Long time Paradise Valley land owner Jim Melin has been working on his hay fields all his life. His parents purchased the land in 1948 in Paradise Valley, MT, but his family has been in the valley since the 1870s. He is the father of eleven children and thinks a lot about heritage.
In Jim’s words, “you need an outside job” to make his place work. His dream is to pass the land on to his children, even though selling the land to a wealthy outsider and investing it conventionally would probably produce more profit. If he did that, he could have more money, but if you know an authentic Montana rancher, you know taking care of the land is more important than money.
With all this in mind, Jim is working hard to make his operation viable for the next generation. With agricultural land wildly disconnected from its agricultural value in Paradise Valley, MT, he needs to make his land more profitable by building soil. Water is a critically important aspect of this equation. He is increasing his water efficacy by investing in pivots to prevent ditch loss due to light, sandy/rocky soils. Jim knows getting the water to his far off fields is just step one. Step two is making it stay and putting it to productive use. He does that by building his soils. He has been using Earthfort’s Provide and Revive, which is a set of regenerative tools for introducing and stimulating beneficial soil biology, and cutting back on his chemical fertilizers. Both of these management practices increase SOM and water holding capacity, improve soil structure, conserve water, reduce erosion and prevent nutrients from leaching.
He is in year two of this program with Regenerative Land Solutions on one of his home fields. Granted, this was an unusual year, but his first cutting grew from 120 round bales in 2017 to 140 round bales this growing season. He is the first to point out that there are a myriad of variables that make it difficult to isolate the precise effects of one management change, but he firmly believes that managing for soil life has increased his production at a low cost. He received a good financial return on his soil life investment in year one and has many years of dividends on the way.
Jim’s particular field hasn’t had any chemical inputs in the past 15 years or more, but he has used them on leased fields more recently. His plan for the next growing season is to skip the chemicals on his grass/alfalfa fields and use Earthfort’s Provide and Revive instead. This regenerative soil building approach is one tool he hopes can help him preserve his heritage and keep working lands in the Melin family.