Since Montana is predominately a cereal grain and livestock producing state, traditional horticultural enterprises account for only about 2.5 percent of the total agricultural income. The best estimate of the contribution of horticultural enterprises to the economy of Montana is that the annual value of horticultural crop production is between $20 million and $25 million. Horticulture in Montana is characterized by a modest assemblage of small business, engaged in intensive agriculture with varying degrees of specialization. Some horticultural enterprises, such as commercial floriculture and home gardening, are rather generally distributed throughout the state; others, such as sweet and sour cherry production, canning crops, potato growing and Christmas-tree production are concentrated in relatively limited areas as a result of climatic factors, availability of irrigation, or association with centers of population, as with retail florists' shops and garden centers. Recently, increased emphasis is being placed on environmental horticulture, especially as it is related to realization of the potential inherent in outdoor recreation in sparsely populated, but space-, water-, and scenery-rich Montana.
Tourism ranks high among Montana enterprises as a source of income. Both public and private agencies are augmenting their efforts in this area. Increasing attention is being given to environmental aspects of urban horticulture. Potatoes are the most extensively grown horticultural crop in Montana, with about 8000 acres devoted to this crop. The greatest concentration of production is in western Montana. Somewhat more than half the acreage is devoted to production of certified seedstock, with 'Russett Burbank' being the most important cultivar. Vegetables are grown mostly in home gardens, or occasionally for roadside sales, with sweet corn and cucumbers popular items for the latter purpose. One vegetable cannery, producing peas and carrots, is in operation in Carbon County.
Commercial floriculture is dispersed in comparatively small units throughout the state, but the greatest concentration of production is in Cascade County. Bedding plants are important in the profit picture, and potted plants are grown both year around and seasonally, depending on the species. Production of such cut flowers as roses and carnations has declined. A start has been made in production of greenhouse tomatoes, encouraged by the poor quality of greenwraps shipped in during the winter. Most nursery products merchandised in Montana are produced elsewhere, but there is a growing demand for nursery stock of native plants for use on natural sites, highway embankments, and for revegetation of disturbed areas such as those resulting, from strip-mining activities. A modest amount of turf is being produced. Christmas trees, principally Scots pine and Douglas-fir, are being produced primarily in Western Montana. Wild-harvested Christmas trees are declining in importance. Planning, planting and maintenance of outdoor recreational areas is assuming increasing importance. Sweet-cherry production is limited essentially to the vicinity of Flathead Lake in northwestern Montana, where 1200-1400 acres are devoted principally to production of the cultivar 'Lambert'. Principal market outlet is as fresh fruit maturing in late July and early August. Pollenizer varieties are commonly brined for production of maraschinos and other processed products. Low winter temperatures and rain near harvest are the principal climatic hazards. Commercial sour-cherry production in Montana is restricted essentially to the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana, where a vertically integrated cannery is in operation. About 300 acres are devoted to production of 'Montmorency' as the principal cultivar.
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Last updated: Fri Dec 19 19:21:38 NFT 2003