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Gabel enjoys the moisture, gets side-dress fertilizer applied


The sugarbeets are covering the rows and looking good.

HUNTLEY, Mont. – They often say the best way to learn about something is to just dive right in. Living that very principle is Greg Gabel who has been back fulltime on his family farm for less than a year.

He’s already managed to experience the extremes of both farming and Mother Nature.

When Greg started his farming journey, all of Montana was in a drought. High winds mowed over some of his early emerging sugarbeets. At planting, Greg hoped he wouldn’t have to start irrigating until June 1.

Well, Mother Nature flipped a switch.

“Things are pretty wet here, but I’m not going to complain about the moisture,” Greg said during an interview on June 21.

Blessed rain fell across much of Montana the middle of June, followed by a warming trend that released snowpack from the mountains.

The combination led to flooding along many of Montana’s major waterways – including the mighty Yellowstone River, the main water source for the Huntley Irrigation Project.

Greg and his operation are lucky to be just far enough off the river that flooding damage did not affect his crops. The rain however left his fields muddy so there hasn’t been much for fieldwork the last few days of June.

Much to Greg’s relief, all this moisture means he has not had to start irrigating yet.

The moisture, coupled with optimal temperatures, have made for nearly perfect growing conditions and Greg reports his sugarbeets are doing great.

“The beets are petty much covering the rows now,” he said.

After weighing all the pros and cons, Greg decided to apply some side-dress fertilizer to his beets. Dealing with highly inflated fertilizer costs has been a challenge for all producers. He ultimately made the decision to side dress based on economics. He found the balance point of fertilizer costs in relation to returns and bought fertilizer accordingly. He had the fertilizer company come out and apply some of the chemical while he did the rest.

Employing the help of the fertilizer company allowed him to watch his son’s last weekend playing baseball. Greg’s 10-year-old son, Trent, has jumped into Montana living full force since moving to the state in August of 2021. He is in 4-H, has his first market lamb, and loves getting to play baseball. Subsequently, Greg and his wife Ellen love getting to see their son grow up in the Montana culture.

Greg is a farmer, but first and foremost he is a husband and father – a job he is most proud of. While there is no doubt there are pressing tasks to be done on the farm, a life in the U.S. Army taught Greg the importance of family.

“In the Army, I had to learn balance. I wasn’t as good at it when I was younger – I was always working or always gone. But then I came to realize, the Army wasn’t always going to be there – but my family was,” he articulated.

As of now Greg is just happy as a sugarbeet farmer in mud. He hasn’t had to irrigate yet and for that he is thankful. Looking ahead into the heart of summer though, it will only be a matter of time until the syphon tubes will be running.

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