By Jessianne Wright EBS Contributor
Gallatin Valley Land Trust, a Bozeman-based nonprofit that works with Montana landowners to conserve private land from unwanted development and fragmentation, will showcase two conservation easements near Bozeman on Aug. 3 in the Local Food Conservation Tour. This tour is also a part of a larger effort to connect the community to local farmers and the land.
“GVLT preserves agricultural open space, wildlife habitat and the scenic quality of the Gallatin Valley to protect the working farms and ranches that have built our community over the past 120 years,” said stewardship director Peter Brown. “By protecting these lands, we ensure that the farming community has ample access to productive land to grow healthy food for future generations.”
After meeting at 5:30 p.m. at the GVLT office at 212 South Wallace, Suite 102, participants will travel by bus to the Happel Conservation Easement on Gooch Hill Road. Owners Lyle and Logan Happel, as well as local farmer Dylan Strike of Strike Farms, will discuss their partnership and successful management of a Community Supported Agriculture program, offering tours of the grounds and crop fields.
Fred Happel, Lyle and Logan’s father, purchased the 40-acre farm in 1943 with money he saved from his army stipend while serving in Japan during World War II. He and his wife, Mae, established a large garden, sold eggs, raised hogs and ran a herd of black angus cattle on the farm, eventually founding Happel’s Clean Cut Meats in 1961.
With a stroke of prudent forethought, Fred and Mae Happel established a conservation easement on their farm in 1997, joining with two other farms to conserve land that is now bordered by the Bozeman city limit to the east.
“They had such a close connection with the land, which was one of the reasons they put it in a conservation easement, so it wouldn’t be chopped up and subdivided,” Lyle said.
With the passing of his parents, Lyle now operates the meat cutting shop in its original location, continuing the family business his father carried over from his German stepfather. In order to carry on their parents’ love for farming, the brothers are leasing 6 acres of the property to Strike Farms, who offers CSA shares to Bozeman and Big Sky, and also supplies several grocery stores and restaurants.
Following the visit to the Happel Conservation Easement, the bus will travel to the Kimm Conservation Easement in Manhattan, comprised of about 800 acres of prime farmland. This easement is home to the Kimm Potato Farm, which has been owned and operated by the Kimm family since the 19th century. Owner Jason Kimm will offer tours of the grounds and will describe some of the innovative techniques he uses on the property to manage the seed and organic potato operation.
“My family’s been farming in the Gallatin Valley since the 1890s,” Kimm said. “There’s a tremendous amount of history to be thankful for. Our family loves agriculture and we want to see our farm stay in agriculture.”
“GVLT works with many committed family farmers across the Gallatin Valley. Every farmer we know is proud that they grow food for their neighbors and community. This pride is evident in the way they steward and care for their land,” he said. “Hearing the stories from these farmers is one way to learn more about your community, purchasing their local and healthy food is the best way to ensure that they can continue growing and selling vegetables locally.”
Pre-registration is required for this Local Food Conservation Tour, however there is no cost to attend. For more information, visit gvlt.org/events/local-food-conservation-tour. To register for the event, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (406) 587-8404, ext. 8.