In 1982, two young seniors at Montana State University started dating. They had known of each other growing up in the Mission Valley, she in Bigfork and he on the family farm outside of Pablo, but it wasn’t until college that they officially met. The next year, Roger and Kathy Starkel would get married and begin their life and business together.
“It’s been nothing but fun since,” Roger said.
Nearly 40 years later, the Starkels are about to be the recipients of the Ronan Area Chamber of Commerce’s ‘Producer of the Year’ award. While he still says the award is for “old guys,” Roger said he and Kathy are honored for the recognition.
Yet, this achievement pales in comparison to the innovations and advancements Roger and Kathy have brought to the agriculture industry.
In April, raw milk stirred up a commotion in the Montana Legislature. The debate didn't die with the bill, but is in a stalemate. The future of raw milk could hold big things for small farmers if a compromise can be made.
Note: This article ran in the Lake County Leader July 4, 2013. It was picked up by the West Shore News and the Bigfork Eagle.
Want to buy something illegal but don’t know where to find it? Check Craigslist.
That is where many have gone to find raw milk, which was kept outlawed by the Montana State Legislature in April. You can’t find it by searching ‘raw milk’ but type in ‘milk’ and over 100 ads pop up. With some sifting, you will soon find ads for cow shares, to receive a portion of what the cow produces, and some more blatant ads for raw milk.
Any sale of raw milk in Montana is illegal, but the debate over raw milk isn’t black and white.
Noxious weeds threaten ecosystem, economy
Tiny, white bunches of flowers span the test plot in St. Ignatius. To the untrained eye it looks like a field full of baby’s breath, but the land is full of whitetop, a weed plaguing Lake County and the entire state of Montana.
Summer is in full bloom, and so are weeds. They may look pretty, but what invasive weeds do to an ecosystem, and an economy, is downright ugly.
This is the first article in a two-part series on noxious weeds I wrote at the beginning of my tenure at the Leader. Invasive weed species, if not managed, could have irreparable effects on this agriculture-based economy.
FLATHEAD LAKE — They come in small numbers and slowly take over everything in their path. As they ruin the lives of natives, they leave the landscape changed for the worse. It’s not a rebel army or a plague of locusts; it’s noxious weeds.
And they are waging their own biological war.
According to the Montana Weed Control Association, Montana currently has 32 state-listed noxious weeds in every county of the state. Western Montana has a much larger problem given population densities where weeds are primarily spread through travel vectors.
In Lake County, residents see the brunt of the problem.
“We’re pretty inundated with noxious weeds,” Tom Benson, director of Lake County Weed Control, said.
Benson said no single entity has the budget to deal with noxious weeds and that education is a key component in preventing the spread of weeds. What needs to happen is a bridging of the gap between education and weed control, he said.
Aquatic invasive species have taken the forefront of the noxious weed discussion. While many residents of Lake County are aware of the eminent threat of zebra mussels, two lesser-known menaces are plaguing Flathead Lake.