In the name of saving the best for last, John and I were lucky enough to host the McCloy Fellows on the final leg of their tour through Montana. Beginning bright and early, we started the day with a stop at the MFBF office in Bozeman. There the McCloy’s had the opportunity to meet the remainder of the MFBF staff and to be sure they were properly outfitted in MFBF apparel for the rest of their journey. From there we traveled east, first stopping at the Park County Stockyards where we met tour guide Jacquie Nelson and 8-month-old daughter, Morgan. It was shipping day for the Nelson’s and their family had gathered with neighbors to help haul newly weaned calves to be weighed, sorted, and loaded onto waiting semi’s. Jacquie explained the process to our four guests and guided us through the hustle and bustle of pickups and trailers, bawling calves, slamming gates, and small children with sorting sticks. After observing the sorting and weighing process and participating in the most important part-doughnuts and coffee with the locals-Jacquie took us back to the Nelson Spring Creek Ranch to continue our tour. On top of the ranch, the Nelson’s have
long been involved in aquaculture and Jacquie and her husband, Tucker, spend a good deal of time in the summer guiding anglers on the Yellowstone River. Jacquie explained to the McCloys how the spring creek, which remains the same temperature throughout the year, offers a unique fishing opportunity for sportsmen. Nelson’s raise trout for customers looking to stock ponds, reservoirs, or creeks; they have specialized runs fed with fresh water directly from the spring creek and they sell fish at three different sizes.
Our next stop took us to Pioneer Meats where owner Brian Engle provided a tour of his facility. Currently under construction, Brian is adding more freezer space, a larger processing and packaging area, as well as, a retail space where he can sell his specialty spices, jerky, sausages, and brats directly to consumers. He buys cattle from local producers, which he uses to make his specialty products. Brian explained to the group how he develops and markets his own spices and different meat products. All of which will be available in his new retail area. This is the third expansion project for Pioneer Meats in eight years, but Brian told the group this will most likely be the last. He said he wants to run an efficient business supplying jobs to the local economy, but he doesn’t want to outgrow himself or the community. Brian and his crew at Pioneer Meats served up a delicious lunch of barbecued beef brisket and then we were back on the road!
We continued east to Origen, south of Billings, where Jared Murnin gave us a tour of the collection facility. After stepping through a water bath at the front door, we toured the storage facility. The room was full of massive stainless steel tanks filled with liquid nitrogen and thousands of straws of semen. Bulls kept at Origen undergo a quarantine period and rigorous health testing before they are collected. Jared and members of his staff explained to the group how ranchers and seed stock producers send bulls to Origen for the health screening and collection process to preserve their genetics. Origen sends lots of semen to international customers, which was of special interest to the McCloys. Jared discussed with the group how different countries require different health screenings before they will approve shipments. We took a brief tour of one the barns housing many different breeds of bulls currently residing at Origen.
Our last stop of the day took us to the sugar beet pile in Huntley where beet growers Leroy and Sydney Gabel visited with the group. Sugar beets are a common crop grown in Germany, so this stop was a great opportunity
for the McCloys to discuss an industry much closer to home. Farmers were able to harvest the crop quickly this year due to great weather conditions, so there wasn’t any beet digging to be seen. However, there was still plenty of great discussion. Many of the seed companies U.S. farmers use are used in Germany. The McCloys were able to add a different perspective to the discussion as GMO crops are not authorized for use in the European Union and nearly all sugar beets grown in the U.S. are GMO’s. Probably the greatest part of any of these visits is the relationships formed between our guests and the tour guides. This stop was no different. The Gabel’s are visiting their son in Germany over Christmas and now have plans to tour the area with Andrea, who lives near their son.
As the day was winding down, our fun was just beginning! The NILE was well underway and I had the opportunity to take the McCloys to their very first rodeo. After a quick pit-stop at the hotel and sending John on his way, we made our way back across town to the Metra and got settled in for a great evening. The NILE rodeo never disappoints and some excellent rodeo athletes treated our guests to a great performance! This tour was really a wonderful experience for everyone involved. The McCloys determined that Sue Ann and I view yellow lights at an intersection as a challenge, and that, luckily, all MFBF staff are brimming with useless knowledge about Montana. All joking aside, they were captivated by our wide-open spaces and breathe taking views and I was able to see our great state through their eyes as well. It reminded me what a truly remarkable place we get to call home. It was a great privilege to spend the day with these folks and I hope I will get to see them again one day. I will echo what Alena said in Part 1…it was VERY hard to say goodbye! I’m glad we had the opportunity to host the McCloy Fellows and everyone in Montana wishes them the very best on the rest of the trip.
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