Downs family

The Downs family (from left to right) Will, Kevin, Bill and Weston standing in the lush green wheat fields.

MOLT, Mont. – The Downs family was able to wrap up planting during the last few days of April and fertilizer was spread on all the fields by May 7.

“We got good rain a couple days after we finished spreading fertilizer, so we were happy about that,” Will Downs explained, noting moisture on the field allows the nitrogen to seep all the way through the soil and into the roots of the plants.

Next, the Downs are planting a shelterbelt of brushes and trees. The 300-foot swath will consist of chokecherry trees, elm trees and caragana bushes. This shelterbelt will be multi-purpose, serving as food and habitat for native bird species and a wind break for the farm yard. The Downs family understands that as farmers, they are first and foremost conservationists and protecting wildlife is an important aspect of their job.

After they tackle the task of planting the shelterbelt, then it is on to spraying the winter wheat for weeds.

“The winter wheat is kind of behind with these cool temperatures, but it is supposed to be almost 70 degrees here the next couple of days, so it should really take off,” Will said.

The malt barley is right on track and already 3-4 inches high. The pea crop is looking good too. The first of the peas, which the Downs were able to plant nearly a month ago, are already starting to sprout.

Will explained that peas have a relatively short growing season. Depending on June temperatures, the crop should be ready to harvest sometime between the beginning and middle of July. The heat in June will dictate whether the crop will keep flowering and producing pods. Once the plant stops flowering, it will be ready to harvest.

“It’s looking to be a good year,” Will stated. “We could use a little better commodity prices though.”

Will’s dad, Kevin, does most of the marketing for the Downs’ crop, but Will keeps up to date on current issues, especially when it comes to how politics affect the market.

“I just heard this morning that Trump raised tariffs on China, so that could be interesting for us,” Will said.

The small community of Molt, population 597, may seem miles away from Washington politics, but Will and his family appreciate the impact the decisions made in D.C. may have on them. Farming is about so much more then dirt and plants and the Downs family is a real testament to that. Whether they are planting a shelterbelt for wildlife, taking care of their crop, or listening closely to the radio for news updates, this farming family remains committed to producing top quality products.