Planting peas keeps Chester producer busy

By TERRI ADAMS, The Prairie StarCHESTER, Mont. – This week a late winter storm dropped snow over Montana’s Golden Triangle where Megan Mattson farms wheat.

“The surface temperature is warm enough that most of it melted but it still managed to lay down a skiff of snow,” Megan said. “It’s been snowing for the last two days but I don’t know how much it has snowed because most of it just melts. In town the streets are full of water. This is good for the crops that have been planted. The snow provides a little insulation for the wheat and it’s been above freezing so the moisture is getting into the ground and that’s good.”

She said they were waiting to see if the winter wheat made it through the winter months.

They had a cold snap come through last week that dropped temperatures to 12 degrees one morning.

“Genou is not known for being an extremely winter-hardy variety but that’s a risk we knew when we planted it. We’re still crossing our fingers to see if this cold snap caused in any damage but we won’t know for a couple of weeks. Not all of it is out of dormancy. Some hilltops and headlands may possibly need to be reseeded,” said Megan.

Before the cold spell, Megan also helped her brother plant what few acres of spring wheat they have to seed. They chose to plant registered Vida to sell as seed wheat.

Seeding is not the only thing taking Megan’s time.

She has been out late at night spreading zinc phosphide to suppress the rodent infestation in their fields.

“It’s getting to be a detriment to both our crops and our machinery. Our machinery is not made to take that kind of beating,” she said.

Because of the rodent infestation, Megan has spent a lot of time replacing tires and making repairs and adjustments. They are spreading the zinc phosphide directly over their fields in the form of coated oats.

She also recently returned from the 2009 “Leadership at its Best” program in Greensboro, N.C.

The program was sponsored by Syngenta and provides leadership training for members of the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and American Agri-Women. The program is offered to these groups every two years. Megan’s name was recommended for the class by the Montana Grain Grower’s Association.

Megan is the coordinator of the Young Grain Growers committee within MGGA and was involved in the start-up of that committee just four years ago.

“I am very involved with the MGGA, so that is probably why they asked me to consider applying,” Megan said. “We were at the joint convention with the Montana Stock-growers Association and MGGA and the Stockgrowers had a Young Stockgrowers committee but we didn’t at that time.”

That year there were only four young grain growers in attendance. “Last year, between agri-businesses and producers, we had roughly 30 young grain growers in attendance. It’s not totally because of us, but I like to think our committee has helped,” she said. Shen enjoyed her time back East but was glad to get back to her farm.

While she was gone her brother planted edible green peas, the Cruiser variety.

“We will harvest them for seed and contract the rest for sale. Legumes also have the ability to fix nitrogen below the ground’s surface, so hopefully we will end up with a gain in the nitrogen when all is said and done,” said Megan. “They also provide a cropping rotation opportunity for weed management.”

This week the snow allowed Megan some time in the shop to get equipment ready for work. She will be getting the sprayers ready to address the first round of chem fallow within the next couple of weeks.

One of the first jobs she will be starting on when the weather warms is spraying their field boundaries to keep on top of the weeds outside of the fields.

Megan laughed over that job, knowing it is not her favorite but it is a job that is helpful and necessary.

“We are able to cut down on the need to spray entire fields by managing the weeds on the borders before they get that far. We do this all season long. I usually go around every field at least two times and sometimes three or four time-to check for weeds and get what’s coming up. I’m going to have to get going on that,” Megan said. That’s because she knows weeds will survive the cold snap, they always do.

Maybe, one day, they will develop a variety of wheat that grows like – well, weeds. Until then Megan will do what every producer does – treat for weeds and help her crops develop to the highest yields possible.

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, Megan took some time to reflect on her own mother, Janice Mattson, and the harvest their relationship has brought.

“She’s my best friend, bar none. The transition from mother to friend happened pretty easily when we work together every day. I really enjoy being with her,” she said.

Her example helped inspire Megan to farm for a living and Megan is proud that her mother is still inspiring people around the world.

“I read once that the true way to measure to success in life isn’t by how much money you have or by your number of friends, but by the way your kids talk about you to others. If that is true, she’s a pretty great success.” 

Copyright © 2010 The Prairie Star