Square Butte, Sandy Arrow Ranch, 2019

The July 19 Soil Crawl at the Sandy Arrow Ranch near Square Butte hosted a “class” of 25 attendees for a day-long workshop. Soil scientist Molly Haviland of Haviland Earth Regeneration and ranch manager Joe Barta led those attendees around the farming and ranching operation where composting is a top priority.

Over the past four years, the ranch has experimented with windrow thermal composts (they need to be turned, and to maintain a hot temperature), vermicasting (with worms), and the Johnson-Su Bioreactors (requires no turning… Google it!).

Once they’ve made each kind of compost, in order to make it useful atscale for a large ranch, Haviland and Barta have experimented with making compost extracts and teas, as well as retrofitting equipment to spray the seeds with compost as they go into the ground (like on a no-till drill!) Haviland says, “Composting in Montana is doable, but it’s very different in the high plains than in the Midwest. We’ve really taken time to learn that here.”

While the innovation at the Sandy Arrow is exciting in itself, their willingness to share their hard lessons and successes is even more inspiring.

A few lessons:

  1. Don’t use city (chlorinated) water for your compost – it will kill lots of good bugs and stunt progress.
  2. You need at least 25 times more carbon material than nitrogen – carbon is the dead stuff (hay, cardboard, leaves, etc.)
  3. Compost should be 50% water, which you can tell if you squeeze a handful and you get a small drop of water.

Related Posts

SJ 9: Montana Soil Health Day and Week

SJ 9: Montana Soil Health Day and Week

SJ 9 is a joint resolution introduced at the 2023 Montana Legislature that would designate the first week of April as “Montana Soil Health Week” and the Wednesday of that week as “Montana Soil Health Day”. The resolution intends to raise awareness of the importance of soil health, celebrate Montana’s agricultural producers, uplift Montana’s culture and legacy as an agricultural state, and promote the stewardship of Montana’s soils.

Read More
PRESS RELEASE: Montana soil advocates collaborate on statewide report

PRESS RELEASE: Montana soil advocates collaborate on statewide report

Agencies, organizations, and producers analyze economic, conservation benefits of improved soil quality BILLINGS, Mont. - From September 2021 through July 2022, a coalition of...
Read More
What the Inflation Reduction Act could mean for soil health

What the Inflation Reduction Act could mean for soil health

The federal Inflation Reduction Act passed in August amid skyrocketing fuel and fertilizer prices as well as recent climate-fueled weather events including record-setting heat...
Read More

Stand up with us to protect this place we all call home.

WordPress Lightbox