Nonprofit to showcase local farms and land conservation

8/2/2018 Explore Big Sky, Jessianne Wright, Photo by Liam Keshishian

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.

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