Landowners: What they don’t know can hurt them

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Last year, Pat McGlynn and a host of other presenters taught a small acreage landowner seminar for landowners who wanted to learn best practices for their properties.

Recently, McGlynn, the Montana State University Extension agent for Flathead County, recalled that of the seminar’s 35 students, only two were originally from the area.

McGlynn said she regularly fields phone calls from people who are struck by the beauty of the Flathead Valley and want to move here and buy land they often naively hope to farm in some fashion, partly because they might qualify for an agricultural exemption on property taxes.

“When you come out of an urban area, you think 10 acres is huge,” she said.

That impression can lead an inexperienced landowner to make mistakes — such as putting more horses on the land than it can support.

“They end up in problems because they don’t know what they don’t know,” McGlynn said.

She added, “Each time a 100-acre piece of ground is parceled up to 20-acre pieces it makes it more and more difficult to keep in agriculture. People don’t understand that 20 acres is not large enough to plant in commodity crops or hay, but it is a lot of land, especially for the inexperienced, to manage weeds and manage wildfires.”

Some of them hope to find a farmer who will want to work the land, McGlynn said.

“These landowners are not prepared to buy equipment or do the labor that’s required,” she said.

Tryg Koch, who started Heritage Custom Farming in the Flathead Valley in 2005, helped teach the small acreage seminar. He is scheduled to teach again this year when the seminar is offered again, beginning in February.

This fall, McGlynn, who was just one of many seminar instructors, called students who were in the 2018 class to seek their evaluation of its usefulness.

“I am blown away by how much people learned and then implemented from this class,” she said.

Last year’s seminar students included:

• A man who subsequently thinned 60 acres of forest on his property to increase the health of its trees and to help reduce fire danger. He arranged for a soil test of his pasture and has plans to fertilize it.

• A woman who attended the seminar with other family. She learned about how to take care of her well and received tips about tackling weed problems. She plans to start a garden and is using methods to attract birds and pollinators.

• A woman who hired someone to thin her forest and inspect for insect damage. She planted native species in her garden and installed electric fence around her chicken coop to prevent wildlife interactions.

Reporter Duncan Adams may be reached at or 758-4407.

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