Foothill Farm Schools Beginning Farmers on Irrigation Systems, Conservation Partnerships

By Sophie Frank

Each summer CFAC partners with Western Montana farmers to host monthly, production-oriented Farmer Field Days. Field Days are geared towards beginning farmers and ranchers, ranging from first-year farm interns, to farmers with 10 growing seasons under their belts, to community members just beginning to scheme their first farm venture. It’s a fun way to dive into agricultural topics and see a variety of farming operations while meeting and chatting with other farmers throughout the region.

Our July Field Day was hosted by Julie Pavlock at Foothill Farm in St. Ignatius, Montana. Foothill Farm recently updated their versatile irrigation system through a partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) – a branch of the USDA that helps farmers and ranchers through financial and technical assistance to implement systems that are beneficial in terms of both conservation and agriculture. Austin Allen, an NRCS Soil Conservation Technician who helped plan and install the new irrigation at Foothill, co-hosted the Field Day and talked through some of the more technical aspects of the systems.

Wheel line demo

Julie Pavlock demonstrates the wheel line, used for irrigating the hay fields at Foothill Farm in St. Ignatius.

Foothill Farm is located on the Flathead Indian Reservation, which is home to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes and consists of over 1.2 million acres of land. Water used for agriculture in this region is accessed through the century-old Flathead Indian Irrigation Project, comprised of dams, reservoirs, and canals that provide water to over 125,000 agricultural fields in the Mission Valley. Run until 2010 by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Flathead Indian Irrigation Project is now jointly managed by the Flathead Joint Board of Control and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes as a coalition titled the Cooperative Management Entity (CME). As water becomes an ever more critical issue in the American West, such collaborations in water management are critical to the future of local agriculture and community resilience.

Foothill Farm is a certified organic, multi-generational family farm in the Mission Valley focusing on fresh vegetables for wholesale, seed garlic, and grass-fed beef. There are 70 acres, which include hayfields, pasture, 3 hoop houses, a propagation greenhouse, and 6 acres of vegetables. The farm also hosts chickens, milk cows, workhorses, and honey bees.

This wide diversity of production necessitates a variety of irrigation systems throughout the property, catered to the particular needs of each field. The vegetable operation uses a combination of hand line and drip irrigation, each field set for the appropriate timing and water quantity for the particular crops being grown. The hay fields utilize a mixture of wheel line and hand line, that is slowly moved throughout the acreage. Because the hay fields are also used as pasture, the timing of the irrigation system is essential to maintaining soil health. For example, a field would not be watered immediately before being used to pasture cattle in order to avoid erosion.

Foothill Farm serves as an example of both the diversity of irrigation systems within a particular irrigation district and a successful partnership with the NRCS in planning these systems.

 

Our next Field Day will be on August 15 at Fresh Roots Farm in Polson. Farmer Karl Sutton will talk about producing organic vegetable seed crops and how they have integrated seed production into their crop mix so that they have products to sell outside of the growing season. This field day is co-sponsored by the Organic Seed Alliance.

Our field days are geared toward people who are just at the beginning of their farm exploration—farm hands, interns, folks thinking about starting a farm in the near future, and those who are currently in the startup process. Of course, established farmers and ranchers are welcome too!

hand line irrigation

Austin Allen and Julie Pavlock explain the hand line irrigation system utilized in the vegetable fields at their farm in St. Ignatius.

For more information and to register for future Field Days, visit the Farm Link Events Page.

 

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7 New Double SNAP Dollars Retailers Increase Local Food Purchasing Power

In 2017, Double SNAP Dollars infused over $110,000 at 11 local food access points in Western Montana, increasing overall local food sales to $274,00 at these locations—a  44% increase in just three years!  And, a whopping 1,200 SNAP customers were able to buy more fruits and vegetables for their families from local farmers through the Double SNAP Dollars program.

This year, four farmers markets will offer Double SNAP Dollars incentives for the first time, two markets have transitioned their individual SNAP incentive programs to the collective Double SNAP Dollar brand, and one new CSA has joined the crew – which means Double SNAP Dollars is now offered state-wide and available at 17 total locations!

We know that if we support one another, our community thrives. There is evidence in the growth of partnerships across private, public, and government agencies that increased individual and family health can be outcomes of healthy and local food purchases. What we fuel our body with does indeed have an effect on our physical, mental and spiritual health. We invite you to check out all the new locations where Double SNAP Dollars is available, and donate to support Double SNAP Dollar incentives and food access for communities across Montana.

1. Healthy By Design Gardner’s Market, Billings The Healthy By Design Gardner’s Market is designed to bring healthy, fresh, local, and affordable fruits and vegetables to the community. The market is also a social meeting place to celebrate health and nutrition. Healthy By Design is partnering with Billings Parks, Recreation, and Public Lands to bring the market to the South Park. The Gardeners’ Market is located in South Park on the corner of South 28th Street and Sixth Avenue South in Billings, MT. The season runs from the second week of June through the first week in October, Thursdays from 4:30-6:30 p.m. The market now offers a $10 Double SNAP Dollar match.

2. Eureka Farmers Market The Eureka Farmers Market features locally-grown fresh produce as well as Made in Montana handicrafts, and patrons enjoy a park setting with live music. The Eureka Farmers Market is open Wednesdays 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., May 16th through September 19th. They offer a $10 Double SNAP match.

Eureka Farmers Market

The Eureka Farmers Market is one of seven new Double SNAP Dollars retailers in 2018. The market is open Wednesdays 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., May 16th through September 19th,  and they offer a $10 Double SNAP match.

3. Mission Falls Market, St. Ignatius The Mission Falls Market seeks to organize a platform in which direct circular economic opportunities for local farmers and ranchers, artisans, and crafters grow, while also providing a space for community dialogue and civic engagement within St. Ignatius. The market runs every Friday from 5-7 p.m. until October 5th on the corner of Hwy. 93 and Mountain View in St. Ignatius. They offer a $5 Double SNAP Dollar match.

4. Kalispell Farmers Market The Kalispell Farmers Market runs from Saturday, May 7th -October 14th at the Flathead Valley Community College campus. This is their first year being SNAP certified and offering a $10 Double SNAP Dollar match.

5. Troy Farmers Market The Troy Farmers Market takes place on the beautiful grounds of the Troy Museum (700 E. Missoula Ave.) on Hwy 2 in the middle of Troy. After visiting the farmers market, you can take a walk on the nature path, try your hand at frisbee golf or throw rocks into the cold and clear Callahan Creek that flows past the museum. Stop by the market from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Fridays in June, July, August, and September, and help support the effort to Eat Fresh and Eat Local! The market is sponsored by the Yaak Valley Forest Council. The market now offers a $10 Double SNAP Dollar match.

6. River Valley Farmers Market, Hardin The River Valley Farmers Market combines the traditional farmers market with health and wellness promotion in a new way. Their goal is to increase access to local fresh food, promote local businesses, highlight local artisans, promote physical activity, support community engagement, provide health education, and connect families to needed services. Products and vendors include fruit and vegetable vendors, baked goods, prepared healthy foods, arts and crafts, community health service representatives, immunizations, dental information, tobacco cessation services, learning and movement games for children, and parent support activities. They offer a $10 Double SNAP Dollar match.

7. Glacier Tilth CSA Shares, Dixon  Glacier Tilth is a certified organic vegetable farm in the beautiful Jocko Valley of Northwest Montana. Their vision is to provide customers with a bounty of high-quality produce, sold direct through our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription program. They also wholesale to local stores and restaurants as members of the Western Montana Growers Cooperative. This year SNAP customers were offered 50% off their CSA share (up to $200). All shares are currently full.

 

Flathead Cherries Sale to Benefit CFAC

Summer has arrived in Western Montana, and that means the Flathead cherries will soon be ripe! CFAC is once again offering 10-pound boxes of freshly picked cherries delivered to your door, or at specific pick up locations, for just $35.

Kim with cherries

10-pound boxes of freshly-picked Flathead cherries are now available for pre-sale! Each 10-pound box is $35 and all proceeds benefit CFAC.

CFAC members, volunteers, and staff will be picking the cherries at Flathead Lake July 27-29th.  You can pre-order your cherries by July 21st online or by emailing cfacinfo@missoulacfac.org.

All proceeds will benefit CFAC’s programs to support farms, farmers, and families.

Cherries will also be offered pitted and frozen for $25 per 5-pound bag.  These will be processed at Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center, a commercial processing kitchen in Ronan.

Mark cherries photo

If you are interested in helping CFAC pick cherries, please contact us. Volunteers will receive one free box of cherries.  Other activities will include swimming, camping in the orchard, old-fashioned games, and bbq dinner.

 

Red Hen Farm & Orchard Highlights Importance of Ag Land in Urban Fringe

By Sophie Frank

Each summer, CFAC partners with Western Montana farmers to host monthly, production-oriented Farmer Field Days. Farmer Field Days are geared towards beginning farmers and ranchers, ranging from first-year farm interns, to farmers with 10 growing seasons under their belts, to community members just beginning to scheme their first farm venture. It’s a fun way to dive into a specific topic at a specific farm while meeting and chatting with other farmers throughout the region.

Our second Field Day of 2018 was held at Red Hen Farm & Orchard, right outside Missoula city limits, where our group of 30 beginning farmers enjoyed the first sunny day in what seemed like ages and learned all about small fruit production on an almost-in-town farm. 

Red Hen photo berry fields

Field Day attendees spent the afternoon observing (and tasting!) their way through Red Hen’s berry fields.

Red Hen is a 10-acre farm owned and operated by Greg Peters and Julie Engh-Peters in the Target Range neighborhood, just west of Reserve Street. They grow a variety of small fruits, including raspberries, strawberries, honeyberries, goji berries, currants, and blueberries.

Greg and Julie love to experiment with different varieties, tinkering each year to find the best berries for our climate and soil so they can pass on that information to Montana berry-lovers who want to plant a few bushes of their own. Five years ago when the couple and their kids first moved to the property, they planted an orchard that is flourishing, and soon their venture will include an even greater variety of fruits!

Because Red Hen is situated so close to Missoula, Greg and Julie have some unique opportunities available to them at the rural-urban interface. In terms of marketing their products, this translates to a very tangible relationship between farmer and consumer.

When they first started the farm, they relied almost exclusively on a U-Pick model, bringing folks out from the city to harvest their own strawberries and raspberries straight from the fields. While U-Pick is still a large part of what they do, Red Hen has moved towards a CSA model, offering members a variety of fruits and some vegetables throughout the season.

berries

Raspberries are a larger part of Red Hen Farm’s CSA and U-Pick.

This kind of relationship-based marketing spills over into their wholesale accounts as well, as Greg and Julie have slowly built relationships with local businesses who are excited about working with the seasonality of the farm to bring berries into their kitchens. These types of relationships with local businesses work both ways.

Red Hen has connected with a local coffee roaster to compost all of their organic spent coffee grounds, a local brewer to use their spent barley as a soil amendment in their orchard, and local restaurants to turn their used veggie oil into a means of powering their diesel-engine vehicles.

Red Hen serves as an example of the unique opportunities available through urban agriculture, which is a crucial component to the conversations taking place as Missoula plans for future growth and determines the importance of protecting agricultural land and open space so close to town.

Hugelkulturs

Greg Peters and Julie Engh-Peters talk about their use of hugelkulturs. They are able to use wood leftover from landscaping projects as the base of the mound for growing squash.

Our next Farmer Field Day will be July 18 at Foothill Farm in St. Ignatius, where we’ll learn about irrigation systems on a diversified farm. You can learn more and register for future field days here.

 

Show Your Support for Missoula’s Open Space Bond

CFAC has worked for the past decade to protect and preserve Missoula County’s most vital agricultural soils. CFAC’s mission is to build a strong local food and farm economy in Western Montana, built upon the availability of farmers to access fertile soil in which to grow healthy foods, and eaters’ ability to put that good food on their tables.

From its inception, Missoula earned its moniker “The Garden City” due to the many truck farms and large-scale gardens that provided a majority of the food that we ate. While much of the farming infrastructure disappeared in the 60’s, due in large part to outside economic and agricultural trends, in recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in growing and sourcing our food from within this region, from farms close to our urban core.

While there is much to celebrate in this growth of ag in our community, there are also many challenges. In the face of rapid population growth and increased residential development that we see every day, most especially along our urban fringe, one of the biggest hurdles is saving fertile soils. These challenges have made the issue of farmland and local food a major topic of public discourse in the past several years.

Both the City’s and County’s Growth plans identify the preservation of agricultural land as essential to our health as a community. Agricultural lands are a vital part of the larger open space matrix we all enjoy – recreational river access, wildlife corridors, clean air and water, extensive hiking and biking trails, and rural neighborhoods with active family farms.

In recent years, CFAC has advocated for policies at the county and state level that protect agricultural lands through zoning and subdivision regulation.  We have participated in several city and county planning processes to create predictability in the subdivision process and preserve productive land to protect the future of rural livelihoods for family farms and ranches. CFAC has consistently advocated for a suite of tools, which include both regulatory and voluntary measures. Both are needed and effective.

Missoula now has the opportunity to support a $15 million County Open Space Bond along with a $500,000 mil levy for stewardship of our city conservation lands on the November ballot.  These funds will help ensure that our vital natural resources, including agricultural soils, will be conserved for our future.

Please plan to attend these two public hearings to show your support of the Open Space Bond and accompanying mil levy:

  • City Council:  Monday, June 25, 7pm  City Council Chambers, 140 W Pine
  • Board of County Commissioners:  Monday, July 9, 9am  200 W Broadway, room 151 Annex.

Additionally, CFAC has participated in the Missoula Area Mapping Project, a public process that will help guide future development and growth.  There have been several public workshops recently, and the map is now online. Please take the time to review the map and provide your input regarding growth and conservation.