Following on the heels of last week's "Next Generation" conference, the Marias River Livestock Association and Stockman Bank are teaming up to host a series of classes designed to help local agriculture producers diversify their operations to bolster the financial bottom line and perhaps provide business opportunities for the next generation of farm and ranch families.

A Land of Grass Ranch's booth at the Cut Bank Christmas gift show. The Schmidt family sells their grass-fed beef and lamb, wool pelts, mattress pads and quilts, wool roving and books about ranch life. (MRLA)

Multifunctional Agriculture may involve producing a retail product. The Folkvord family's Wheat Montana empire comes to mind, or Penne's Flour Mixes, produced by Penne Swensen in Cut Bank. The Schmidt family of A Land of Grass Ranch in Conrad market their grass-fed beef and lamb, and also produce wool pelts, mattress pads, quilts, wool roving and books about ranch life. "Multifunctional" may also mean offering educational, recreation and/or tourism opportunities to the public.

The Northcentral Montana Multifunctional Agriculture Seminar will be divided into four sessions, to be held in February and March.

  • February 24,2015: Introduction and start of Internal Analysis
  • February 25, 2015: External Analysis and shift towards strategy
  • March 10, 2015: Reality check, rules, regulations, funding, etc.
  • March 11, 2015: Business plan presentation and exchange
Maarten Fischer will lead Multifunctional Ag participants from brainstorming ideas for multiple incomes to completing a business plan. The class will be held Feb 24 & 25, March 10 & 11. (MRLA)

Maarten Fischer, the instructor for the course, has been at the forefront of developing multifunctional agriculture in the Netherlands and Europe in the past 12 years, both from the angle of farmers and ranchers as from business development. Inspiring entrepreneurs and experts will act as guest speakers.

The cost for the course is $125 per person. For more information, email