A Day on the Range – Old Friends, New Friends, and a Learning Opportunity

It was a hot and hazy August day when we drove 15 miles due west of Augusta, Montana, into the rolling hills where we glimpsed the foothills of the East Front of the Rocky Mountains and the edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness. As we passed the Nilan Reservoir, we edged further into drier ranch country.

Ordinarily on a late August morning, you wouldn’t find a couple of dozen people in seed caps and brimmed hats gathered on a sunny hillside in west central Montana just for a chat. We were there to learn!

The day’s event, Day on the Range, hosted by the Lewis and Clark Conservation District (LLCD) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service Montana (NRCS MT), addressed an array of topics to both educate and enlighten ranchers and farmers – and a few lay people like us.

Eating in Montana – Healthful Food or Junk Food?

Farmers markets and CSAs sprout up every spring along with the lettuce and tomato plants. Supermarkets across the country, from small family-owned stores to big box chains, are all offering organic options throughout the store, not just produce any more.

And we have more and more options to choose from in the “middle of the store.”

So, we all think – or would like to think – that we’re eating nutritious food. Do we even know what good “nutrition” is?

Out in the Fields – Blending Farming and Ranching

When you pull into Prairie Grass Ranch, just a seven miles south of Havre MT in the northern foothills of the Bear Paw Mountains, you’re greeted with rolling hills and open skies. Jody and Crystal Manuel are organic dryland farmers and beef ranchers on this 4,000-acre spread.

Just 10 years ago, the Manuels began their conversion to organic farming and today they raise lentils, KAMUT® Khorasan wheat, emmer, spelt, rye, hops, and cover crops including yellow clover. Livestock ranges from broiler chickens and laying hens to grassfed beef and pastured hogs.

On a beautiful early summer day, more than 100 people gathered for a Montana Organic Association Farm Day to learn more about dryland cropping, cover-crop grazing, soil health, and control of the organic farmer’s nemesis: bindweed.

Evolving beyond ‘Organic’ to ‘Regenerative Organic’

The current National Organic Standards were finalized in 2000 (yes, they were finally put into place that recently), and because of the way they were written, large organic production – Big Org – joined Big Ag in implementing industrial agricultural methods. And from then on, small to medium-sized organic producers have been pushed to the background.

Over the years a number of “Organic Plus” initiatives have been proposed and developed; Rodale has now proposed a new Regenerative Organic Certification that build on – not replace – existing USDA organic standards. The proposed standards are built on these three pillars.

Where current standards do not focus as deeply on soil health and biodiversity, animal welfare, or social justice fairness, the Regenerative Organic Standards strengthen the standards to consider the living systems – earth, animals, and man – as they interface in today’s agricultural systems. 

At GoodFood World, our mission has always been to strengthen and support food businesses that are:

  • Socially just and responsible,
  • Strive to maintain conscientious stewardship of the environment, and
  • Contribute to the social and economic well being of the community.

The Bounty of the Gallatin Valley

(Source: Nate Brown, Amaltheia Dairy)

Amaltheia Organic Dairy is more than an organic goat dairy and cheese maker and it’s more than the home of delicious organic whey-fed pigs. Amaltheia is also home to Nate Brown’s beautiful organic produce.

In a valley sadly being encroached on by developers throwing up cheaply made and expensively priced homes for Bozeman’s growing population, Amaltheia proudly produces a full menu of protein and produce.

It is operations like Amaltheia, run by livestock raisers and cheese makers Mel and Sue Brown, and their son Nate Brown, produce farmer, who need to be honored, respected, and protected, for the hard work they do to deliver some of the best food in Montana.

Look at those root vegetables! Look at those peppers! You can do your part by shopping at your local farmers market. And while you’re there, hug a farmer and thank them for your food!