Then the process of feeding and training for show begins. Some participants go above and beyond. “Kaitlen Young teaches her pig to sit,” Krantz said. Krantz said there’s a trick to handling piglets, if you don’t want them squealing on you. “If you hold them up by their hind legs and they hang down, they won’t squeal as much. If you tuck their legs in (like one would hold a kitten), then it will scream,” she said. Krantz laughs at the pigs’ antics.


“They’re like a whole bunch of dogs out there,” she said. “They just want to be scratched and petted.” But don’t run after one if it gets loose. “You don’t push a pig, and you don’t chase them. It’s like gathering fleas,” Krantz said. “They always come back to wherever their feed is.” The official weigh-in for swine and sheep is April 29 from 9 a.m. until noon at the Lake County Fairgrounds. The second weigh-in, just before the Lake County Fair begins, is July 25.


“They’re like a whole bunch of dogs out there. They just want be scratched and petted.” DIANE KRANTZ, ROSEY K SHOW PIGS, CHARLO

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March 22, 2017 - 39

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Creative solutions keep farming accessible T

his is a time of tremendous opMany beginners find financing at the portunity in farming and ranching USDA Farm Service Agency, which has for beginners graduating from college the lowest interest rate and programs for or looking to start a beginners, women, veterans, and venture of their own. minorities. Other lenders may be Alternative crops and willing to deal with the extra risk By Wyatt Fraas, high value markets Assistant Director, Center that beginners present, and would offer profit potential for Rural Affairs’ Farm eventually be the “graduation” goal and Community for USDA Farm Service Agency and lower risk for new farmers. If land ownborrowers.

 ership is the preferred route, funding will Land ownership isn’t the only way to have to come from savings, bootstrapping, have a farm business. Renting land is a investors/partners, or loans. There are no viable option and represents a lower cost grants, or free money, for farm startup and than ownership. Rental or temporary land operation.

 access may open up other options. Vacant

Ag Aspects

urban lots, unused commercial property, or acreages may be places to start farming. Opportunity may lie in being creative. One beginner located small pasture parcels that larger farmers didn’t want to mess with. He sub-rented these parcels, then hauled water and used temporary fence to move his cattle herd from place to place. Landowners noticed his hard work and care of these properties, and in a few years, offered full farms to him to rent.

 Resources, such as a discussion of financing strategies, can be found on our website,

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Wyatt Fraas, Center for Rural Affairs’ Farm and Community Assistant Director, has spent 20 years advising landowners and beginning farmers on farm asset and business transfer. Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-prof it organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.

March 22, 2017 - 41


Jamie Romero participates in the Agricultural Mechanics competition at the John Deere Ag Expo.

Tyler Kelsch assists with swine carcass grading after the Lake County Fair.




Aislynn Love, center, evaluates a class of meat cuts at the KMON Meats Contest.


FFA members placed third at the last Livestock Evaluation Contest, and hope to win state.

Local FFA members to compete at state level

his year Mission Valley FFA will be at the Montana State FFA Convention from March 22-25 in Great Falls. State Convention is an opportunity for FFA members from around the state to test their knowledge and skills against each other By Reese McAlpin, in a number of career developMission Valley FFA advisor ment events. FFA prepares students for one of the thousands of careers available in the agriculture industry, which stretch well beyond farming and ranching, including agricultural science, sales and service, and agricultural communications. This year at State Convention, Mission Valley FFA members will be competing in Livestock Evaluation, Agronomy, Mechanics, Farm Business Management, and Creed Speaking, as well as presenting a Hall of Chapters Display, and FFA Scrapbook. Some state CDE contests don’t fit into the four days at State Convention, and will

Ag Aspects

42 - March 22, 2017

Mission Valley FFA jacket


be run during the Montana CDE Days in May. These include Agricultural Communication, Horse Evaluation, Floriculture, and Forestry. Farm & Ranch

The Mission Valley Livestock Evaluation team has been tremendously competitive in recent years, winning the 2015 State FFA contest, as well as the 2017 State 4-H Contest. Through hard work and dedication, both during the school year and at livestock judging camps during the summer, many Mission Valley members have set themselves up to be competitive in both the high school and collegiate judging arenas. Our teams have traveled to Louisville, Kentucky, and Denver, Colorado, to compete in national-level contests. Many of our graduated members have competed and received full-ride scholarships on collegiate judging teams. In addition to CDE’s, our students will be exposed to keynote speakers, community service activities, leadership workshops, and educational and career opportunities at the trade show. FFA strives to provide future leaders for the agriculture industry by developing students through communication, public speaking, and leadership activities. 

The snow-capped Mission Mountains rise above the valley floor, as seen from Back Road in Ronan.


Snowy February improves snowpack, streamflow prospects for spring News from USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Montana ebruary brought a notable change to the weather patterns across the state that were experienced during the month of January, according to snowpack data collected by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Montana. Record breaking snowfall for the month of February was experienced in northern and southern river basins of the state during the first two weeks of the month. Snow blanketed the Rocky Mountain Front at the beginning of the month, with low elevations and valleys receiving more than 3 feet of snow. Flattop Mountain SNOTEL (snow telemetry) site in Glacier National Park set a new record for February snowfall and received 12.5 inches of snow water during the month, well above the 30 year normal of 5.3 inches for February. Further south, Cooke City received copious amounts of snow, prompting the first ever “Extreme” avalanche warning for the area when Fisher Creek SNOTEL received 10.9 inches of snow water between Jan. 31 and Feb. 11. Statewide, 12 SNOTEL sites set new records for February totals, and six sites were second highest.  Lucas Zukiewicz, NRCS water supply specialist for Montana, said all basins experienced substantial improve-



ments over the month, with many now at near to above normal for March 1, and most basins are also near to above last year at this time. “There are some sub-basins that remain below normal for this date due to the late onset of snowpack this year and sub-par November and January snowfall,” Zukiewicz said. “One major basin is still recovering from near record low Farm & Ranch

early season snow; the Smith-Judith-Musselshell will be reliant on spring precipitation to make up ground before spring and summer runoff.” February typically isn’t one of the “big” snow months for Montana, he said, but this year proved otherwise. As we make the transition into spring, precipitation is favored along and east of the Continental Divide. “Near normal conditions on this date is great news, but there is still a month to a month-and-a-half before snowpack generally peaks in the mountains of Montana,” Zukiewicz said. “The coming months and their weather patterns will play a critical role in the timing and magnitudes of water in the rivers this coming spring and summer.” Streamflow forecasts across the state reflect the near to above normal snowpack in many basins, and above average water year-to-date (Since Oct 1, 2016) precipitation. Many forecast points are near to above average for many rivers and streams for the April – July time period, but some remain below average due to lack of seasonal snowpack in some central Montana basins. Detailed forecasts for 98 streams in Montana can be found in the March 1, 2017, Water Supply Outlook Report at: March 22, 2017 - 43

USDA Farm Service Agency expands Bridges to Opportunity nationwide News from the USDA Farm Service Agency he U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency recently announced the expansion of a unique service for farmers and ranchers. FSA’s Bridges to Opportunity program provides a one-stop-shop that connects producers with resources, programs and educational services offered across the department, as well as from other USDA partner organizations. Bridges to Opportunity, which currently provides enhanced customer support to more than 150,000 customers in 20 states, will expand to serve customers across the country before the end of the month using fiscal year 2016 funds. “Bridges to Opportunity is another example of how USDA is working to reconnect people to their government and provide enhanced services to farmers and ranchers, who, in turn, provide our nation and the world with safe, affordable and reliable food, fuel and fiber,” said FSA Administrator Val Dolcini. 
FSA’s presence in more than 2,100 county offices, in nearly every rural county, puts the agency in a unique position to partner with non-governmental organizations to reach thousands of agricultural producers who can benefit from the programs and services. Bridges to Opportunity allows FSA employees to search and obtain a list of all local, state, regional and national organizations that may be able assist local producers with their specific need. For example, FSA’s Houston County office in Texas partnered with many agricultural organiza-


“Bridges to Opportunity is another example of how USDA is working to ... provide enhanced services to farmers and ranchers, who, in turn, provide our nation and the world with safe, affordable and reliable food, fuel and fiber.” FSA ADMINISTRATOR VAL DOLCINI

tions to serve producers affected by severe drought. When drought-stricken agricultural producers came to the county office looking for assistance, FSA employees were able to provide traditional services, such as the Livestock Forage Program and the Emergency loan program administered

Bargain of the Month

by FSA, as well as connect local farmers with local, regional, and national organizations that provide drought assistance and education. 
Bridges to Opportunity was developed by FSA to provide producers with a more comprehensive customer service experience by connecting them with other USDA agencies and nonfederal partners. Through Bridges to Opportunity, FSA county office employees have the tools to connect farmers, ranchers and anyone interested in agriculture with customized expertise on topics ranging including organic production, beginning farmer resources, integrated pest management, disaster assistance, conservation practices, agricultural educational courses, loans, grants and other financial assistance that can start, grow or benefit farming and ranching operations. 
“Bridges to Opportunity embodies FSA’s modernized approach to customer service. By providing a broader array of resources than FSA or USDA alone, FSA is bringing farmers and ranchers one step closer to achieving their version of the American Dream,” Dolcini said. 
For more information about Bridges to Opportunity, please contact your local FSA county office. FSA has two offices in Lake County. The Ronan Service Center is located in the Natural Resources Conservation Service building at 64352 Highway 93. The phone number is 676-2811. The Pablo Service Center is located in Division of Lands inside the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Complex along Highway 93. The phone number is 675-2700.


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