LF Dairy Conserved: 598 Acres Protected Forever in Churchill

This month the Gallatin Valley Land Trust and the Flikkema Family of LF Dairy in Churchill completed a conservation easement on 598 acres of prime agricultural soils and open land west of the Gallatin River and two miles from the growing Belgrade community. This conservation easement was made possible by funding from the Gallatin County Open Lands Program, which received renewed funding thanks to taxpayer approval last June. This is the first project to be completed using this renewed funding source. The County Open Lands Program has been providing funding for open land protection since its inception in 2000, purchasing development rights from willing landowners through voluntary conservation easements. The LF Dairy conservation project was also funded in part by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), a federal agency that is focused on protecting agriculturally productive lands from subdivision and land use conversion. A significant amount of value of the development rights were donated by the Flikkema family.

The Flikkemas have been agricultural producers in the Gallatin Valley since the mid-1900s. Brothers Clarence, Gary and Ted operate the family farm which has been run as a dairy for over 60 years. Up until recently, the farm had 300 dairy cows, which produced milk for the Darigold Cooperative. A majority of the nearly 600 acres are irrigated cropland with rotations of alfalfa, corn, barley and potatoes. The NRCS has designated the soils on the property as 100% prime and important soils; meaning they are highly suitable for agricultural production. The property enjoys 360-degree mountain views surrounded by lush green crops in the center of the valley, only a stone’s throw from rapid development near Belgrade and Bozeman. The brothers shared, “We grew up on this farm. We were taught the value of hard work, land management, an appreciation of farming, and how it benefits others. As we grew older we saw expansion in development of housing and subdivisions on farmland. Our wish is for this farmland to remain as it is.”

The Flikkemas are one of many families in the farming communities of Churchill and Amsterdam that have protected their land with a conservation easement with GVLT. Sixteen GVLT conservation easements fall within approximately five miles of the Flikkema property. The conservation easement prohibits division of the property and clusters residential uses into building envelopes that maximize protection of prime soil and open space. The Flikkemas and other families have used conservation easements as a tool to avoid fragmentation of farmland and the open landscape, ensuring that the land remains available for agriculture, wildlife and scenic open views. It is also a tool that many in the Churchill community are using to protect the rich history and generational farming legacy of the area.

Thank you to the Flikkema Family, Gallatin County, and the NRCS for making this project possible.

Photos courtesy of NRCS Montana.