FARM & RANCH 2018
2 - March 21, 2018
Farm & Ranch
inside Ag by numbers
No-till seed drill
NICOLE TAVENNER/VALLEY JOURNAL
KAREN PETERSON/VALLEY JOURNAL
34 KAREN PETERSON/VALLEY JOURNAL
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Ag by numbers Lake County ranks third in state for number of farms By Karen Peterson/Valley Journal
LAKE COUNTY – Take a drive across Lake County on any road and you will eventually find acres of farm and ranch land with crops like thick growing wheat or livestock munching on hay. Just how much of the ground in the county is utilized for farming and ranching? The question becomes a process of collecting information from farmers and ranchers along with other data to create statistics around land use and ownership, operation characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures, and other topics. The Montana Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture issue the state’s agriculture statistics in a volume cooperatively published annually. State Statistician Eric Sommer notes that the publication is the culmination of a year’s worth of data
collection and analysis containing the story of Montana agriculture. “Many producers volunteered their time and information to give the most current picture of the health of agricultural community,” he states. Governor Steve Bullock approved the document with a signature and a statement for 2017: “This year has been a tough one for agriculture – fires, extreme drought, and low commodity prices have plagued the industry and hit producers hard. However, the worst times often bring out the best of people, and producers throughout the state have rallied around their neighbors to lend a helping hand.” Bullock went on to state: “Montana’s producers continue to lead the nation in pulse production and we’re proud to be known for some of the highest quality wheat, barley and beef genetics in the world. More producers are incorporating crops like canola and safflower into their rotations and this year producers grew the state’s first industrial hemp crop.” Director for Montana Department of Agriculture Ben Thomas notes that agriculture is the backbone of Farm & Ranch
NICOLE TAVENNER/VALLEY JOURNAL
the state’s economy. He adds that beef, barley, sugar beets, seed potatoes, canola and organics continue to be vital pieces of Montana’s diverse agriculture industry. The state’s statistical report published in 2017 first looks at Montana as a whole before breaking down the information by county. The total land area in Montana is 93,134,579 acres, and within that land, 59.8 million acres were utilized for farmland, about 64 percent. In 2017, there were 27,100 farms and ranches in Montana, down 300 operations from the 2016 estimate. The average farm in Montana is about 2,207 acres, varying from around 140 to 6,000 acres in the study. The real estate value comes in at an average of $1.6 million, which breaks down to about $900 per acre. Farmers also have an average of $267,398 in debt as they work to keep crops growing and livestock fed. Lake County has the third largest number of farms in the state at 1,156, with an average of 481 acres per farm. The county had a total of 555,766 acres of farmed see page 6
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NICOLE TAVENNER/VALLEY JOURNAL
NICOLE TAVENNER/VALLEY JOURNAL
In 2016, the value of crop production increased to $2 billion in the state. Livestock didn’t see the same gains ... Ag by numbers
NICOLE TAVENNER/VALLEY JOURNAL
from page 5
land between 2007 and 2012. Ravalli County has the largest number of farms in the state with 1,438 farms on 243,782 acres of farmland, each one averaging 163 acres. Yellowstone has the second largest number of farms at 1,330 with 1,668,346 acres farmed or ranched at an average of 1,254 acres.
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Statistics show that among Montana industries agriculture continues to outpace products like gas and oil, mining, and lumber. In 2016, the value of crop production increased to $2 billion in the state, which was an increase of $153.4 million or 8 percent above 2015. Livestock didn’t see the same gains in the state after the value decreased to $1.6 billion, down $238.2 million from 2015. Though individual farmers or ranchers might have a different story, the overall picture painted by
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statistics wasn’t a very pretty one for Lake County in 2015. Concerning income to expense ratios, numbers show that Lake County farmers and ranchers had a gross income average of $71,133, but production expenses averaged $74,694. Lake County farmers ended up with a negative net farm income of $3,561. Every county in the northwest region of the state had a negative net income for 2015 other than Deer Lodge, Granite and Powell. For farming expenses, North Central
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“A lot is at stake if producers are not represented in the data. Census data have and will continue to influence important decisions for American agriculture.”
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- Hubert Hamer, USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service counties in Montana had the highest net income at $109,442. The northeast corner came in at $54,674. Central Montana farmers brought in $103,128 on average. In the southwest, the net income was at $76,787, and in south central Montana $43,172, and in the southeast $37,684 In 2016, Lake County winter wheat farmers planted 2,800 acres. Spring wheat was planted on 5,800 acres. Barley was planted in 3,200 acres, and 1,700 acres of potatoes were planted. For alfalfa hay, the county harvested 39,000 acres. Other hay crops harvested included 12,600 acres. The county had 42,000 cattle and calves and 300 milk cows in 2017. Sheep and lamb numbers totaled 2,000 in 2017, and 300 pigs were counted in 2016. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service is collecting 2017 census information
from farmers and ranchers through the spring even though the first deadline has passed. “A lot is at stake if producers are not represented in the data,” said NASS Administrator Hubert Hamer. “Census data have and will continue to influence important decisions for American agriculture. The data will affect every operation and every farming community at some point, whether it be through farm policy, disaster relief, insurance or loan programs, infrastructure improvements, or agribusiness setup. There is accuracy and strength in numbers which is why NASS is committed to giving producers every opportunity to respond.” Farmers and ranchers can complete the census by mail or online at www. agcounts.usda.gov. For questions or assistance filling out the census, call (888) 424-7828.
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Plant a pollinator garden with free seed News from the Lake County Conservation District
o you love flowers and bees? Help the Lake County Conservation District (LCCD) 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 we want you to help us plant it. 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. Whether you are a backyard enthusiast or a large-scale agricultural producer, weâ€™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 lakecountycdc@ronan. net, stop by our office at 64352 Hwy. 93, Ronan or call 676-2811 ext. 102.
8 - March 21, 2018
EUGENE BECKES PHOTO
Farm & Ranch
Left: Jon and Erin Turner own Turner Farms in Missoula’s Orchard Homes neighborhood, an area on the city’s rural fringe that has experienced conflict between development and agricultural preservation. Below: farmers living in Target Range and Orchard Homes, including, clockwise from left, Fred Stewart, Jon Turner, Erin Turner and George Hart, meet each week at The Trough to discuss farming and farmland preservation.
CATHRINE L. WALTERS PHOTO
What Montana’s rural neighborhoods can learn from Vermont’s farming policies
CATHRINE L. WALTERS PHOTO
by Erika Fredrickson of The Missoula Independent
n a Wednesday morning last December, a small group of farmers gathered at a table inside a neighborhood restaurant on the outskirts of Missoula. It was a crisp 25 degrees outside, but inside The Trough a fireplace flickered and the smell of bacon wafted through the air. The farmers pulled off wool coats and knit caps and held their travel mugs out to the waitress, who filled them with steaming coffee. The Trough, formerly Dale’s Dairy, is about the only place in at least a mile radius of the Orchard Homes and Target Range neighborhoods where you can grab a bite to eat. Its rustic decor evokes an old farmhouse, but it’s a decidedly modern space—and that combination of traditional and contemporary makes it the perfect rendezvous for rural farmers trying to keep farming alive in an increasingly urban setting. “We have a lot of prime agricultural land in Target Range and Orchard Homes,” says Fred Stewart, owner of Green Bench Orchard. “But this is a confined valley, so there’s a lot of development pressure and a lot of competing interests for the land.” Stewart, who also runs a U-pick apple operation, is tall
and lean in jeans and an unfussy button-down shirt. He’s become a regular at these Wednesday morning meetings, along with an eclectic crew that includes flower farmer George Hart of Harts Garden and Greg Peters of Red Hen Farm and Orchard, the men who started the meetings. Also present were Dennis Tayer of Tayer Lawn & Garden, Erin and Jon Turner of Turner Farms, and Heath Carey, the faux-hawked founder of Freedom Gardens, a nonprofit that, among other things, transformed 2,500 square feet of parking lot at the Missoula County Fairgrounds into a community garden between 2013 and 2015. Orchard Homes and Target Range have long farming histories. Irrigation canals wend through the rural neighborhoods where, since the 1890s, food production has been the dominant pursuit. Today, the area consists mostly of Farm & Ranch
single-family homes on half- to one-acre plots surrounded by parks, riparian corridors, wooded floodplains and small tracts of farmland. “How do you describe this place?” I ask the farmers. “Nirvana,” Jon Turner answers with a grin. For the past 15 years, farmers, food advocates and enterprises in and around Missoula have been working to build a strong local food system—and a visible one. A big piece of that is figuring out, as Missoula grows, how to preserve farms that provide products directly to local markets. But land that is good for farming is often good for development—only 8.9 percent of Missoula County’s prime agricultural soils are left, and half of those are in Target Range and Orchard Homes. Both development of land already approved for subdivision and new subdivision proposals are on the rise—most recently Spurgin Ranch (20 acres of agricultural land divided into 19 lots) and B&M Zoo (13.2 acres of ag land divided into 19 lots). And many farmers and agriculture advocates are wondering how to maintain the area’s agricultural identity. “Not only do we love the lifestyle and raising our kids here, but also we’ve been given a legacy to continue working on the rich soils out here,” Erin Turner says. “That’s a gift we feel passionate about, and I know that’s what all the other farmers out here feel, too.” There are significant challenges to saving farmland in Orchard Homes and Target Range. One is lack of policy. Montana’s state constitution requires cities and counties to “protect, enhance, and develop all of agriculture,” but there see page 10
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“A number of us have worked ... to get the local politicians to see protecting ag land here as a reasonable thing to do. It’s hard to get their attention.” FRED STEWART, OWNER OF GREEN BENCH ORCHARD
business partner applied to buy the historic 143from page 9 acre Ludec Farm with the help of the Vermont Land are no mechanisms for how Trust. VLT negotiated to do that. In theory, the the price with the sellers directive’s broadness allows to almost $2 million—an for flexibility, so that indiamount prohibitive for vidual governing bodies can any working farmer. VLT create policies tailored to paid to put a conservation specific places, like Orchard easement on the land and Homes and Target Range. procured funding from But that same lack of specother sources, including ificity also allows counties the towns of Shelburne to enable development in and South Burlington; a places like Orchard Homes grant from the Vermont and Target Range, because Housing and Conservathere’s already farmland tion Board (derived partly elsewhere. Statewide, Monfrom federal funds through tana has a lot of farmland: the Natural Resources 28,000 farms on 59,700,000 Conservation Service); a acres. In that context, dedonation from the South velopment projects in places Burlington Land Trust; like Orchard Homes and and loans from both the Target Range, which are Castanea Foundation reviewed on a case-by-case (which conserves agriculbasis by the county, are turally and environmentaloften approved, even on ly significant lands in Veragricultural land. The loss of mont and New York) and that land is regarded by the VLT. The loans from the county as an “incremental” CATHRINE L. WALTERS PHOTO Castanea Foundation and loss, even as, according to George and Marcia Hart own Harts Garden in Target Range, where they grow flowers that they sell to local restaurants and VLT were paid off though the farmers who meet at Missoula residents at farmers markets. South Burlington’s state The Trough, the impact to statute-enabled Transfer the neighborhoods is enorof Development Rights mous—and permanent. Shelburne, Vermont, silos loom and hoop houses line the program, which allows landowners preserving important “Once you pave it over, it’s gone, as far as agricultural road to the farm’s small parking lot, from which the pasparcels (like the Ludec Farm) to sell their development potential,” Stewart says. “A number of us have worked a ture and barn where cows and pigs feed are visible. Inside rights, which are then purchased by developers and used lot on neighborhood plans, zoning, trying to get the local the farm shop, employees pack a freezer with cuts of beef for high-density building projects in areas near Burlingpoliticians to see protecting ag land here as a reasonable and pork. There’s a cooler full of root vegetables and cabton designated for growth. thing to do. It’s hard to get their attention.” bages and baskets brimming with potatoes and the farm’s The outside funding brought Pierce’s cost down to A second issue is that when land goes up for sale in heirloom popcorn, all for sale. It smells delicious in there, $225,000, which she gathered from historic preservation Orchard Homes and Target Range, the market value is because Mike Proia, owner of the Blank Page Cafe nesfoundations, investors and CSA members. Bread and not affordable for most farmers, which is why retiring tled inside the shop, is baking muffins and making coffee. Butter is the farm’s sole owner, but it took a dozen orgafarmers often end up selling to developers. “It’s especially busy in the spring and summer,” he says. nizations and more than 25 individuals to accomplish the “Folks look at their land and they know the val“But we get a lot of people coming through even in the purchase. ue—$150,000 an acre for a home lot here in this area,” winter.” The Vermont Land Trust isn’t the only land trust in the Stewart says. “There’s no way that I know of that you can In the summer, Bread and Butter, which is owned by state, but it’s especially prominent in the realm of agriviably make a living paying $150,000 an acre and put it farmer Corie Pierce, hosts a weekly burger night featuring cultural conservation. Founded in 1977, VLT has helped into agriculture. It cannot be done. So how is it that we the farm’s grass-fed beef. Usually a couple hundred people preserve 900 of the 7,000 Vermont farms currently in see a way to protect ag land here going into the future?” show up. The farm also partners with local schools for production (and has conserved more than a half-million More than 2,000 miles away, in Vermont, saving farmfarm tours and camps, and adjacent to the farm shop is a acres of agricultural land and forest). The nonprofit offers land is a top priority. Drive any of the roads between studio where Pierce’s husband, Chris Dorman, runs a muto buy conservation easements on agricultural lands to Montpelier and Burlington and you’ll find small farms sic and movement class for kids called Music for Sprouts. protect them from development and keep them in progalore that enjoy a rural lifestyle and still engage directly “Despite the inefficiencies and real-time logistical duction in perpetuity. The easements also reduce the marwith the towns and cities they surround. These farms exist challenges of managing so many different enterprises, ket value of the farmland, which helps give farmers access because of state policy that protects farmland, and that we think that in the long run it makes us more resilient to the land. VLT works with everyone involved, from policy has also fostered an environment in which land and long-term sustainable,” Pierce says. “Not only for retiring farmers who want to sell and farmers who want trusts and other agricultural nonprofits thrive, helping the health of the land and environment around us, but to buy to lenders and facilitating nonprofits. farmers to pay affordable mortgages. With the help of also for the health of the people and greater community “Part of that work includes us sitting at the kitchen these resources, Vermont farmers are often able to invest involved.” table, literally, with retiring farmers to figure out how to in multiple enterprises, bringing in more income and Whereas few farmers in Montana have outside assissell their land,” says VLT’s Farmland Access Program allowing them to market themselves to surrounding com- tance in funding their operations, Bread and Butter is munities. one of hundreds of farms in Vermont that rely on support director, Jon Ramsey. “That discussion includes a strategy On a winter afternoon at the Bread and Butter Farm in from multiple organizations. In 2009, Pierce and her then for finding a successor and thinking about how the 10 - March 21, 2018
Farm & Ranch
farmer’s current business “A lot of public investmodel may or may not ment is going into these work for the next person properties, and you want who farms there.” to see them remain workVLT defines a farmer ing farms.” as someone who makes 50 Vermonters aren’t that percent of their income different from Montanans. from agriculture. The Even if they’re willing farmer has to have agrito put their land into a cultural experience, a busiconservation easement, ness plan and the ability they don’t like too many to use the property prorestrictions on their land. ductively. It can’t be someTo generate support for its one who just hopes to be“option to purchase at agcome a farmer. For beginricultural value,” VLT held ners looking to learn their hearings around the state way into farming, VLT in 2004. Farmers asked has programs to connect questions and expressed them to resources that will concerns. “One of the give them the experience things we heard loud and to qualify for land purclear was that they didn’t chases through the trust in want us to interfere with the future. The Farm and family-to-family transfers Forest Viability Program, of land,” Ramsey says. for instance, provides The farmers also extechnical assistance grants pressed the desire to to organizations including be able to transfer land the University of Vermont among themselves. In reExtension Service, the sponse, VLT built excepJAY ERICSON PHOTO Organic Farming Associations into its easements Jon Ramsey, Vermont Land Trust’s Farmland Access Program director, works with farmers to conserve land and keep it in tion of Vermont, Land for that say the land trust agricultural production. Good and the Intervale won’t interfere with family Center, which all use the or farmer-to-farmer transfunds to help farmers plan actions. “He’s this really unique, entrepreneurThe act requires developers of prime their businesses. VLT manages the land Perhaps the most important result of ial visionary,” Frisbee says. “He saw the agricultural land to mitigate their envitransactions and the other organizations Act 250 was the formation of the Verpotential to turn the intervale back into ronmental impacts. “Onsite mitigation” work on the business end. productive agricultural land and feed the means that developers can build, but must mont Housing and Conservation Board, The Intervale Center is highly regardcity of Burlington. And in 1988, that’s protect a portion of the property onsite as a quasi-state agency that reviews develed in Vermont’s food community. The opment and conservation projects. The what he did.” farmland. “Offsite mitigation” means the nonprofit’s 350-acre site lies along the board has nine seats, five of which are citThe Intervale Center is an aggregation developer pays a fee to develop the land. Winooski River on the outskirts of Burizen positions appointed by the governor of possibilities: It preserves farmland (and That fee goes into a pot of money at Verlington, a mile-and-a-half-long spread watersheds) while providing assistance to mont’s Housing and Conservation Board, (and which must include one low-income of historic farm buildings, community housing advocate and one farmer). The farmers who are keeping land in producwhich redistributes the money as grants gardens, wildlife areas and farms. Even in remaining four positions are filled by the tion. The abundance of organizations and to organizations that conserve farmland winter, the hoop houses are full of leafy executive director of the Vermont Housresources in Vermont is integral to these elsewhere. greens growing in the muted light. ing Finance Agency and commissioners farmers’ successes. But it took a major Act 250 has incubated a network of Intervale has been around for 30 years, of the state agencies of Agriculture, act of policy to make that network of reland trusts and other nonprofits that and during that time its staff has helped Housing and Community Development sources possible. have learned to work together to preserve Vermont farmers and agriculture orgaand Natural Resources. The revolutionary Fifty years ago, Vermont residents and farmland. Strong policies have spurred nizations statewide launch incubator aspect of the board—which made it one policymakers began to see an increase in these organizations to create far more farms and agricultural policy coalitions, of a kind when it was founded—is its althe number of subdivisions being built on stringent rules than trusts in many other among other initiatives. Intervale’s land liance between housing and conservation agricultural land, an issue similar to that states employ. is under a conservation easement, and as interests, weighted with equal importance in Orchard Homes and Target Range, but The Vermont Land Trust, for instance, semi-rural farmland supplying a nearby and aimed at balance. statewide. Vermont’s highway system was uses easements that have more restricurban center, it has a lot of similarities to “We’re looking at downtowns and vilcompleted over the course of the 1960s tions than is typical. In its easements, the Orchard Homes and Target Range lage centers,” says Nancy Everhart, the and ski developments drew tourists from VLT includes “an option to purchase at neighborhoods. board’s agricultural director. “And it seems metro areas as condos went up on small agricultural value,” which serves as VLT’s It also fell into neglect for a few delots. According to the Vermont Natural pre-emptive right to block a proposed sale really complementary to us to then be cades. protecting farmland, recreation lands and Resource Council, Gov. Deane Davis, and redirect it. A lot of agricultural ease“By the 1980s, there was an actual natural area lands that are generally outwho held office from 1969 to 1973, was ments nationwide protect land, but they junkyard with hundreds of dumped cars,” side of those places.” apprised on several occasions of newly don’t ensure that it stays in agricultural says Intervale Development Director The board disperses money from sourcbuilt subdivisions dealing with sewage production. Even land preserved through Chelsea Frisbee. “There’s still probably es that include property taxes and Act problems and realized that Vermont’s enAct 250 could, without VLT’s specific some 30 junked cars in the woods that 250. It also decides how to use money vironmental health and rural lifestyle was easement option, end up in the hands of didn’t get taken out. The fields were either at risk. He formed a committee with legfrom the legislature and federal agencies, second-home or estate buyers. Because fallow or in corn production by dairies including the Natural Resource Conserislator Arthur Gibb (both held office as VLT’s funding includes money apporacross the river, but it really wasn’t being vation Service. Lobbyists for that funding Republicans) to recommend a package of tioned by Act 250 and other state and used to its full agricultural potential.” environmental regulations known as the federal programs, Ramsey says, putting an include those from the Vermont Housing The story goes that Will Raap, founder Land Use and Development Act, or Act easement on land that might fall out of ag and Conservation Coalition. Because of Gardener’s Supply, got his car stolen of the powerful alliance of housing and 250. While the impetus for Act 250 was production doesn’t make sense. and heard that he might find it someenvironmental, its intent was to preserve “Then it’s really not contributing to the see page 13 where in the intervale area. Vermont’s heritage, including agriculture. local rural agricultural economy,” he says. Farm & Ranch
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from page 11
conservation interests, and generally reliable state and federal funding, VHCB has been able to approve at least six major development or conservation projects every year. “We’ve had lean years and we’ve had better years,” Everhart says, “but we’ve always had some base funding.” Besides stable funding, it’s the board’s comprehensive approach that Everhart says is integral to its success. When deciding which conservation or housing projects to fund, the board looks at the lay of the land, including infrastructure and how the land is managed. It considers town and regional plans. VHCB provides funding for farmland preservation, but it also partners with nonprofits and other organizations to ferry approved projects toward sustainability. In the case of agricultural conservation, groups including the Intervale Center help farmers with business plans, certification processes and best-practice farming information. VHCB helps conserve large plots of farmland, but also protects smaller acreages near urban centers like Burlington, in Chittenden County. As in Orchard Homes and Target Range, these are farms that can’t compete with large-scale industrial farms (like wheat farms in eastern Montana), but can offer another agricultural service: growing vegetables and flowers and raising meat that goes directly to markets in Burlington. “That area is well suited to the kind of operation that wouldn’t necessarily be a commodity crop,” Everhart says. “It would be farms that are more direct-market, that grow food for people in the city. I think maybe part of the education that needs to happen, which has definitely been evolving in Vermont, is understanding that there’s so many different kinds of agriculture. And there is a huge interest in direct-market farming, both from farmers and from consumers. I view the work that we do as wanting to work with all those players.” Since its inception, VHCB has awarded nearly $260 million to nonprofit housing and conservation organizations, municipalities and state agencies to develop nearly 1,500 projects in and around 220 towns. That investment has directly leveraged approximately $860 million from private and public sources and resulted in the creation of more than 10,500 affordable homes, the conservation of 390,740 acres of agricultural and recreational lands and natural areas, and the restoration of 56 historic community buildings for public use. “It doesn’t always work perfectly,” Everhart notes. “But I think one thing that’s really been successful about the coalition—the partnership that emerged to create us and create this source of funding—is having affordable housing folks and conservation folks meet and collaborate under the same mission.” According to Bonnie Buckingham, executive director of Missoula’s Community Food and Agriculture Coalition, that kind of connection between housing and agriculture
interests is lacking in Montana, both in terms of philosophy and action. Having visited Vermont to study the state’s preservation strategies, she says VHCB is the kind of alliance Missoula should aspire to. “They form a cohesive group when it comes to making policy or new developments,” she says. “I really think, if we did have a coalition of people, that we could come together and really work on projects that everyone [agrees on]. Here, it feels like we’ve really taken sides. We’re sort of pitted against each other, even just in people’s minds. And we don’t have to be.” One example where Vermont farmland was preserved in the face of stakeholder conflict is the case of Exit 4. Sam Sammis, a real-estate broker from Greenwich, Connecticut, had planned for nearly 40 years to develop 172 acres outside the town of Randolph, south of Montpelier off Highway 89. His plan included high-end condos, a hotel and commercial real estate that he envisioned, according to reports, as an economic boon for a town he’d become fond of. In April 2017, after several environmental groups and citizens had fought the plan, he agreed to sell 150 acres to the Castanea Foundation for $1.2 million. The remaining 22 acres were sold to the Preservation Trust of Vermont in June 2017. One of the key players in preserving those 22 acres was the Vermont Natural Resource Council, whose office is on Bailey Avenue in Montpelier, directly across the street from the Vermont Land Trust. VNRC is not necessarily in the business of saving farmland, unless it has environmental significance. But its origin story tracks to Act 250, and its “sustainable communities” program is tasked with keeping an eye on the act’s review process when it comes to prime agricultural soils. “We don’t like to beat people up, but sometimes you’ve got to show up and point it out if something isn’t going to meet the law,” says Sustainable Communities Program Director Kate McCarthy. “Particularly when a case has statewide implications, to make sure the law doesn’t get weakened and that precedent isn’t set.” The saving of the 22 acres, a former driving range, was a nail-biting victory that started with contentious negotiations and ended with agreement. The Preservation Trust of Vermont led the way, raising $1 million in six weeks, along with VNRC and a citizen activist group called Exit 4 Open Space. On a chilly afternoon in December, Miles Hooper, the dairy goat farmer who will lease the 150 acres from the Castanea Foundation starting this spring, takes me on a walk through Exit 4. Save for a McDonald’s just off the highway, the land is a striking stretch of sloping hills, sugar maple groves and open pasture. Hooper manages his family’s farm, Ayers Brook Goat Dairy, on nearby land conserved through the Vermont Land Trust. He’s in his early 20s and lives on the farm with his wife and kids. When he’s excited about something—and agricultural policy is one of those things—he practically yells.
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“People look to Vermont, to us, for social responsibility and for environmental stewardship,” he says. “We built a reputation on quality and consideration and compassion. That’s what we’re known for.” Hooper’s viewpoint is a little different from McCarthy’s and the VNRC’s. Like them, he didn’t support development on Exit 4, but he says his own talks with Sammis about the land found common ground. Hooper wanted to preserve the 150 acres he planned to use for his goat dairy. But the 22 acres that was put into an easement by conservation groups? “It’s boney,” he says. “I wouldn’t farm it. I don’t know anyone who would.” His hope was that Sammis, who had planned for so long to develop the place, could use that 22 acres for a hotel—a compromise. “There was a lot of mixed feelings about how it would change the character in the town and the importance of ag land,” he says. Even so, buyers are currently negotiating a deal for the 22 acres—a couple plan to restore the soil and use it as a nut and fruit orchard with some acreage in hay. In the 1970s, Vermont made a decision to create a specific mechanism, Act 250, to preserve agricultural soil. In January 2016, Missoula’s Community and Planning Services (CAPS) department proposed a county subdivision regulation similar to Act 250. The hearings for that proposal, held before the county commissioners, came to an emotional head in a very public way. For a decade, agriculture advocates including the Community Food and Agriculture Coalition had been working with CAPS to come up with a county policy that would require landowners and developers building on agricultural soils to pay an impact fee, set aside farmland onsite, preserve comparable land elsewhere or submit their own mitigation proposal. “We took a pretty strong stance on one-to-one mitigation,” the Missoula coalition’s Bonnie Buckingham says. “For every acre that’s developed, an acre should be saved, and there should be a variety of ways to do that, because one way isn’t going to fit every single situation. On one side of the debate were organizations like the Community Food and Agriculture Coalition and farmers like Fred Stewart and Jon and Erin Turner, who meet at see page 15
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from page 13
The Trough, all hoping to see the county enact a policy that would require farmland preservation. On the other side were developers like the Missoula Organization of Realtors and some retiring ranchers who wanted to subdivide their land, and didn’t want development restrictions. To the coalition’s surprise, the policy was voted down by the county commissioners in a tearful (on both sides) hearing. One of the most surprising opponents was Five Valleys Land Trust, a longtime open-space organization that has preserved more than 70,000 acres in Montana, including agricultural land. In its testimony, the land trust sided with developers in saying that voluntary conservation—not a mitigation policy—was the better approach. “It was devastating, quite honestly,” Buckingham says. “We lost all of our momentum at that point.” The schism between the coalition and the land trust simmered for some time. “The conservation community was really confused,” Buckingham says. “And kind of distraught, I would say, that different organizations that should have the same vision were not working together. It led to what I think is a positive in that it forced both our board and the Five Valleys Land Trust board to really look at our policies, at why it had come to this disagreement and how we could bridge that gap.” The organizations started meeting and talking about ways to mend the relationship. One major step forward, initiated by Five Valleys and funded by the American Land Trust, was to gather staff from Five Valleys, Garden City Harvest and the coalition for a trip to—where else?—Vermont. The organizations took farm tours and spoke with leaders of the Vermont Land Trust, the Vermont Natural Resource Council, the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board and the Intervale Center. Buckingham says that the possibility of Act 250-style legislation coming to Montana now seems slim, but an alliance like the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, even if it’s not appointed through the state, could help create a better plan for places like Orchard Homes and Target Range. And that kind of alliance, she says, could encourage an environment in which Missoula County might see the
JAY ERICSON PHOTO
Miles Hooper says that preserving farmland in Vermont is a high priority for the state, and often requires the involvement and cooperation of several organizations and compromise with developers to accomplish.
rise of agricultural support resources similar to the Intervale Center and the Vermont Land Trust, which could set aside farmland and help farmers gain access to that land. “It was great to see all the different entities working together,” Buckingham says. “Vermont made a decision 30 years ago that made that happen, and we, as a community, haven’t decided to do that yet.” Still, Buckingham sees promise in the conversation that has developed since the subdivision hearings. The trip was a chance for the organizations to “build trust” and get to know each other outside the heated debate of public hearings, she says. “In that way, it was very good,” she says. “It helped us
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to say that when a project comes up, we can talk about it. And that’s the biggest lesson that we learned, was the need to have a project that we work on together.” Mike Nugent, treasurer for the Missoula Organization of Realtors, opposed agriculture mitigation during the county hearings. Though he believes voluntary mitigation is preferable to a mandate, he thinks agriculture and development can coexist. But he cautions that agricultural advocates looking to preserve farmland also have to consider that Missoula’s growth isn’t going to stop. “I think specifically Orchard Home and Target Range have their own identity, and they’re very proud of it, and they want to stick to it,” he says. “I don’t have any problem with that at all. The thing about Target Range and Orchard Homes is, if we don’t allow growth there—which, that’s fine—it’s going to go somewhere else. And I think a lot of people don’t understand that.” Now that the subdivision hearings are in the rearview mirror, Nugent has thought about solutions. For one thing, he says, there hasn’t been enough focus on high-density development. Also, he says, agriculture mitigation needs to be better defined. “I think that folks who were on the pro side of that conversation still definitely feel like we need very standard, laid-out policies on ag mitigation,” he says. “People in the development community probably feel like the biggest issue is [that] there’s no predictability. What we’re doing now, where every project is decided at the whims of whoever is on the council or the commission at that time—I don’t know [if ] that works for anybody.” One of the major lessons Buckingham says she learned from her trip to Vermont is that preserving farmland takes a lot of support from the cities and towns that consume the food that farmland produces. In and around Missoula, farms are finding ways to connect with the public, using strategies that are part marketing, part philosophy. “One of the big things I’ve talked about with this group is where we live—what Missoula, and particularly Orchard Homes and Target Range, are,” Jon Turner says. “If we can have local farms people can come to, that would bring another revenue stream into our farms. And it would help the next farmers have some sort of sustainable model to work with.” see page 16
March 21, 2018 - 15
from page 15
That connection to people tends to foster loyalty from customers. “We do a big pumpkin festival in the fall,” Erin Turner says. “Obviously the No. 1 reason is to sell our pumpkins, but it also creates that exposure. Then people are like, ‘Oh, Turner Farms! I’ve been there!’ and it sticks in their head. And it creates this level of support for local farms where people think, ‘We want to save that farmland out there! That’s important to us.’” The PEAS Farm in the Rattlesnake is another good example. The land is owned by Missoula County Public Schools and subleased to Garden City Harvest, which uses it to educate students about farming and policy, while also serving as a community hub (sometimes with burger nights). The farm has become inextricably linked to the identity of its neighborhood. A few years ago, when MCPS was considering developing the land, community backlash was swift, and the farm’s lease was renewed. The idea of addressing development and farm preservation conflicts by forming a housing and conservation alliance is being tested with a new organization called Trust Montana. The Missoula-based nonprofit is employing a community land trust model by which Trust Montana can buy land (or accept donated land) while farmers own the business and equipment. It’s modeled on a collective of African-American sharecroppers in 1960s-era Georgia who created a community land trust to take ownership of the land they farmed. According to Executive Director Hermina Harold, Trust Montana hopes to serve a similar role as the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. Currently, the nonprofit is working to turn donated land in rural
Montana into community land trusts, but it is also looking at urban fringe neighborhoods, Orchard Homes and Target Range in particular, as sites of collaboration for agriculture and affordable housing. For Trust Montana, the Community Food and Agriculture Coalition and people like Realtor Mike Nugent, who are looking for common ground, the next step is one that everyone has to take together—an idea reflected in the opinion of Vermont’s government at the inception of Act 250. “We knew we could not stop change, and that was not our objective,” wrote Elbert Moulton, special assistant to Gov. Davis at the time. “But we can direct it, and we can ensure quality change if we establish standards and criteria as guidelines for change.” As housing developments continue to rise in Orchard Homes and Target Range, the local farmers who meet at the Trough each week are lobbying county commissioners to take seriously their demand for a farmland preservation plank in the upcoming revision of their neighborhood plan. They rely on CFAC for policy expertise and to be their
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voice when they are too busy working their farms to attend meetings. “Farmers feel consistently underappreciated,” Greg Peters of Red Hen Farm says. “They don’t feel like they get a fair shake no matter what, but in an area that involves bureaucracy and government, we’re pretty sure CFAC is working for us, even if we don’t have time to pay attention to what they’re working on.” Meanwhile, Missoula area farmers are not waiting around for a local version of Vermont’s Act 250 to save the day. They’re working on community engagement now, building up their CSAs, hosting farm tours and trying to grow their neighborhood farmers markets, which are held throughout the summer at the old Grange Hall, Orchard Homes Country Life Club, on South Third Street West. “If we can get enough of us that we become a destination for people, then I think if the public sees us losing land, they’re not going to let that happen,” Jon Turner says. “You’re going to have a lot more hope when you have people behind you.” Without a statewide policy, the farmers in Orchard Homes and Target Range don’t have a straightforward way to ensure agricultural preservation. If Vermont is any indication, it will take a united collaboration between housing and agriculture groups, plus the support of Missoula residents, to make that happen. (This story is part of the Montana Gap series produced collaboratively by Western Montana journalists, High Country News and the Solutions Journalism Network. The series examines how small towns between Montana’s growing urban areas are overcoming challenges in order to improve their futures. Additional stories will publish in coming weeks.)
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March 21, 2018 - 17
From farm to plate
Produce grown in the region is available from farmers markets and community supported agriculture programs.
KAREN PETERSON/VALLEY JOURNAL
Locally grown foods available through CSAs, farmers markets By Mary Auld for the Valley Journal
hroughout the Mission Valley, wheat fields hug rural roads, cattle graze together by the hundreds, and a bounty of fruit hangs from the gnarled branches of trees. The area’s climate and fertile soil allow farmers to produce an abundance of food, but the grocery store shelves are often stocked with products shipped hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Food grown and raised nearby supports local growers and stimulates the local economy. In the Mission Valley locally grown products can be purchased through a variety of avenues. A popular way to get involved with the local food system is through a community supported agriculture program, known as a CSA. Through this arrangement, a consumer invests in a farm before the growing season starts in exchange for a portion of that year’s harvest. CSAs typically distribute produce, though some programs distribute other locally produced goods using the same model. 18 - March 21, 2018
This relationship provides the farmer with capital to start production, and it allows the consumer to eat fresh produce throughout the growing season. Most CSAs distribute shares of fresh produce to investors once a week. This gives consumers the opportunity to sample the different produce available as the season progresses. In the Mission Valley, the Western Montana Growers Cooperative CSA is an option for those who want to eat a variety of local produce throughout the summer and fall. The growers cooperative connects consumers to food from local producers. This CSA is unique in that the growers cooperative creates CSA shares with produce from over 30 different farms in the region, connecting consumers to a large network of local food. Growers from the Mission Valley, including Fresh Roots Farm in Polson and Dixon Melons distribute their produce through the Western Montana Growers Cooperative CSA. The CSA also offers the opportunity for consumers to purchase non-produce CSAs including meat, cheese,
KAREN PETERSON/VALLEY JOURNAL
Farmers markets throughout Lake County offer produce, flowers and homemade goods.
coffee, and bread to be delivered with their weekly produce boxes at no additional cost. Boxes of produce are delivered
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weekly during the growing season to drop off points in Arlee, St. Ignatius, Ronan, Polson, Charlo, and Dixon, as well as other
locations throughout the region. The summer share is delivered from May 31 to October 11 and customers can choose to extend the season through November 11 for an addition cost. For those who prefer to partner directly with a farm for a CSA, Glacier Tilth Farm in Dixon and Harlequin Produce in Arlee distribute CSAs of produce exclusively from their own farms. Glacier Tilth has a 20-week CSA that is distributed from June through October. The CSA can be picked up at Glacier Tilth Farm in Dixon, Mission Falls Market in St. Ignatius, or at Missoula Friends Meeting. Harlequin Produce distributes a 17-week CSA at their warehouse in Arlee and at various locations in Missoula between June and October. Harlequin offers the option to customize your share weekly from a list of available goods. Consumers can choose between a small and large size of each CSA. Area farmers markets offer another opportunity to purchase local food (see related sidebar for details). At a farmers market, individuals can talk to farmers or farm workers face-to-face. They also give consumers the flexibility to peruse all of the available produce and choose as much or little as they want that week. In addition to local food items, vendors at the markets in the area sell crafts, baked goods and prepared foods. The Polson Farmers Market is the oldest and largest of the markets in the area. The Mission Falls Market will feature a youth market this year.
KAREN PETERSON/VALLEY JOURNAL
John Greene from Ronan carries a bunch of fresh basil he purchased at the Mission Falls Farmers Market last summer.
Left: A diner holds plate of locally grown foods during a Community Food and Agriculture Coalition fundraiser held last spring. Money raised during the event supported Polson and Ronan Farmers Market programs that help low income indivduals purchase locally grown food.
see page 20
NICOLE TAVENNER/VALLEY JOURNAL
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from page 19
The Ronan, Mission Falls, and Polson markets will each accept payment through senior nutrition coupons and SNAP benefits. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides financial support to those with low incomes for the purchase of food. Most local CSAs accept at least partial payment in SNAP benefits. The farmers markets in the area also accept SNAP benefits. Local foods can also be found at grocery stores and restaurants in the area. Grocery stores including Mission Mountain Natural Foods, Super1 Foods in Polson, and Ronan Harvest Foods sell seasonal local produce. Mrs. Wonderful’s Marmalade Cafe in Polson and Stella’s Deli and Bakery in Ronan source local produce, meat, and eggs for some of their dishes.
Farmers markets Polson Farmers Market Season: May to October Time: Friday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Location: Third Ave. West Polson Payment Accepted: Cash, card, SNAP Mission Falls Market Season: May 11 to Oct. 4 Time: Friday 5 to 7 p.m. Location: 339 Mountain View Drive. St. Ignatius – former Golden Yoke parking lot Payment accepted: Cash, check, SNAP, senior nutrition coupons Ronan Farmers Market Time: Thursday 3 to 7 p.m. Location: 106 Main Street SW Season: May to October Payment Accepted: Cash, check, SNAP, senior nutrition coupons Arlee Farmers Market Time: Wednesday 4 to 7 p.m. Location: Huckleberry Patch parking lot Season: starts May 30 if volunteers are willing to help. Call Patty at 406-240-7175
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Invasive mussels pose threat to irrigators By Karen Peterson/Valley Journal
LAKE COUNTY – Another trespasser made the list of invasive species farmers and ranchers worry about, but this one isn’t the kind that crawls through fields or sprouts up in dirt. The infamous zebra and quagga mussels impacting large bodies of water can also cause problems for irrigators. The invaders can choke off agricultural irrigation systems from pipes to pumps once they start growing. Invasive mussels haven’t been found in Flathead Lake or surrounding water supplies for irrigation in the county, but it is a possibility state and local governments are working to prevent. The Central and Eastern Montana Mussel Response team put out information for irrigators in the state as a preventative measure stating these colonizers have the potential to render headgates inoperable, block water intake pipes, and damage pumps. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Water Quality Program states that mussels develop tiny, razor-sharp shells that can coat and clog every hard surface including rocks, boats, docks and dams. Reed Anderson is the utility system operator with the
Irrigators utilizing water from the Pablo reservoir would be affected if mussels got into the lake. Irrigation water is pumped out of the Flathead River ... Flathead Indian Irrigation Project. He said the project provides stored water to irrigators across the Flathead Reservation. Irrigators use different water storage systems throughout the project depending on where they are located, and if mussels get into any of them it would be a problem. Irrigators utilizing water from the Pablo reservoir would be affected if mussels got into the lake. Anderson explained that irrigation water is pumped out of the Flathead River with three pumps and is sent into a pipe that eventually feeds into a concrete ditch. The water travels to the Pablo reservoir and is distributed through a system of ditches Farm & Ranch
to irrigators. He said the mussels could travel through the system. “These pumps serve a lot of farmers that depend on people cleaning their boats to keep mussels out of the water,” he said. Irrigators in different parts of the reservation utilize stored water from different bodies of water, for example several St. Ignatius irrigators use water stored at the Mission Reservoir while others use water from McDonald Lake. Anderson said it is possible for mussels to contaminate that water if people aren’t careful with watercraft. Greg Lemon, information bureau chief for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said invasive mussels in the microscopic larva stage look for a hard surface to attach. “The inside of pipes seems to be a place they are really prolific,” he said. “In cases where adult mussels were found, they choked off piping for agriculture and hydro facilities.” The Mussel Response Team notes that landowners and irrigators can help prevent an invasion by following the clean, drain and dry rule if there is a chance that purchased equipment was used in a water body containing mussels or invasive species. see page 22
March 21, 2018 - 21
KAREN PETERSON/VALLEY JOURNAL
The photo above shows the build up of Quagga mussels on a pipe six months after it was placed in Lake Mead.
from page 21
Landowners can also make sure boaters and fishermen asking to utilize their property know about invasive mussels and have cleaned, drained and dried boats and equipment. “Think about containing the spread of these aquatic invasive species in the same manner that you work to contain the spread of noxious weeds,” they note. The invaders are well established in water bodies in places in the United States farther east like the lower Great Lakes, but they haven’t established in Montana, and testing efforts were doubled in 2017 to look for them. Lemon said the Tiber Reservoir tested positive for invasive mussel larvae, not adult mussels. Canyon Ferry Reservoir and Missouri River near Townsend both had water samples suspected of mussel larvae. “We haven’t found
NICOLE TAVENNER/VALLEY JOURNAL
Should Quagga or Zebra mussels find their way to the Mission Valley, the aquatic invasive species could cause problems for irrigators.
adult mussels,” he said. Montana is at a point where prevention is possible if people clean, drain and dry all watercraft, he said. Toweling off the hatches, removing standing water and mud or grime is recommended. “It should be done when you get out of the water, no matter where you are at,” he said. Another preventative measure includes following current laws to have boats inspected before they launch. CSKT
opened the Ravalli check station on Friday, March 16. Additional check stations will open statewide later this spring. Inspections can also be arranged at CSKT offices at 406 Sixth Ave. E. in Polson, Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 406-675-2700, ext. 7280 or 406-261-6515 to arrange a time.
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No-till seed drill available for rent
Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame seeks nominations for class of 2018
News from the Lake County Conservation District
The Lake County Conservation District is excited to announce a new equipment rental program for local residents. Starting in April, the Conservation District in cooperation with the Lake County Weed District will begin a rental program for a 7-foot Great Plains No-Till Seed Drill. The purchase of the drill was a community effort and would not be possible without financial support from the Mission Valley Chapter of Pheasants Forever and a state grant from DNRC. The no-till drill is equipped with two seed boxes; one for larger seeds such as wheat and other small grains and a smaller box for small seeds such as clovers and grasses. It will be available to residents of Lake County for a daily rental charge of approximately $100. The drill will need to be operated with a minimum 50-horsepower tractor with hydraulics. The drill can be transported by a ¾ ton pickup truck on roadways with a top speed of 50 mph. It is estimated that the drill will seed approximately three acres per hour under normal conditions. The Conservation District will host a No-Till Drill Workshop free to the community at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, March 28 at Crow Creek Ranch. This workshop will show users how to operate the drill including transportation, seeding, seed calibration and general use. Seed mixes for pasture improvements, cover crops and wildlife habitat will also be discussed in detail. All attendees will receive $100
News from Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center
off of the cost of their first no-till drill rental. For more information please contact the Lake County Conservation District at 406-676-2841 or NRCS at 406-676-2841.
The Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame (MCHF) is seeking nominations for the 2018 Hall of Fame induction round. Every year, the MCHF honors living and historical figures that have made notable contributions to Montana’s western heritage. “We invite people from across Montana to identify those in their communities who are most deserving of inclusion in the hall of fame,” said Bill Galt, board president. “Nominations are open and welcome from the public at large.” 2018 marks the eleventh year of honoring inductees. The Board of Trustees will cast votes to select inductees from each of the 12 Trustee Districts based on nominations from the public. Nominees can be men, women, ranches, stage coach lines, animals, hotels, etc.— anyone or anything that has made a notable contribution to our Montana western heritage. A full listing of inductees from 2011-17, the 2018 nomination instructions, and more about the hall of fame induction process can be found online at http://www.montanacowboyfame.org. To make a nomination, contact the MCHF at Christy@montanacowboyfame.org or call 406-653-3800 prior to the submission deadline to express your intent to nominate. Nominations must include a cover page, a two-page biography, and a high-quality photograph. All nomination documents must be in electronic format and emailed by May 31. The 2018 Class of the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame will be announced by press release by Sept. 1. Winning inductees will be honored at the 2019 Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony & Western Heritage Gathering.
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www.ronanirrigation.com March 21, 2018 - 23
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Country living landowner workshop planned News from the Lake County Conservation District
Are you a small acreage landowner? Do you want to learn more about opportunities and ideas for managing your land? Then this is the event for you. Join us on Saturday, April 7 at the United Methodist Church on Hwy. 93 in Charlo for a morning of workshops by local experts. Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m. and the workshop will conclude by noon. Participants may choose from topics that include beekeeping, gardening, landscaping, pollinators, wildlife, grazing, weed identification, small scale agriculture, pasture improvements, forest health and fire awareness. There will be coffee and snacks, door prizes, and free handouts full of valuable information. This is a great opportunity for landowners to talk with specialists about any concerns they may have about their own piece of the country. Cost is just $10 per person. To register, call Heidi at the Lake County Conservation District at 406-676-2841 ext. 102 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org before Wednesday, April 4.
NICOLE TAVENNER/VALLEY JOURNAL
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March 21, 2018 - 25
Locals to be honored at Ag Appreciation Dinner Tom and Val Bartel recognized for 40+ years of community service
New from the USDA Farm Service Agency in Montana
By Kathi Beeks/Valley Journal
he first Agriculture Appreciation Dinner took place in 1975 or ‘76, put together by the Ronan Chamber of Commerce. Originally the Job Corps cooked and served the dinner as a picnic with approximately 150 attendees. Today, an Ag Banquet committee begins planning the March event in January and currently plans on plating up to 400 dinners, all served by Ronan Chamber of Commerce members. Using a contract with White’s Meats, all the locally grown beef gets barbecued in a barn at the Lake County Fairgrounds. For 39 years Tom Bartel has been part of the barbecue team that cooks up the meat for the annual dinner. With six to eight barbecues going, each cook mans two barbecues at a time. Other than the occasional bite of finger food, Tom has never sat down for a full meal at an Ag Appreciation Dinner. Organizers are looking to change that this year as they seek to honor both Tom and his wife Val for their many years of volunteering in service of their community. Rather than have any entertainment or a speaker at this year’s dinner, Jack Stivers, MSU Lake County Extension Agent, says this year attendees will simply visit and enjoy one-another’s company. There will be an award given however, to the Bartels, who prove every day that busy people always have time to do more. Over the years, Val and Tom have done it all. “They have been outstanding contributors to the community, with high standards of citizenship, stewardship of the community and longevity (of their service),” stated Stivers. Val works six and a half days a week at Lynn’s Drive-In. She’s worked there since 1969 and in 1985 bought the place. Together, she and Tom also run about 100 head of cattle on their ranch. Tom retired a year ago from the Ronan Fire Department after 44 years of volunteer service. He became a firefighter at the age of 19 and is in fact the reason the age requirement for firefighting was lowered from 21 to 18 years. The then fire house called the legislature and suggested they change the age because they had a 19-year-old kid (Tom) who wanted to go to work for them. He worked his way through the ranks to eventually become the Ronan Fire Chief. Val, Tom’s wife and partner of 45 years, has had to endure a lot of missed dates and dirty, smoky clothes. During his firefighting years Tom’s missed the ending to many 26 - March 21, 2018
Montana FSA: Livestock Indemnity Program meetings scheduled across state
NICOLE TAVENNER/VALLEY JOURNAL
Val and Tom Bartel are being honored for their many years of community service at the annual Ronan Chamber of Commerce Ag Appreciation dinner this Friday at the Ronan Community Center.
movies; the beginning, middle or in some cases entire wedding ceremonies, been called away from the Pioneer Days Celebration (he was volunteering of course), and has had to leave the Ag Dinner at least four times. He’s even been called out to a fire while attending a Firefighters’ Appreciation Dinner at the Valley Club. Funny story about that interruption – upon arriving at the fire house and calling 911 dispatch to find out where to go, he and his crew were told the fire was back at the Valley Club. Tom said, “You can wear many hats in your life and get lots of things accomplished.” He would know. He’s taken an active role in many organizations including the Lions Club, Kiwanis, The Knights of Columbus and the Chamber of Commerce. While president of the Chamber of Commerce, he and two friends back in 1975
or ‘76, created Ronan’s Holiday Treasures drawing, the Talks Turkey and the Ag Dinner events; all of which continue today. Tom said talking about himself was, “Embarrassing the hell out of me.” For him, it’s about “giving back and service” to others. The payback includes lifelong friendships and making new friends from other towns. He said volunteerism is about “giving back to the community.” Giving just one or two hours a week visiting seniors at rest homes or helping at the schools, “gives a good feeling … a big payback.” Not everyone can help in the same way. According to Tom, “Some have a big (strong) back and some have a big checkbook.” Tom may not have been born here, but he’s been an “all in” local guy and neighbor since he was 12 years old.
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BOZEMAN – USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Mike Foster recently announced several public meetings for livestock producers have been scheduled in March and April 2018. FSA will present information on the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) authorized by the Agricultural Act of 2014 (2014 Farm Bill). Meeting dates, times and locations: Thurs., March 22, 2 p.m., Browning (Blackfeet Tribal Chambers) Wed., March 28, 6 p.m., Choteau (Stage Stop Inn) – RSVP to 406-4665351 Tues., April 3, 8:30 am, Great Falls (1st Interstate Bank Building Basement Conference Room, 12 3rd St NW) Tues., April 3, 2 p.m., Rocky Boy Agency (New Stone Child College, Kennewash Hall, Upstairs Conference Room) Wed., April 4, 1 p.m., Fort Belknap Agency (Aaniiih Nakoda College, White Clay People Hall, Curly Head Classroom) Wed., April 4, 2 p.m., Billings (711 Central Ave, Top Floor, RMTLC Conference Room) Thurs., April 5, 1 p.m., Wolf Point, Fort Peck Community College, Dumont Building, Community Room, 301 Benton St. LIP provide benefits to livestock producers for livestock deaths in excess of normal mortality caused by eligible loss conditions, including eligible adverse weather, eligible disease and eligible attacks (attacks by animals reintroduced into the wild by the federal government or protected by federal law, including wolves and avian predators). LIP payments are equal to 75 percent of the market value of the applicable livestock on the day before the date of death of the livestock as determined by the Secretary. Livestock producers who suffer livestock deaths due to an eligible loss condition including eligible adverse weather events, eligible disease and eligible attacks from Jan. 1, 2018 through Dec. 31, 2018 must submit a notice of loss within 30 calendar days of when the loss of livestock is first apparent. Livestock producers suffering livestock losses may submit the notice of loss to FSA by phone, fax, and email or in person. An application for payment must be filed with the local FSA County Office by the March 31, 2019 deadline. For more information about the meeting and FSA programs, please contact your local FSA office. Visit Montana FSA online at www.fsa.usda. gov/mt.
WMSA launch scholarship program to inspire future beef producers
By Karen Peterson/Valley Journal
ailey Weible, 16, recently won the first yearling heifer given away by the Western Montana Stockmen’s Association for their scholarship program to encourage participation in the beef industry. Weible went up against a handful of 4-H or FFA members, ages 10 to 16, from western Montana counties including Lake, Lincoln, Mineral, Missoula, Flathead and Sanders. “I was so excited to win,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it.” For the next year, she will cooperatively own the animal with WMSA. She needs to care for it and show it as a 4-H or FFA project. And after a year, she will completely own the animal if she completes the requirements. She plans to show the animal at the Lake County Fair as a 4-H member. Raised on her family’s ranch outside of Charlo, Weible had dreams of establishing her own herd. When she found out about the WMSA contest, she went to work writing an application letter and finding a mentor, Jerry Hamel, to help her with the project. WMSA purchased the heifer for the contest with funds raised during their annual banquet auction. During the 2018 banquet, several ranchers donated funds to help purchase more animals for this year’s contest. “This will allow us to give to more kids that want to participate in 4-H or FFA,” said Paul Guenzler, WMSA first vice president. “Doing things like this is what we are all about.” WMSA Treasurer Ken McAlpin explained that the contest allows kids to learn about raising cattle and maybe develop their own herd. “We hope to inspire them to become the next generation of cattle owners,” he said. “But whether they go on in agriculture or not, we hope they learn something and have a positive experience.” Applications for the next contest come out in December and are available through the MSU Extension Office, 4-H leaders or FFA advisors.
“Doing things like this is what we are all about. “ - Paul Guenzler, WMSA first vice president
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Grow organic kohlrabi
ohlrabi is a delicious vegetable that is easy to grow in the intermountain climate, yet it is relatively unknown. It is a form of cabbage, in the mustard family, the Brassicaceae. It is botanically classified as Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes. Kohlrabi is more well-known in Europe and Asia than in the U.S. and well deserves better recognition and use here. This vegetable takes less space than other cabbage family member, is easy to grow and it is more tolerant of heat. Insect infestations do not directly affect the most desirable part of the plant, the swollen stem. Yes, the sweetest, juiciest part of the plant is its stem, which swells with moisture and goodness as the plant grows. The leaves are edible also, and can be used like cabbage, but the spherical stem can be peeled and cut into cubes; or shredded; or sliced to eat fresh alone or in salads. The stem is also good cooked and can be used in casseroles and soups. Several varieties of kohlrabi are available today, several of them open-pollinated heirloom types. Early White Vienna (55
days) has been grown since the 1850s and is probably the most popular one in gardens. Early Purple Vienna (60 days) from before 1860, is a purple variant of the white. Both types are remarkably heat and cold hardy for Brassicas. Superschmeltz (65 days) is a giant kind of kohlrabi with stems weighing up to 10 pounds. This last variety can be left in the garden longer than the other two as it does not tend to become “woody.” Consistent watering will improve the sweetness and tenderness James Sagmiller of this vegetable. Mulching kohlrabi with 3 or 4 inches of rotted straw will preserve moisture in the soil and will enable you to have great results with less watering, while keeping soil microbes alive. It is noteworthy that mulched soils are living soils, with abundant soil fungi and microbes that can capture carbon out of the atmosphere. Keep in mind that bare, un-mulched soils dry and erode, and actually release carbon rather than capture it. Organic production of kohlrabi is not difficult. If you end up with an abundance
of cabbage loopers and aphids, the swollen stem will be peeled and so is less affected visually by insects. However, production will be much higher if you place row covers with breathable insect fabric over your crop and mulch heavily. Your other Brassicas will benefit from this technique also – there will be no holes in cabbage leaves or worms in the cauliflower and broccoli. BT, or Thuricide (Bacillus thuringensis) can be used, but it is better for the environment to simply cover all crops rather than spray. Insects develop resistance to BT over a few generations, so it should be reserved for use in special circumstances. In Western Montana, we direct sow kohlrabi out April 21-May 1 depending on weather, for harvest in July-early August. Plants can be started inside about March 1 to be set out around April 15, and harvest would begin in late June. A second crop (in the same space in the garden) could be direct-seeded around July 15-Aug. 1 following the first crop’s harvests. Some gardeners plant a new row of kohlrabi every three weeks all season long. It is ok to plant in the same space within one season, but remember to rotate your crops year to year. Do not plant any mem-
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bers of the cabbage family in the same place they grew the previous year; in fact for the previous three years. A four-year rotation of vegetable crops in your garden will feed your soil and reduce insect and disease infestations. The germination temperature for kohlrabi is 40-100 degrees F with 45-95 F being ideal. Germination time is usually 3-10 days. In my experience the percentage of seeds of kohlrabi that sprout is usually low, so plant extra seed in pans or outside when seeding direct. Water regularly, steadily, and evenly; keep moist, not wet. Be sure to thin the plants if you direct seed, and mulch when they are about three inches high. Pests include gophers, root maggots, aphids, cabbage worms, cabbage loopers, diamond back moths, and flea beetles. Diseases that can appear are: clubroot, alternaria blight, blackleg, black rot, downy mildew, fusarium wilt and wirestem. It has been shown that soils with a higher pH will reduce the chances of some diseases. The best soil pH for Brassicas is 6.0-7.5. Kohlrabi grows best in cool summers, but we still had a great crop last year, during the hottest summer any of us remember here in Western Montana. March 21, 2018 - 29
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2018 SPRING FARM & RANCH CONSIGNMENT AUCTION Friday, April 20th, 2018 Mile Marker 10 Hwy 93, Evaro MT.
Auction begins at 10 a.m. Preview will be all-day Wednesday, April 18 & Thursday, April 19 It’s our annual consignment auction with an agriculture focus, however listed below are other categories featured at this auction.
• Agriculture Machinery • ATV’s/ Snomobiles/ UTV’s • Semi’s • Trailers (horse, utility, flatbed, dry van, etc.) • Horse tack and horse-drawn equipment • Livestock Handling Equipment- Feeders, Water Tanks • Irrigation • Power Equipment- Shop Tools • Fencing Supplies & Materials • Miller Barns • Hay • Livestock • Fire trucks
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....and many more categories that will come by sale day
*This sale will also offer a solid lineup of guns, musical instruments, furniture and collectibles.
PIERCE CONSTRUCTION RETIREMENT AUCTION Thursday, May 17, 2018 • Auction begins at 11 a.m. Preview will be Tues., May 15 & Wed., May 16 St. Ignatius, MT.
Jason 406-239-3529 Reed 406-249-1767 Travis 406-314-0288
Photo listings & online bidding at:
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March 21, 2018 - 31
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March 21, 2018 - 33
MSU to co-host annual Montana Nutrition Conference and Livestock Forum From MSU News Service
BOZEMAN – The annual Montana Nutrition Conference and Livestock Forum will be held April 17-18 at the GranTree Inn in Bozeman. The conference is co-hosted by the Montana State University College of Agriculture’s Department of Animal and Range Sciences and the Montana Feed Association. This year’s conference will focus on drought resource management. Speakers from MSU, University of Wyoming, U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agriculture Research Service Fort Keogh and elsewhere will cover a wide variety of topics, including a 2018 weather outlook, alternative forages and economics, forage sampling and analysis, beef cattle supplementation strategies, water quality and geological indicators, post-fire grazing management, cost of cow production and insurance programs during drought, and forage storage techniques and impacts on quality. Tuesday evening’s keynote speaker will be Amberley Snyder, who will present “There is No Future in Giving Up.” The cost to attend both days of the conference is $155. Registration is available online at montana.edu/nutrition/. For more information and a detailed conference schedule, visit animalrange.montana.edu/conferences.html.
NICOLE TAVENNER/VALLEY JOURNAL
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