‘First Cutting’ Is Underway in Bitterroot Valley
Starting last week, the hay was being being cut in windrows, and baling was underway as the first harvest of the growing season started. With over a thousand farms in the Bitterroot Valley, there's lots of field work happening on a wide variety of crops including wheat, barley, potatoes and more. You can get an idea of what's ripening by attending the Saturday farmers market in Hamilton and by just driving around the farmland in the valley.
Average farm size has been decreasing over the years, with more subdivisions popping up here and there. The Montana Department of Agriculture numbers in 2012 put the average farm size in Ravalli County at 163 acres. And, of course, there are lots of ranches of smaller acreage with a few head of horses and larger cattle and sheep operations.
So, a caution to drivers - be aware of farm equipment moving from field to field for the rest of the summer as different crops mature at different times, requiring some large equipment to get the job done between rain storms. The East Side Highway is a main connector route for farmers and ranchers.