Lance Ellis

Lance Ellis

There are a couple tidbits of interesting information I want to share with people in eastern Idaho that fit well with small-acreage ownership that most people don’t know.

For example, did you know that if you have a small piece of land in production for grain, alfalfa or even a garden that it could qualify for a grant through the Natural Resource Conservation Service to pay 70 or 80 percent of the cost of a high tunnel? Shocking, huh? It’s a program to subsidize the cost of the building, and you get the pleasure of putting it together. This program they will pay up to $7,500.

There are, of course, regulations regarding this high tunnel opportunity, but they are not cumbersome or difficult to comply with, and if you have wanted a high tunnel made of good quality materials to extend the growing season, this is the best way to get it done.

If you were wondering what a high tunnel is, it’s basically a greenhouse that doesn’t have an external source of heat such as an overhead heater. You could spend the money and have that added into your high tunnel, but at your own expense. They have a few more rules that you must follow, such as you have to grow and use it for five years after it was constructed and you cannot use it for storage of equipment or housing for animals. This is a great program to help people become more food efficient and produce vegetables for about nine to 10 months of the year or more if you use other-season extension techniques.

Another little-known opportunity is if you are looking to get into the sheep business with the end goal of having a small flock or producing your own meat. The U.S. Sheep Station located in Dubois is a great place to buy orphaned lambs that would fit this bill. The sheep at the station are owned by the University of Idaho, and over the decades they developed breeds that would be productive and live successfully in the mountains, high-altitude deserts, and the range of the Intermountain West. A couple breeds developed at the station include the Targhee, which are a larger-framed, white-faced sheep, and the Polypay, which are known for having multiple lambs at a single time instead of just one. Both breeds work fine for small acreages, but the Polypay are a medium-framed sheep.

So if you wanted to have a somewhat smaller animal on your farm, then the Polypay are about the best. Every year in March they lamb out their flocks, and due to the nature of sheep, there are always lambs that are orphaned due to the untimely death of the mother or the ewe may have triplets or quadruplets and cannot raise that many lambs successfully, or a lamb may be abandoned. These orphaned lambs are cared for by the employee and interns from the University of Idaho, and are then sold to the public for $10 each.

You never know what breed of lamb you will pick up when you go there, as it all depends on current circumstances, but if your looking for an inexpensive way to get a lamb to raise on a bottle for yourself or your kids, then this is a great place to start.

Baby lambs tend to be fragile little creatures for the first few weeks of life, so they need more care and attention at the beginning and then as they grow up, require less work. I receive a lot of questions on what to select, how to find, or economically purchase plant material, livestock, and other supplies needed to make a small acreage business successful so if you have questions related to these topics, please feel free to reach out and ask.

Lance Ellis is the University of Idaho Extension educator for Fremont County. He can be reached at 208-624-3102.

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