Subscribe for 33¢ / day

Mary Rodriguez stands outside the shop at her family's farm. She started the process of conserving her land with the Bitter Root Land Trust last year.

When Mary Rodriguez was a child, she could only count five houses in view from her family’s farm in Corvallis.

Rodriguez doesn’t begrudge those who have moved nearby, but wants to make sure her family’s land stays the way it is in perpetuity. That’s why she’s partnered with the Bitter Root Land Trust to seek a conservation easement on 105 of her family’s 110 acres.

Mary’s mother and father bought the 110 acres of land in 1948. They milked dairy cows and raised chickens there until 1975 when they moved into Corvallis.

The Curdy’s leased their land from 1975 to 1992 to another man who also raised dairy cows. After he left, Rodriguez moved back and has lived there ever since.

“We were starting this process when mom first got sick,” Rodriguez said. “We fell off for a while when she went into assisted living, but now we’re doing it to honor her posthumously.”

Rodriguez’s mother, Frances Curdy, delivered eggs from the farm in Corvallis in a 1960 Dodge Dart station wagon nicknamed, “the hearse.” She remembers helping her mother often.

“I would have to clean and brush the eggs with my mother before she went out to sell them,” Rodriguez said. “Well, if I didn’t have my homework done beforehand it wasn’t getting done.”

Other than the new houses that have sprung up around their farm, not much has changed around their land, according to Rodriguez.

“It was a quiet place, and this used to be a dirt road,” Rodriguez said. “Oh and we used to have a big maple tree in the front yard. We’d climb up it as kids to watch the cars go by.”

Many of the buildings on the farm today are original to the time period when Rodriguez’s parents lived there. While the house has been resided and additions were added, it is still the same frame as when it was built circa 1910.

A large red barn, which once housed around 80 dairy cows, stands behind the house. Rodriguez’s father, Everett Curdy, built the barn shortly after moving onto the land.

Everett Curdy constructed the barn from sections of siding removed from the barracks at Fort Missoula after the interned Italians were allowed to leave. Everett Curdy also used sections from the barracks to help build the original building of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Stevensville.

Rodriguez’s brother, Willis Curdy does much of the work around the farm today. He said he remembered the farm as a place where they worked hard as kids.

“Dad broke his arm in 1959,” Willis Curdy said. “He was greasing a belt and his coverall got caught in a pulley system that broke his ulna and radius. We all had to pick the slack after that.”

After a hard 27 years of farming their land, the Curdys retired. According to Rodriguez, they deserved it.

“When they retired they got to do lots of the things they never could,” Rodriguez said. “Cause you can’t just leave a dairy farm. There weren’t ever vacations.”

Once retired, Everett and Frances Curdy “did the snowbird thing” down in Arizona and belonged to the Golden Age Club in Hamilton where the highlight of their week was dancing.

The Curdy Farm was reviewed by the Open Lands Bond Program, which assists landowners in finding the funding to conserve their land. It would cost $125,000 for the Open Lands Bond Program to help purchase the easement, according to Gavin Ricklefs, the executive director of the Bitter Root Land Trust.

The $125,000 covers the development value of the land that the Curdy family is giving up. Because the appraised value of the conservation easement is $400,000, the Open Lands Bond Program is getting a pretty good deal, according to Ricklefs.

“That money is the community’s investment into ensuring this land stays agricultural,” Ricklefs said.

Willis Curdy said he first heard about the program from a meeting hosted by Steve Powell, the former lands director for the Bitter Root Land Trust.

“Steve Powell was a very good administrator at the Bitter Root Land Trust,” Willis Curdy said.  

Ricklefs has been working on the Curdy Farm project for about a year now. He said the land is special because of the high quality of its soil.

“It’s 100 percent soils of importance,” Ricklefs said. “It’s really productive farm ground. The type of farm ground that we have to have to continue to produce food locally in the future.”

Many of the surrounding farms in the area of the Curdy Farm have been conserved through the work of the Bitter Root Land Trust.

“It fits in well with other easements in the neighborhood,” Ricklef’s said. “The other unique attribute of this land is that is surrounds Summerdale Park. You can go and sit out in Summerdale Park and you look out over the Curdy Farm. So it really provides a classic agricultural open space backdrop.”  

The Open Lands Bond Program has reviewed the Curdy Farm easement project and recommended approval. On Friday last week, the Ravalli County Commissioners visited the Curdy Farm to do a walk through and meet with Rodriguez and Cury.

The commissioners will conduct a public hearing on the proposed conservation easement in the commissioner's meeting room Thursday July 20, at 11:00 a.m.