Local Food Conservation Tour

Much of our valley's open spaces are in agricultural production. We took a bus load of our friends to meet the people behind the scenes and learn about the innovative ways they are farming and distributing local food in our community.




Happel and Kimm Conservation Easements






Our tour of the Happel conservation easement, farmed by Strike Farms, and Kimm conservation easement was enlightening (and tasty)!

We loaded a school bus as if we were embarking on a field trip, including name tags and snacks. It felt like elementary school all over again! Our first stop was the Happel conservation easement on Gooch Hill Rd. where Lyle and his wife Robin welcomed us. Lyle gave us a history of the property, from the time when his father and mother bought the property and operated the 40 acres as a small farm. With chickens, cows and crops, they did what they could to produce food to sell in Bozeman. They eventually saw a need for meat processing in the area and started Happel’s Clean Cut Meat Shop 55 years ago. In 1997 when they placed the land in a conservation easement with GVLT, the boundary of the property was four miles from Bozeman city limits. Now, as we stood on our tour and looked out across the open space, the boundary of the property is adjacent to a growing subdivision. The landscape around has changed but this property hasn’t. In 2017, GVLT connected Lyle and his brother Logan with a young farmer, Dylan Strike, who was looking to expand his local farming operation but couldn’t afford to purchase land. Dylan now leases 6 acres of the property where he grows carrots, greens, and other produce that he sells through local farmer’s markets and CSA’s (community supported agriculture). Dylan sent us on the bus with some carrots and tomatoes and Lyle gave each attendee some meat sticks from his shop. We boarded the bus and head out to the Manhattan/ Churchill area to visit the Kimm family.

The Kimm family welcomed us with open arms and shared their family’s history in seed potato farming. There are currently 3 active generations working the farm today. With the many children running around it was clear there are plenty more in the wings! Jason Kimm helped us understand the challenges of growing potatoes which are highly susceptible to pathogens. He walked us through a series of integrated strategies and tactics they use to fight pathogens, disease, and fungus. The Kimms have had incredible success because they have employed a number of different tools and been creative about dealing with new challenges as they arise. Jason’s background as an engineer and scientist was evident by the methods they use to increase yield and isolate disease. It was great to hear about the Kimm’s close partnership with the Montana State University potato lab. While the seed potato operation is large and highly successful, Jason also discussed the much smaller organic potato operation. Although growing organic potatoes is more challenging, they enjoy growing potatoes that they can sell to neighbors and within the community. The Kimm family quizzed us with some potato and farming trivia and offered us homemade lemonade, baked goods, and of course, potatoes.  If you want to learn more about potato farming, visit the Manhattan Potato Festival on August 19th.

Thank you the Happels, Dylan Strike, and the Kimm family for welcoming us and educating us on the science, technology, and innovation used to grow our food!



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