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in this issue

2011 Montana agriculture outlook healthy horses in winter ranch family chores rural grocery stores


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Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010 - Page 3

Photo courtesy of the Ravalli County Museum

This early day school bus was piloted by Bill Hallford on his West Fork route. The wagon was used to haul children and teacher, Mrs. Walter (Lewis) Langly, from Nez Perce Creek to Beavertail School.

A note of introduction from the Editor One of the great myths about life on farms and ranches goes like this: Come winter, farmers and ranchers head indoors and hole up until spring. Not so. As this edition of sherry devlin Agriculture Quarterly shows, there’s plenty to keep folks busy all winter long. Just ask the Dugan family of Hamilton. Or Stevensville veterinarian Linda Kauffman. Or lifelong Bitterroot Valley rancher Tom Ruffatto. There’s no dust gathering at their places, come cold weather. I’m proud of this edition of our magazine, a product of the Ravalli Republic and Missoulian newsrooms. We’ve expanded our reach, including agricultural producers from across the state. Our lead story is an in-depth look at the statewide agriculture outlook for 2011, written by Diane Cochran, a longtime reporter for the Billings Gazette who is now a University of Montana law student and freelance

writer for the Missoulian and Agriculture Quarterly. She’s put together a fascinating look at the year just past – when Montana farmers and ranchers benefited from several unexpected global events – and at the generally healthy prospects for the year to come. “It’s a gamble every year,” Kim Falcon, executive director of the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee, told us. “It’s very difficult to predict what will happen.” But increasing worldwide demand for U.S. crops – credited to factors as diverse as ballooning populations and natural disasters, as well as improving relations with foreign governments and a heightened awareness of food origin among American eaters – all add up to hope for agricultural producers. Look inside this edition, too, for a diverse array of stories: from the promised looks at wintertime on Bitterroot Valley farms and ranches, to a study of rural grocery stores, to a report on work by one local veterinary clinic to help older dogs age with less pain and more mobility. Start to finish, it’s a great edition – and a great way to launch a new year, living and working in Montana.


Page 4 - Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010

Agriculture Quarterly is published by the Ravalli Republic & Missoulian Newspapers, divisions of Lee Enterprises Kristen Bounds, Ravalli Republic Publisher Stacey Mueller, Missoulian Publisher Sherry Devlin, Editor Jodi Lopez & Dara Saltzman, Production & Design Agriculture Quarterly is copyright 2010, Ravalli Republic/Missoulian.

232 W Main, Hamilton, MT 59840 ravallirepublic.com

500 S. Higgins, Missoula, MT 59807 missoulian.com


Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010 - Page 5

in this issue Montana Ag Outlook ....................... 6 Horse Care in Winter . .................... 10 Chilly Chores.................................... 12 Duce’s Wild ..................................... 15 Laser Therapy for Animals.............. 17 Rural Grocery Stores . ..................... 19 Soil.................................................... 22 Agriculture Heritage Notebook .... 25 Dirty Fingernails............................... 30 Livestock Depredation.................... 33 Ag Advertising Assistance ............ 34

How did you like this fourth issue of Agriculture Quarterly? Do you have any ideas you’d like to share with us for our next issue? Let us know. Sent comments to: 232 West Main, Hamilton, MT 59840 or editor@ravallirepublic.com Photos on this page: Kurt Wilson, Michael Gallacher, Stacie Duce, Wendy Bye Cover Photo by Michael Gallacher


Statewide griculture Outlook

Page 6 - Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010

A

Photo by KURT WILSON By DIANE COCHRAN

Even after nearly a half-century, Fred Cavill feels a trill of wonder at every birth on his ranch. “There’s nothing better than calving season and seeing those little calves come through,” says Cavill, who runs a cow-calf operation at Plains. “We’ve been here 45 years and loved every minute of it.” Cavill’s fidelity to the cattle business has held true through good times and bad, and, as any farmer or rancher knows, Montana offers up plenty of each.

Most producers are calling 2010 a good year, and there is ample reason to believe 2011 will shape up as well or better. “It’s a gamble every year,” concedes Kim Falcon, executive director of the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee. “It’s very difficult to predict what will happen.” But increasing international demand for U.S.-grown crops – credited to factors as diverse as ballooning populations and natural disasters, as well as improving


Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010 - Page 7

relations with foreign governments and a heightened awareness of food origin among American eaters – all add up to hope for agricultural producers. “The outlook is good,” says Kim Baker, president of the Montana Cattlemen’s Association. That is not to say there will be no challenges. Rising energy prices and state budget cuts threaten to temper the enthusiasm of even the most optimistic of producers. But no matter what happens, Montana’s ranchers and farmers will keep plugging away. “Everyone’s got to eat, regardless of what they pay,” says Paul Cullen of Ronan, who chairs the agriculture committee for the Montana State Grange. World conditions helped Montana producers this year, and the ever-expanding connectivity of global markets could be a boon next year, too. “Worldwide supplies were very tight,” Falcon says. “That certainly had an effect on price.” Drought followed by wildfires in Russia, the world’s third-largest exporter of wheat, jump-started demand for wheat from U.S. producers. The harsh conditions slashed Russia’s wheat crop by 30 percent to 50 percent. Demand for grain from countries whose populations are growing larger and wealthier – a higher standard of living is typically linked to an increase in food consumption – is rising, too. Worldwide, grain consumption is up, Falcon says, and unlike unpredictable factors such as natural disasters, that trend is likely to continue. Of course, globalization has its downside, too. “What’s changed is the volatility,” says Don Fast, a grain producer at Glasgow. “Prices used to change at

best 50 to 60 cents a year. They can do that in a day now. “There’s so much information around and people react,” Fast says. “You have to steady yourself and put one foot in front of the other.” World markets are influencing the cattle industry, too. Overall, cattle numbers were down this year, and that nudged up the price for calves. Demand is likely to outpace supply again next year because it takes cattle producers more than a season to respond to market changes. And demand could grow exponentially if the governPhoto by KURT WILSON ment convinces more foreign countries to import U.S. beef. Baker, of the Cattlemen’s Association, is monitoring efforts by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., to open China and other Asian countries to beef raised in Big Sky Country. In China, government restrictions on imports essentially prevent the country from buying U.S. beef. Baucus recently traveled to Beijing to meet with Chinese officials and brought a Chinese ambassador to Montana to tour a cattle ranch and meet with producers. If restrictions are lifted, U.S. beef exports to China could top $200 million a year, according to Baucus’ office. Meanwhile, a subtle shift in local markets is impacting agricultural producers. Given a choice, many Montanans are now buying locally grown foods. “They’ve taken it for granted they can go in the grocery store and grab anything and it’ll be safe,” says Cavill. But national scares linked to tainted chicken, spinach, peanut butter and other edibles grown or produced on


Page 8 - Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010

a massive scale have people thinking, often for the first time, about where their food comes from. “People increasingly want to know that their food is safe and can be easily traced to its source,” says Kevin Moore, Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems program manager for the Alternative Energy Resources Organization in Helena. “Consumers want to support local farmers and ranchers and the agricultural economy, and eat fresh and nutritious food that was produced sustainably,” Moore says. The number of farmers markets in Montana has exploded from 17 in 1996 to more than 50 today, and restaurants, hospitals and schools are spending at least a portion of their food budgets locally, according to Moore. Selling locally can translate into more profit for producers because there is no middleman taking a cut and transportation costs are lower. Fuel tends to be the biggest expense for farmers and ranchers, and it has gotten only bigger. The price of diesel shot up 178 percent over the last 15 years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Gasoline prices have risen 70 percent. Agricultural producers need fuel for just about everything they do, from operating equipment to shipping product. Even the price of fertilizer is linked to the price of fuel.

Electricity powers pumps that send water to livestock or crops, and electric bills have doubled or tripled in the last decade, a change some producers blame on deregulation of the state’s power industry. Profit margins widening from higher demand for grain and cattle can be eaten up by these and other input costs. Producers are also wary of the state’s budget crisis. The Montana Agricultural Experiment Station, which operates seven ag research centers around the state, has already lost 13 percent of its budget, says Ken Kephart, superintendent of the Southern Agricultural Research Center in Huntley. AES is a department of Montana State University’s agriculture school, and its budget could be further cut or eliminated by the Legislature in January, Kephart says. The research centers seek solutions to problems faced by Montana producers, such as reducing input costs or controlling pests and weeds. “We represent the most applied level of research,” Kephart says. “We take the most basic findings and conduct research using those findings to answer very specific production questions for our producers in Montana.” Diane Cochran is a Missoula free-lance writer and a law student at the University of Montana.

Utility prices are hurting farmers and ranchers, too.

Photo by KURT WILSON


Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010 - Page 9

Montana Producers Facing Problems By DIANE COCHRAN

STEVENSVILLE – Tom Ruffatto represents the third generation of his family to ranch in the Bitterroot Valley, and his nephew will be the fourth. Ruffatto is lucky that the cattle operation he runs with his brother will continue after they retire. It is getting harder and harder for young Montanans to make a living at agriculture. “Most producers are like me. They’re going out of business,” says Paul Cullen of Ronan, who chairs the agriculture committee for the Montana State Grange. “Young people can’t get in.” Startup costs are astronomical, especially when it comes to land and especially land in the Bitterroot. Not too long ago, developers were snapping up anything that came on the market and paying as much as $7,000 an acre for it. “You can’t pay that and raise a crop on it,” says Ruffatto, who ranches at Stevensville. “There’s no way farmers or ranchers can expand.” In a volatile business that relies so much on chance, expanding is one of the surest ways to improve the bottom line. Profit margins are slim for all Montana agricultural producers, and producers in the Bitterroot face many of the same pitfalls as do producers across the state. Input costs are rising, particularly energy costs. Even in a good year such as 2010, farmers and ranchers can see much of their profit eaten away by high fuel and electricity prices. “We’ve really got to be careful about what we spend money on,” says Fred Cavill, who runs a cowcalf operation at Plains. “If we don’t really need it, we better not buy it.” “Even though prices (for calves) go up, we’re still at about the same place,” Cavill says. “It’s kind of hard to hang on.” Alan Merrill, president of the Montana Farmers Union, spends his days thinking of ways to help farmers and ranchers, and he’s always busy. “You hear farmers are just of rich people driving

new cars and tractors,” Merrill says. “Most of the farmers in Montana still get their hands dirty.” On the Farmers Union agenda for next year, in addition to keeping tabs on federal farm and food safety bills, is trying to save the Western Agricultural Research Center in Corvallis and its six sister facilities across the state. The research centers could become victims of the state’s budget crisis. Two of three research positions at the Corvallis center have already been eliminated, says superintendent Mal Westcott. The research centers investigate problems faced by Montana producers. “Private companies could take over the research, but producers look to the experiment stations for unbiased research where you’ve got sound scientific method involved and no preconceived outcome,” Westcott said. Diane Cochran is a Missoula free-lance writer and a law student at the University of Montana.

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H

orse Care in Winter

Photo by Tim Thompson By BETSY COHEN

Keeping our equine friends healthy through the cold and icy months of winter takes more than common sense. Veterinarians know this better than anyone. Year after year, these professionals are called to treat problems that could have been avoided if horse owners – even seasoned horse owners – had changed their horse’s winter care routine just slightly. “The biggest problem horses have in the wintertime is that they have to have lots of water,” said Rollett Pruyn, a Missoula veterinarian who owns and operates Blue Mountain Veterinary Hospital. “But that water needs to be tepid – it needs to be heated,” he said. “Horses can get by on eating

snow, but it cuts down on their eating hay, which is what helps keep them warm during the cold months and the lack of roughage interferes with their digestive system. “The biggest problem that results from horses not having enough drinking water is colic, which can be life threatening.” Water is critical for many reasons, the most important of which is helping horses digest their feed, said Linda Kauffman, a Stevensville veterinarian who owns and operates Burnt Fork Veterinary Clinic. Without a sufficient amount of water, horses will suffer from intestinal impaction. “Invariably after a cold snap, about 7 to 10 days after that is when I see colic because horses didn’t get enough water or didn’t drink enough water for some reason,” Kauffman said. “Impaction is what


Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010 - Page 11

causes the colic, but often, the colic could have been avoided if the horse had free access to clean, heated water.” How can you help increase your horse’s water consumption? Put away the salt blocks and use loose salt instead, Pruyn said. Make sure the salt is placed in a box or feed pan – or some other dry place that horses can easily get to. Make sure horses can get to the water, Kauffman said. Sometimes, particularly during thaw and freeze cycles, the area around stock tanks and watering holes turns into an ice skating rink that horses won’t risk navigating. Falling on ice is dangerous for humans and horses alike, Kauffman said, and it’s a real concern for older horses whose movements are hampered by arthritis. Keep your horse’s water tank clean, and be sure there is no soap or cleaning residue in the tank or water; otherwise, horses will not drink, said Shawn Gleason, a Corvallis veterinarian. “Horses will quit drinking if detergents are present in the water,” Gleason said. Gleason also reminds owners to be sure water heaters are well grounded and that if there is an electric fence in the vicinity, that the electricity isn’t feeding back into the water tank. All three horse experts believe in feeding horses good quality hay – and more of it – during the winter. Hay is not only better to digest and better for horses, the process of eating and digesting it helps keep them warm. Increasing a horse’s grain serving won’t do the trick, Kauffman said. In human terms, she compared the difference between the two horse foods: Grain is like feeding a horse a candy bar and hay is like giving it a protein drink. “In general, it is better to increase hay and not grain when it gets super cold,” Kauffman said. “Hay is just all around better and healthier for a horse.” “A general rule of thumb for feeding hay: Twenty pounds for a 1,000-pound horse is a minimum,”

Gleason said. “But it is dangerous to have fast and hard rules. I’m a believer that you can’t say a horse has got 20 pounds of hay and therefore he’s getting enough hay.” “As it gets colder requirements go up, so nutrition has to go up with it,” he said. “Horses are individuals and they need to be fed as individuals.” When winter hits, the three vets also get a lot of questions from horse owners regarding whether or not to blanket a horse when the thermometer dips. All three generally agree that horses don’t need to be blanketed if they are well fed, in good health and have grown a thick coat. However, some circumstances warrant a blanket. “If a horse is shivering and can’t warm up in a twohour period, put a blanket on it,” Pruyn said. “But oftentimes, a horse will be shivering at feeding time and will warm up when it gets hay.” Horses that have a hard time keeping weight on in the winter could use a blanket, Kauffman said. “As a rule, I don’t go for blanketing because blankets tend to be more of a problem and have a high propensity for creating fungal issues with the skin or rubbing in the wrong places,” she said. “I think blankets are good thing during transition seasons – this spring is a good example. After all the horses had shed out their winter coats, we got hit with cold, rainy weather.” Ideally, a horse in pasture should have some kind of windbreak to get behind when it is cold and windy, Gleason said. This piece of advice is particularly true for horses that are old or very young. He also recommends providing shelters for horses to stand under when the weather is a combination of cold, windy and wet. Kauffman encourages horse owners to be proactive about their horse’s health. “If you aren’t sure about something, please talk to a vet,” she said. “Don’t necessarily rely on your neighbor’s advice, even if they mean well. Sometimes they don’t have the best advice. “Be careful about your information sources.” Betsy Cohen is a reporter for the Missoulian.


C

Page 12 - Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010

Chilly

hores

Written and photographed by STACIE DUCE

HAMILTON – Despite frigid temperatures, one thing is certain on a farm: The chores must go on. For one Hamilton family, feeding animals is more than just a daily duty – it helps raise responsible kids as well. Most Bitterrooters agree there’s nothing peculiar about being outnumbered by your pets, and the Dugan family is no exception. They make the most of two acres north of Hamilton and their family in-

cludes three kids, six horses, four cats, five hounds, two housedogs, four turkeys, a duck, a rooster and a very mischievous goat named Henry Furnace. As a result, the kids have chores first thing in the morning and again after school, even when the thermometer reads 5 degrees. Frozen water is the biggest challenge, and keeping animals with healthy appetites fed on schedule is a family affair. Randy Dugan was raised on a farm near Stevensville and his daily chores as a kid included riding and roping every evening. Devon Lindquist grew up near


Darby with horses, dogs and a lot of ducks. Together, they want their kids to learn the same work ethic, so most pet opportunities are accepted – including the recent acquisition of three abandoned kittens that required weeks of bottle-feeding. “Yeah, we have a soft spot, but we know it’s important for the kids to be raised with animals and for them to learn about chores, although sometimes they hate it,” said Lindquist. During the past few months, the three siblings have had more responsibility than ever as Dugan is working on an out-of-state construction job and Lindquist has endured two separate surgeries. While Dugan is only able to come home for two or three days every five weeks, he calls every night to check on the kids and make sure they’re keeping up on chores. “He stays connected, even on the small things,” Lindquist said as 7-year-old Bria talked to her dad on the phone about cleaning her room. Bria loves her horse, Ammo, and Dew, the mini Australian shepherd. “My main job is to grain my horse,” she said, although she misses the warm summer evenings when she hopped on Ammo’s back and rode around the yard. She participates in Gymkana and said, “I want to be a horse trainer and a rider when I grow up. I also want to be a cop and a nurse.” She’s getting plenty of experience in all of her career aspirations as she cares for her horse, keeps the peace among the animals and helps her mom administer antibiotic shots when necessary. Lindquist said two of the hounds got in a tussle, resulting in open wounds and needed medicine to heal. Bria’s horse was sick last spring for a short time and she nursed him back to health. But the biggest nuisance is the healthy, energetic goat. “I was walking on the snow and fell down because the goat tackled me,” Bria explained. With all four hooves on her back, the goat nibbled her hair and took the bucket of grain from her hands, but she maintains she was extremely brave. “She’s tough,” said her mom. “She has to be with that goat.” The family adopted the bearded Henry Furnace

Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010 - Page 13

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Page 14 - Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010

from a friend last summer and he’s been a troublemaker ever since. Lindquist said if the goat has the opportunity, “he breaks into the house and sits on my bed.” More than once, she’s chased the goat around and around her bedroom as he jumped from the bed to the floor and over to the other side. Redemption was sweet, however, the day Henry Furnace jumped from some posts on the trailer to the trampoline and went flying in the air, sliding as he landed and then going into a tailspin. “We were watching from the (living room) window and had to laugh at that one since he’s such a troublemaker,” Devon said. Despite the acrobatics, Henry Furnace still likes the trampoline, using it as shelter from the wind in the late afternoon. Boone, 12, is the oldest child and is more attached to Miller the dog than any of the other animals. He takes charge when needed, but all the kids admit 10-year-old Briggs does most of the work when it comes to feeding and helping. To Briggs, the chores are just that. He has no particular affection for the animals, offering a kitten to anyone who visits the house. “We considered separating the kittens once they were old enough to get off the bottle, but now they have personalities and, well, it’s impossible not to be attached now,” said Devon. Attached or not, all three Dugan kids help out with chores and take care of the menagerie for different reasons. Together they’re hauling hay, scooping grain, breaking ice and spreading feed to keep their animals happy and healthy no matter the temperature and no matter the weather. “It’s hard work,” said Briggs. “But it’s OK.” Stacie Duce is a Bitterroot Valley free-lance writer.


Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010 - Page 15

Duce’s ild

W Story & Photos by Stacie Duce

While kids never admit chores make them happy, the residual effects do just that. Gathering laundry means a favorite shirt is cleaned and ready on request. Emptying a bedroom garbage bin means the overflow doesn’t form a trail to the doorway that’s awfully embarrassing to shovel when a friend visits. Vacuuming means precious bobby pins or Nerf bullets are discovered before being sucked into oblivion. Kids also become better cleaners when they have animals and pets. After changing the straw from a pig pen or shoveling horse droppings, scrubbing a toilet doesn’t seem so bad. Even a beta fish in a bowl on the kitchen counter teaches kids to feed animals before enjoying their own breakfast. As a family, we’ve tried a variety of means and methods for promoting cleanliness and responsibility. Sticker

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Page 16 - Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010

charts, rotating wheels and Velcro-laden chore charts have donned our refrigerator over the years. By the time most of my kids came of a responsible age, I set the gimmicks aside and said, “Look, you know what needs to be done. Look around, each of you make a list of five things you’re going to do today and let’s get it done.” The first time I tried the new method, one of my daughters wrote, “Scoop dog poop.” Never had I asked her to do such a tough chore except on Saturdays when Dad was around to monitor the progress. But on her own, she knew that needed to be done. She found the bucket, the scoop and got to work without complaint. Recently, my high school daughter proclaimed, “My room really needs a deep cleaning.” Part of me wanted to respond, “OK, what do you want?” The other part of me was thrilled the thought had even crossed her mind. My 9-year-old son has become quite an addicted bird hunter over the years. He and his dad sit in cattails at a friend’s pond and he’s become proficient at calling ducks into range for Dad’s shot. While the thrill of the hunt is in the field, my husband has nobly taught my boy to do the tough work that comes after. Together, they take the breast meat

from the birds and properly dispose of the mess. Then they cube the meat, dip it in an egg batter and cook them to perfection. Their duck nugget dinners are more than a culinary experience and it’s taught my son that hunting is more than a shooting sport. He knows the adventure isn’t done until the knives are cleaned, his winter clothes are hanging to dry and his gear is back in the bag. Cleaning teaching moments are most effective for kids when related to their interests and even more fun when done side-by-side with a parent. My 3-year-old daughter is equally excited about pouring laundry soap and folding socks as she is playing with Barbies because both are done with mom. She loves to wash dishes and over time, less water has found its way to the floor, resulting in a positive net gain with her participation. Whether growing up on a farm, in an apartment or somewhere in between, all kids can learn responsibility and happy moments through chore time. Stacie Duce is a freelance writer from Hamilton who regularly contributes to Agriculture Quarterly.


L

Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010 - Page 17

aser Therapy for Animals

Photo by PERRY BACKUS By PERRY BACKUS

A few months back, Scott Hackett started noticing his cow dog wasn’t getting around quite like it used to. Tip, the border collie, had an accident a few years ago and she was getting gimpy on her back left leg. “She was one of those dogs that was always running around a lot,” Hackett said. “I noticed that she was favoring her leg and lying around a lot more than usual.” Hackett certainly wasn’t ready to give up on the 8-year-old dog, but he didn’t much care for the idea of giving it a steady diet of drugs either. So when his veterinarian, Shura Bugreeff of

Noah’s Ark Veterinary Hospital at Victor, told him about a new technology that used laser light to help the healing process, Hackett decided to give it a try. “It was one of those nothing ventured, nothing gained kind of decisions,” Hackett said. “Shura explained it to me and while I didn’t quite understand exactly how the laser aided the healing process, it sounded plausible.” “I didn’t think it was some kind of witch doctor type of deal,” he said. So he started bringing Tip into the veterinary hospital for a five-minute therapy session on a regular basis. “It seemed like it took a week before started noticing a difference,” Hackett said. “Within a couple


Page 18 - Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010

of treatments, she really started moving around quite a bit more. It seems like it’s working for her.” Bugreeff has seen similar results on dogs, cats and even horses since she acquired the laser therapy equipment earlier this year. “We’ve had enough cases now where we’ve seen a dramatic improvement without doing anything else to know that this really does work,” she said. Laser therapy uses a phenomenon called biostimulation to treat pain and aid in heeling. The technique has been used extensively in Europe for decades. Today the U.S. and Canadian equestrian teams use laser therapy on their equine athletes. Bugreefff said the easiest way to visualize the process is to think of your body’s cells as batteries. If a cell is damaged, it loses some of its charge and releases signals in the form of pain to tell the body it has been damaged. The laser light acts like a battery charger. The laser light both helps recharge the cell and eliminates the signals that are causing the pain. Bugreeff said her office has used laser therapy to treat older, arthritic cats and dogs to help relieve their pain. “Watching a pet slowly decline is one of the most difficult things that a pet owner has to go through,”

she said. “When their pet starts feeling constant pain, they have traditionally had two options.” They can start pushing pills down its throat or eventually have it euthanized, Bugreeff said. This could be another option for those faced with that decision that could improve the quality of a pet’s life. “Pills just mask the problem,” she said. “Laser therapy can help fix it.” Bugreeff has tested the laser’s healing powers by treating one-half of an incision following surgery. The untreated portion of the wound healed at a noticeably slower rate. “It was really quite remarkable,” she said. She’s also seen the difference in her own old dog, Jack. A lifetime of chasing cows and staying busy had put the old heeler in a world of hurt. He was at that point where he could just hardly make it to his feet. “If he hadn’t been with me, I’m sure he would have been euthanized a long time ago,” she said. “He just couldn’t get up any more.” Once she obtained the laser therapy equipment, Bugreeff started giving old Jack a steady dose of treatments. He might not be a ball of fire today, but he’s not in pain. “It’s just really a nice thing,” she said.


Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010 - Page 19

Rural

Grocery Stores

By VINCE DEVLIN

HOT SPRINGS – Believe it or not, this small eastern Sanders County town was once home to five competing grocery stores. Five. That it still has one – Buck’s – might be considered something of a minor miracle, judging from a report released recently by the Center for Rural Affairs. The report says small-town grocery stores are disappearing from the American landscape. It’s leaving vast swaths of some states, such as Montana, where more than half the population of rural counties are without convenient access to anything resembling a supermarket. The Center for Rural Affairs calls them “food deserts” – not “desserts,” as in cherry pie, but “deserts,” as in the Sahara – and they’re growing. In Iowa alone, the center reports, the number of

grocery stores with employees plummeted from about 1,400 in 1995, to just over 700 10 years later. The 50-percent reduction, not coincidentally, was accompanied by a 175-percent increase in “supercenter” stores in Iowa’s more urban areas. According to Jon M. Bailey, who completed the report for the Center for Rural Affairs, the loss of rural grocery stores means more than just a longer drive for residents to buy food. “The lack of resources and reliable transportation for many rural residents also raises the specter of hunger and unhealthy eating in communities without a local grocery store,” Bailey reports. “Of particular concern is the rural elderly.” Beyond that, Bailey says, the closing of a rural grocery store hastens the population and economic decline of rural areas. “New residents and young families are unlikely to


Page 20- Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010

want to live in a community without a place to purchase food,” he says. Part of the problem is the nature of the grocery business. It relies on volume – moving lots of its products – to turn a profit, and that requires a large customer base that, by definition, rural areas often lack. The Center for Rural Affairs says the average population base necessary to maintain one community grocery store is climbing – from 2,843 in 2000, to 3,252 in 2005. The number is presumably even higher today, as more and more rural residents opt do at least some of their shopping at bigger stores in larger cities. Which brings us back to Hot Springs. The town has a population of somewhere between just 500 and 600 people. A survey by one of the store’s wholesalers showed that the population of the entire geographical area served by Buck’s Grocery still amounts to a fraction – 1,200 – of the number deemed “necessary” to support a single grocery store.

Yet Buck’s is bucking the trend, and anyone who knows the store knows it’s less a minor miracle than a commitment on the part of the owners. Buck’s Grocery – it’s been in the same family for 73 years – recently doubled the size of its produce section and full-service meat counter. “There are a lot of variables to keeping the lights on,” says Scott Wigton, who owns Buck’s with his parents, Michael and Trudy Wigton, “and they’re magnified because everybody knows everybody in a small town, and word travels quickly.” In other words, a combination of bad service or poor quality, and word-of-mouth, can shut down a small-town business in a flash. But, in the grocery business, there’s a lot more to it than that. You probably wouldn’t have to look far to find a small-town grocer who would bemoan the local residents who drive to Missoula or Kalispell to shop at the Costcos, Walmart Supercenters, chain or specialty gro-


Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010 - Page 21

cery stores. You will, however, have to look farther than Hot Springs. “I’ll never look at competition as being a bad thing,” Wigton says. “It keeps me thinking, looking for new ideas. I know the world’s becoming smaller, and people shop other places. You can’t just sit back and let them take over.” One of the biggest challenges for a rural grocery, Wigton says, is offering the variety that customers demand, and larger stores offer. “People expect it,” Wigton says. “I think all the cooking shows on TV, things like the Food Network, have broadened people’s wants.” But do you order a case of it when someone comes shopping with a recipe in hand that demands coconut flour? “You have to be careful what you get in,” Wigton says. “If you don’t have the volume to move it, it can put you in a financial bind.” Wigton freely admits he borrows ideas from his citified competitors. “We have a little demographic here in Hot Springs that like organic foods,” he says. “I’ll go to the Good Food Store in Missoula and write down things they carry, talk to people about what they’re buying, see how stuff is displayed, how it’s priced.” And then, he’ll stock some organic items in Buck’s and see how they do. A rural grocery store can’t be all things to all people, but it can be things that bigger stores aren’t. “It is old-school, and there are people who like that,” Wigton says. “It’s a taste of the good old days.” How old-school is it? Buck’s is still a place where some people fill carts with their groceries, and pay money for them 30 days later. “This is a low-income area, and it’s essential to help people get through the month,” Wigton says. “I don’t know if you see that much in bigger cities. There’s a huge trust factor involved.” The Wigtons have to know you, and trust you to pay your bill on time, of course, but that trust forms a bond between customers and the store. “I think they understand it’s not easy for us to extend

credit like this,” Wigton says, “but we do have 180 active customers who are allowed to charge their groceries. That’s one thing that’s different in this community.” Back when the local sawmill was operating and all the bathhouses were in full swing, Buck’s biggest competitors were right here in town. But Trudy Wigton – whose maiden name is Buck – says they slowly died off over the years. Getz’s closed in the 1950s, Jensen’s in the 1970s, and a Pay ’n Save in the 1980s. When the Hot Springs Mercantile burned down in 1992, that left Buck’s as the last grocery store standing. Against the odds, it still survives, and gives all the people in Hot Springs convenient access to food that their counterparts in more than 800 counties in America lack. Vince Devlin is a reporter for the Missoulian.


Page 22 - Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010

Soil

By BOBBIE ROOS

Soil is perhaps the most important yet most often ignored natural resource. What you grow, what you build and how you will manage land on your property all depend on your soil. With that in mind, as a pre-test to your knowledge, here are some questions to consider about your soil: • What is your soil texture? • Does your soil have plenty of organic matter, or is the organic matter content almost nonexistent? • How deep is your soil? Is it too shallow to grow the crops you want to grow? • Does your soil have fertility or salt problems? • Is your soil a high-shrink swell clay soil that may limit what you want to build? • Does your soil have the necessary drainage properties to allow you to put in a septic system that won’t cost a fortune? • Is your property on a steep slope with highly erosive soils? The answers to these questions will help you determine what is feasible for your property, and will help you make better land management decisions. Like air and water, soil is necessary for life on earth. Without it, plants could not grow and plant-eating animals could not live. Meat-eating animals would also perish. A simple definition of what a soil is and how it is formed follows: “Soil: a living, dynamic system at the interface between air and rock. Soil forms in response to forces of climate and organisms that act on parent material in a specific landscape over a long period of time.” Five major influences on soil formation include the nature of the original parent material, weathering time, climate, land surface features or topography, and the actions of plants and animals. These factors determine the physical and chemical properties of various kinds of soil. Compare a soil that formed on steep slopes over 10,000 years in a rainy climate, where trees dominate and the parent material is granite, with one that formed in the last 2,000 years in a valley near a river in a cold climate, where grasses dominate and the parent material is limestone.


Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010 - Page 23

Because of its platy structure, clay has enormous surface area. This surface area provides habitat for microorganisms and is the location of many chemical reactions in soils. This pie chart shows the composition of an ideal soil with the percentages (by volume) of water, air, minerals and organic matter.

Soil develops during periods of thousands of years. As they develop, soils form layers. These layers are known as soil horizons. Soil horizons can differ greatly in texture, which in turn will affect how plants grow in the soil, how water moves through the soil and what kind of management is appropriate for the soil. Here is an example of a soil horizon:

Soils are composed of mineral material and organic matter, and contain pore spaces filled with water or air and soluble nutrients. Organic matter serves as a binder for mineral particles, contributing to good soil structure and tilth, which refers to the behavior of soil under cultivation. Minerals comprise the largest part of the soil, and organic matter is usually the smallest portion of the soil. Most people don’t think about the presence of air in the soil, and yet it is essential for plant growth and soil biology. The mineral fraction of the soil refers to the primary minerals that make up the sand, silts and clays. Sand, silt and clay particles give the soil its particular texture. Sand particles can be seen with the naked eye, while silt and clay particles are microscopic.

The air and water portion of the pie represent the pore space in the soil. These proportions change with different soil types. For example, a sandy soil will have smaller pieces of the pie designated for air and water (fewer pores), while a forested soil may have more organic matter. The organic content is a relatively low percentage of the pie, but a very important factor for soil quality. You may be wondering why we’re talking about soil texture. While this is a property of the soil that you cannot change, by knowing your soil texture you can make predictions about how it will behave. For example, a coarse sandy soil is easy to till, has plenty of aeration for good root growth, and is easily wetted, but it also dries out rapidly and loses plant nutrients as water drains away. High clay content soils (more than 27 percent clay)

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Page 24 - Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010

have very small particles that fit tightly together, leaving little open pore space. This means there is little room for water to flow into the soil, making clayey soils difficult to wet, difficult to drain and difficult to till. Anyone who has tried to hack through a hardpan area is all too familiar with this! Soil particles and organic matter are often found together in natural soil structures called soil aggregates. Cycles of wetting and drying and freezing and thawing promote aggregate formation. For this reason, farmers often leave their fields exposed in winter to mellow the soil, but this practice can lead to compaction and erosion if no residue is left on the field. A well-developed soil structure enhances water and air movement and root growth. Mud pie example: What happens to soil structure when you make a mud pie? Does that mud pie have the same physical characteristics as that of the original soil it was taken from? If you let the mud pie dry out, will it absorb water poured on it rapidly or slowly? Good soil structure is very important to the functioning of your small-acreage property. Many on-farm activities can destroy soil structure over time, including tilling and plowing or driving on wet soils.

The benefits of a soil rich in organic matter and humus are many, and include: • Release of many plant nutrients as it is broken down in the soil, including nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and sulfur (S). • Loosening of the soil, which increases the amount of pore space. This has several important effects. The soil becomes less dense (less compacted) and the soil structure improves. This means the sand, silt and clay particles in the soil stick together, forming aggregates or crumbs. Because there is more pore space, the soil is able to hold more water and more air. Plants grown in healthy soils won’t be as stressed by drought or excess water. Water also flows into the soil from the surface more quickly. With less compaction, it is also easier for plant roots to grow through the soil. Not all the pre-test questions are covered in this article, but you can learn more by contacting the Ravalli County Extension Office. Bobbie Roos is a Ravalli County Extension agent.


Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010 - Page 25

Agriculture Heritage Notebook

The Bitter Root Cultural Heritage Trust works in partnership with families, neighborhoods and communities to restore historic structures, bring back traditional events and celebrations, encourage interpretation and affirm cultural values. The Heritage Trust provides an article for each edition of Agriculture Quarterly, highlighting the Bitterroot Valley’s agricultural history and heritage. For this issue, Wendy Beye took a look at the valley’s historic “Sinnissippi Connection.” Photo by WENDY BYE By WENDY BYE

Little did I know when I called J. Carter Mason to ask for an interview about the barn on his property that I would be visiting an already famous local landmark. Mason and his wife Judy graciously agreed to let me visit with them and photograph their barn on Dry Gulch Road north of Stevensville, in spite of recent hip replacement surgery that was keeping the mister housebound. I wake early on the morning of the scheduled interview, listening to a fierce wind whistling around the window. The previous night’s weather forecast for gusts up to 60 mph appears to be accurate. I look out with a sinking heart – the clouds are right down to the base of the mountains, and rain drizzles. A photo shoot is not

looking very promising. As I head north to Stevensville, the cloud ceiling rises a little, along with my hopes for some good photographs. I find the mailbox with “J. Carter Mason” printed on the side, and drive past a wonderfully weathered barn on the way up the driveway to the shake-covered 1920s prairie-style house. Mason himself, balanced on crutches, greets me at the door, and I step into the wood-heated kitchen. The barn is visible through the wavy glass dining room windows. There is a stack of framed photographs on the table, along with the yellowed title abstracts for the property. Judy had promised to retrieve the title abstracts from their safety deposit box, and Carter is well-prepared for the interview. He tells me that Judy won’t be able to


Page 26 - Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010

participate in the interview as she is visiting her motherin-law in the hospital in Missoula. He shows me the photographs on the table, some taken by a professional photographer who asked for permission to capture the character of the barn, and spent a great deal of time doing so. Larger prints by the same photographer hang on the living room wall. I notice that nearly all portray the barn on damp, drizzly days with low clouds. I keep my fingers crossed for a different atmosphere. After I have admired the fine quality photos, Carter pulls out a folder full of newspaper clippings. It seems his barn is rather famous in the valley. A local amateur photographer won an Ernst Peterson Photography Contest prize with a lovely print of the barn. The color photograph is accompanied by an article quoting Bitterroot old-timer Marie Longley about her childhood explorations around the barn in defiance of her parents’ warnings about hobos living in it. Another clipping from 1982 features a black-and-white photograph of the barn on the front page of the Ravalli Republic. The short article printed under the photo mentions that the property was once known locally as the Sinnissippi, and that the corporation that owned it was involved in selling orchard plots in the days of the Bitterroot apple boom. I wonder

about the origin of that unusual name, and we start plowing through the title abstracts for clues. The earliest conveyance copied in the abstract is a patent deed issued to Mary J. Warren in 1904. The property changed hands quickly over the next few years, eventually becoming a part of the holdings of the Bitter Root District Irrigation Co., which morphed after suffering financial setbacks into the Bitter Root Valley Irrigation Co. That entity took out a mortgage for $30,000 against the parcel, with Frank Jones listed as trustee for American Trust and Savings Bank in Chicago. The mortgage was subsequently assigned to Henry A. Jones, also of Chicago. Thus began a shell game. In 1913, Bitter Root Valley Irrigation, once again in dire financial straits, sold to Rockford Orchards Co. Rockford sold to the Sinnissippi Farm and Orchard Co. in 1915. By 1920, Sinnissippi sold to John Camlin, Adam Gachwindt and Fred Muller, all directors of Photo by WENDY BYE the Sinnissippi Farm and Orchard Co. Hmm. We look back in the abstract to check directors’ names in the Rockford Orchards Co. and Sinnissippi. There is one name in common: F. A. Schlick. Rockford Orchards declared bankruptcy as Sinnissippi was incorporated. In 1926, Henry Jones foreclosed on


Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010 - Page 27

his mortgage (not a penny having been repaid as of that date), and a district court issued an opinion that Rockford, Sinnissippi and the individual directors were all still liable for the debt. Apparently there was no money available to pay off the mortgage, even though Sinnissippi was incorporated in Montana with $300,000 in capital assets. A sheriff’s auction was ordered, and Jones claimed the property for $4,000. Another series of transfers occurred after Jones’ death in 1936, ending with a deed issued to Webster Mason and James C. Mason in 1951. I ask J. Carter Mason how old he was when his grandfather purchased the ranch, and he says he and his parents and brother moved in when he was 10 years old. His grandfather owned the 150 acres adjoining to

the east, complete with a two-room cabin, and when his father James was able to transfer his employment with Montgomery Ward from Butte to Missoula, the family packed up and moved to the Bitterroot. James and his wife continued to work for Montgomery Ward in Missoula to help support the ranch and pay back a $5,000 loan from Mr. Barthels of Barthels Hardware, a Missoula icon. It took James nearly 15 years to pay off every penny borrowed. Carter wistfully recalls Christmases when gifts were nonexistent so that the interest payment could be made on time. Grandfather Webster had died only a year after the property purchase, so the burden fell on Carter’s father. Carter and his brother helped keep up with ranch work and gardening, but found time to play a little basketball in the barn’s loft.

Photo by WENDY BYE


Page 28 - Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010

Photo by WENDY BYE

They had to be careful not to step into the open hay chutes in the floor. When they first moved in, one side of the barn had milking stanchions, and the other, horse stalls on the ground floor. The Masons replaced the stanchions and stalls with sheep jugs for their flock. J. Carter Mason’s father died only a year after the property was financially cleared, and Mason exchanged sheep for beef cattle. As is usually the case in marginal agricultural operations, he continued to hold a job in Missoula to keep the ranch going, logging over a million miles commuting before he retired. We speculate on the barn’s construction date, and conclude that it was probably built in the early 1920s. In 1923, Sinnissippi Farm and Orchard Co. contracted with

F.R. Myrick of Kimball, Neb., to farm the property. He agreed to plant grain crops and use the grain to feed hogs and milk cows, in exchange for a percentage of the profits after expenses were deducted. This agreement lasted through 1926, when Sinnissippi lost the property to foreclosure. Mason mentions that there was a granary in the barn loft, and hog pens north of the building. He also points out the sawdust-insulated ice shed with a walk-in cooler, and a blacksmith shop, both the same vintage as the barn. Until a rare tornado in 1983 destroyed it, there was a long equipment shed between the barn and the


Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010 - Page 29

blacksmith shop. Mason says the tornado ripped the connecting electrical wires from the barn and the blacksmith shop and twisted them around a gatepost as if children had performed a maypole dance. Nothing was left of the shed but a few boards and pieces of the new metal roof Mason had just installed. The barn survived, minus a few more shingles. Mason also mentions that Sinnissippi is rumored to have wined and dined potential land purchasers at the nearby Bitter Root Inn, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and built in 1909 by the Bitter Root Valley Irrigation Co. at the height of its financial success. I ask Mason if he knows what the barn’s future will be. He sighs and tells me that he loves the ranch, but his children are probably not interested in keeping the place intact. He and Judy had turned down an itinerant barnwood scavenger’s tempting offer a few years ago, and he thought about re-roofing it until a contractor quoted a $10,000 price tag. He tells me about the herd of deer that crosses from creek to hay meadow every night and about the orphaned twin fawns that grew up under the willow tree in the front yard. I can see how attached he is to the land where he spent 60 years of his life making memories. I thank Mason for his time, and wish him a speedy recovery from the surgery, which he told me was the fifth procedure he had suffered through to replace one or the other of his hips. A hardworking man, proud of his place in the Bitterroot. I drive down the hill to the barn, and the sun peeks through. Leaves on the cottonwoods growing beside the road shimmer like gold coins. It is indeed a very photogenic barn, deservedly famous for its character. I wonder how many other photos of it exist, as I snap several dozen more. Mason had commented that if he had a dollar for every one taken, he would have no financial worries. Back home, I fire up the computer to do some research on Sinnissippi Farm and Orchard Co.. I find that Sinnissippi is an Indian word meaning either “rocky water” or “Son of the Father of Waters” (son of the Mississippi), depending on which historian is interpreting it, and is the name of a lake and a public park near

Rockford, Ill. Like many other of the land development companies operating in the Bitterroot Valley in the early 1900s, the moneyed backers can be traced to the wealthy Midwest. I find a digital reprint of a journal published during the era, called The Irrigation Age. It is filled with fascinating information about the irrigation boom in the West, including Bureau of Reclamation projects and private irrigation districts that duped land seekers into thinking they could make a fortune selling crops that sprang in abundance from previously desert-dry land. Several lawsuits arising in the Bitterroot list the Bitter Root Valley Irrigation Co. as defendant, claiming that promised water never came. Financial backers demanded repayment of their investment dollars by the early 1920s, and the BRVI filed for bankruptcy, leaving water ownership records and a water delivery system both in need of repairs. As evidenced by Mason’s abstracts, water rights attached to land subdivided during boom times became a complex snarl that state water courts are still working to unravel. Another headache for local officials is the patchwork of 10-acre orchard lots that, up until the recent recession, were again selling like hotcakes. But on the plus side of the ledger, many valley ranches benefit from water delivered by the Big Ditch after several bailouts by the Bureau of Reclamation, and we can also enjoy beautiful barns that were built when hopes were high and the weather was fair.

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Page 30 - Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010

Gardening Dirty Fingernails

N

By GEORGIANA TAYLOR & MOLLY HACKETT

So gardening is over for the year? Next year’s gardening won’t start until April or May? All gardeners can devote themselves to other ideas and occupations for the winter? Of course not. What a ridiculous idea. Only non-gardeners think that gardening is for summer only. Gardeners know that they never stop gardening and that they would suffer withdrawal symptoms if they did. But here we are with as little light every day as we ever see in the year. The ground is frozen, the outdoor

ow?

plants are dormant, resting in their roots, their bulbs, their seeds, their buds. When gardeners rest in the winter, though, they review their last garden, plan for the next one, carry out all the indoor gardening that will fit inside their homes and dream every night of peonies and tomatoes, apples and roses. Has a bag of bulbs just appeared in the garage? They should have been planted in October, but were lost behind the sports equipment? Quick! Plant them in pots. Now! Before they die! Or perhaps there is no forgotten bag of bulbs, but it would be nice if there were.


Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010 - Page 31

Then they could be planted today. Make the rounds of all the stores that sold bulbs last fall, asking whether they have any still unsold. If they have a few, the price will be extremely low – perhaps even nonexistent. Get out some six- or eight-inch pots and thaw the sack of potting soil that is sitting out in the barn. Fill the pots with the potting soil and add the bulbs near the top. They should be just covered with soil, only the very top of the neck visible. Plant them so close together that they nearly touch each other. Plant every bulb you find except those that feel soft and squishy. They have already died and need to go directly to the compost. Water the pots of bulbs thoroughly. Cover each pot with a plastic bag so that they won’t have to be watered again for weeks. Store them someplace cold, but above freezing – a corner of the garage, the pump house, the crawlspace under the house, the refrigerator. Unless they are in the refrigerator, mouse protection would be a good idea – either a trap or some bait next to the plastic-covered bags. Mark next year’s calendar at eight weeks from today and again at 10 and 12 weeks. Look when we get to the day when we get to the first mark. If green leaf tips are appearing, it is time to bring the bulbs to a sunny window. If nothing shows, wait until the 10-week mark and look again. If greenery still has not appeared, wait until 12 weeks. At that point, bring them to warmth and light whether or not there are visible leaves. Care for them as for any other houseplant. They will grow and bloom.

MANY GARDENERS KEEP A NOTEBOOK in which to record the success or failure of all the seeds planted last year. Having kept one for years, we use it to counter our inaccurate memories. We also find it a good antidote to the advertising catalogs. “Tomato of the Year!” the ad copy says. “Huge Red Globes! Extra Early! Tender Skinned! Extremely Juicy!” “Hmmmm,” we say. “That sounds good. Have we ever tried this variety called “Red Miracle?” Out comes the trusty notebook. Yes, we grew it five years ago. The notebook entry says: “Not much flavor. Skin cracked easily.” Checking the notebook means that we won’t make the mistake of trying it again next spring. This is the time to update the notebook while memory still knows what last year’s plants were like. We use a simple grading system like the one on school report cards, with an occasional note about disappointments. For fingers that are itching to get dirty, this is a good time to start to planting seeds. The internal clock inside those seeds knows that the days are finally beginning to lengthen. Plants are aware of the coming of spring and are ready to germinate as they were not when days were growing shorter. It is far too soon to plant lettuce or marigolds, but not too soon for slow-growing flowers. For a new experience, try planting petunias from seed. Those dust-like grains seem as though they could never develop into a three-foot hanging basket


Page 32 - Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010

of petunias, but they do. For weeks they grow very, very slowly soe that a start before the end of January is necessary. For tiny seeds, be sure to sow on top of the soil and to water only from the bottom. Even a gentle spray of water on top can wash the seeds down cracks in the porting soil. Caught in a potting soil canyon, they haven’t the strength to grow back up to the light. WHAT ABOUT A POT OF INDOOR PARSLEY? It is easy to grow. The seed may take three weeks to germinate, but will grow quickly once it starts. Chose the flat-leaf or Italian type for the most flavor. Soak the seeds overnight and scatter several on the surface of a five-inch pot. Let the plants thin themselves as they grow. Once the first branch is big enough to cut and eat, new stems will grow to harvest size every week. Have the geraniums come indoors and grown tall, with long stems and sparse leaves? This is the ideal time to make cuttings which will grow into new geraniums next summer. Cut off the stems just above a leaf, leaving a bushy bottom to sprout in several places. Re-cut the tips into pieces four to six inches long. Pull any leaves off the bottoms of the pieces. Bury the bottom inch of each piece in a container of potting soil. Set the container in a sunny window and keep the soil moist. At least half of the cuttings will develop into new plants by spring.

HOW MANY PROJECTS came to mind last summer when there was no time for anything except for weeding, watering and harvesting? As soon as the holiday is over might be the perfect time to put those ideas to work. What about a new cold frame for starting or hardening off plants? They are easy to build and can be inexpensive if made of old windows, clear plastic, scrap lumber foam insulation board or straw bales. Do the gardening tools need an organized storage place with wall hooks and shelves so that the right tool is easy to find when it is needed? Do the flowerpots need cleaning, sorting and stacking? Do the garden supplies include some oversized staples made out of coat hangers to pin down the corners of bird netting and nonwoven row cover? There would be time to cut and bend them now instead of next summer when the magpies have just discovered the strawberries. Nothing to do in the wintertime? What a peculiar idea! There is hardly enough spare time to begin studying the seed catalogs – and every gardener knows that reading those catalogs and planning next next year’s garden are the best forms of winter sport. Georgianna Taylor and Molly Hackett are Bitterroot Valley residents and gardeners.


Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010 - Page 33

Livestock ASSOCIATED PRESS

D

HELENA - The number of livestock killed by coyotes, grizzly bears, black bears and mountain lions in Montana has increased dramatically in recent years, according to a report by the state bureau of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services. Released on Dec. 11, the report shows sharp increases in the number of calves, lambs and adult sheep killed by those predators between 2006 and 2010. The bureau’s director said the increases are due to the agency focusing on wolves, and that the presence of federally protected wolves limits the ways officials can deal with other large predators. “It’s not just the time spent dealing with wolves, but the restrictions because of having to deal with wolves,” John Stueber told the Independent Record. “And now grizzly bear populations are large enough that they’re moving back onto the plains, which puts them into the middle of livestock.” According to the report, coyotes killed 1,348 calves

epredations in 2010, up from 111 calves in 2006. Coyotes killed 698 lambs and 135 adult sheep in 2006, and 2,488 lambs and 422 adult sheep this year. The numbers are from fiscal years running from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30. Mountain lions killed nine lambs and 14 adult sheep in 2006, and 91 lambs and 36 adult sheep this year. The report said grizzly bears killed five calves in 2006 and 32 in 2010. In 2006, grizzlies killed no lambs and two adult sheep, but took down 12 lambs and 29 adult sheep in 2010. Wolves killed 51 calves in 2006 and 454 in 2010. Wolves killed 48 lambs and 728 adult sheep this year, up from six lambs and 22 adult sheep in 2006, according to the report. Sen. Greg Hinkle, R-Thompson Falls, asked for the numbers from Stueber’s office after a discussion with Kim Baker, president of the Montana Cattlemen’s Association. “Our wildlife control people spend so much time with wolves that they’re being taken away from the other predators, and our ranching industry is getting hammered,” Hinkle said.


Page 34 - Agriculture Quarterly, DECEMBER 2010

Montana Department ssists with Ag Product Advertising

A

AGRICULTURE QUARTERLY

HELENA - Businesses that want to promote Montana farm products can receive mini-grants to help pay marketing costs under a program available from the Montana Department of Agriculture. The Montana Farm-to-Table Advertising Grant program matches up to $500 eligible businesses spend on advertising Montana farm products, encouraging more than $40,000 worth of consumer advertising during the coming year. Applications are available at www.agr.mt.gov/business/advgrants. “Montana farm products are sold in retail stores all across the state,” says Ron de Yong, director of the Montana Department of Agriculture. “We get the biggest bang for our buck if we help retailers place their own ads to let consumers know about these local products. Then consumers are encour-

aged to shop locally for Montana’s farm products, providing a big assist for our state’s economy and rural communities.” The program was funded out of the Department’s Growth Through Agriculture program, a grant program designed to offer investments for new and innovative agriculture marketing ideas or agribusiness development. Montana retailers, including grocery, convenience and gift stores; restaurants; farmers’ markets; and distributors are the only eligible applicants. Montana agricultural producers seeking help for promoting and developing products are encouraged to learn more about the Growth Through Agriculture program at agr.mt.gov/business/GTA.asp. With questions about this grant, contact Angelyn DeYoung, marketing officer, (406) 444-5424, adeyoung@mt.gov.


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Agriculture Quarterly, December 2010  

A quarterly magazine about agriculture, agri-business and related topics in the Bitterroot Valley, MT

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