BIG DECISION. One reason Carl Vandermolen (left) switched to no-till more than a decade ago was to improve soil organic matter levels, which have increased from 1.5% when he started to about 2.75% as of 2018. A more intensive rotation, along with no-tilling, gets the credit. “Guess which farm is for sale? The farm that doesn’t have any organic matter,” he says. “That farmer goes broke. We absolutely have to build up soil organic matter.”

No-Tilling Makes Continuous Cropping Work in Dry Climate

Leaning on the expertise of local researchers, Carl Vandermolen has diversified his no-till rotation and found another level of soil health.

The Gallatin Valley is a bustling place. Snug in the shadow of towering Rocky Mountain peaks, the valley is home to Montana State University, the hip and thriving town of Bozeman and a diverse, often progressive community of farmers — ranging from container hydroponic growers of salad greens to large-scale commercial producers — that make it feel more like a California valley than one in Montana.

Carl Vandermolen can be counted among those forward-thinking farmers, no-tilling chickpeas, lentils, peas, barley, wheat and alfalfa on 2,600 acres of irrigated and dryland cropland.

While born on a farm, he made his own way in the world working jobs from construction to firefighter to real estate sales and everything in between. He started circling back to farming as 30 approached and set out to applying his entrepreneurial skills to raising crops. One of those skills was the drive to seek out expert guidance in his endeavors.

“I bought my first 40 acres when I was 28 years old and my first farm at the age of 30,” he says. He was quick to take advantage of what he considers to be one of his most valuable assets: the researchers at nearby Montana State. He formed relationships with the crop scientists, keeping a close eye on their research and offering portions of his fields for studies. Many of the changes enacted on Vandermolen’s farm were born from these relationships.


No-Till Takeaways

  • • Diversify your rotations so different herbicides can compete against weed pressure.
  • •…
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Martha mintz new

Martha Mintz

Since 2011, Martha has authored the highly popular “What I’ve Learned About No-Till” series that has appeared in every issue of No-Till Farmer since August of 2002.

Growing up on a cattle ranch in southeastern Montana, Martha is a talented ag writer and photographer who lives with her family in Billings, Montana.

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