Seeding is a billion dollar industry that's been the backbone of Montana farmers and ranchers for hundreds of years. Their future depends on the success of the seeds, but as we explore in this week's Montana Family Farms series, they're forced to deal with many factors they don't have any control over just to put food on your table.
“In the Spring you're optimists,” said Walter Schweitzer, President of the Montana Farmers Union.
“Right now I'm planting a crop that I know I can use. I'm planting oats into it, I do oats for a couple years before I plant it back into a hay mix. For me it's the crop that makes me the most money. I sell about a thousand- ton of hay a year. I use my own seed that I grew myself. I bought registered seed from the state of Montana and then I planted it and grew it myself it's a public variety.”
The success of the seeds and many farmers’ next paycheck all depend on Mother Nature.
“I'm hoping to get maybe 80 bushels to the acre. I'm gonna need rain in June for that to happen.”
Just last week Geyser was hit with a spring snow storm that dumped quite a few inches on top of the new seeds. Walt says any moisture is beneficial no matter the temperature, but if there’s none, they're left with nothing.
“Believe me you I've gone through some of those years where you didn't have a crop to harvest because you didn't get the rain. And you put all that money, all that sweat, all that labor into it ya know, for nothing. The last couple years have been really good here and so far this Spring, knock on wood, we've had some pretty good moisture. But that tap can shut off any time and I need rain in June in this country or I don't get a crop.”
Schweitzer says he usually produces about 1,500 tons of hay a year.
“If I have a dry year I might just eat it. Or my cows will eat it. The way I do most of my business is I sell to most other farmers and ranchers. I don't deal with big business much.”
All of this hard work just to put food on your table. The uncertainty continues, but Walt's smiling through it all.
“I enjoy farming. It's a lot of fun, it’s about your food supply. If you eat it's important.”