Pulse crops such as peas, dry beans, lentils, and chickpeas play a huge role in healthy diets around the world.
They are also a powerful and versatile crop for Montana farmers who can use them to improve soil health and generate income from local and global markets.
The Northern Pulse Growers Association president Jerry Schillinger of Circle says Montana is the fastest-growing pulse state.
“People are finding out that pulses aren’t just for soups," Jerry Schillinger, president of Northern Pulse Growers Association, said. "You can use them in just about everything and the ingredient market is huge."
The pulse crop acreage across Montana is exploding and for good reason -- consumer demand has farmers interested in growing pulse crops.
"I got to visit with an old friend who raised his very first chickpea crop this year and it was like mana from heaven really for him," he said. "He had a nice crop and good prices and it's really taken the edge off the situation we've been in some of the other crops."
Montana Pulse Day on Dec. 1 in Great Falls drew farmers new to raising pulse crops as well as farmers like Mike Waters from Froid who has raised pulse crops since 1996.
“The reason we got into pulses was to replace summer fallow and defray that cost," Waters said. "Since we got into raising pulses, we started making money so we’ve stuck with them. It’s improved our wheat and durum production so they’ve been a beneficial rotation."
Like other commodities, farmers are also finding it easier to sell their pulse crops in Montana.
"I think when we first started, it was important to have a contract to market them right away but that was because the buyers and processing plants were so far away," Waters said. "I think now with the increase in buyers and processing facilities in the state of Montana you can store them and sell them later."
As with other farming and ranching practices, raising pulses is good for Montana's wildlife population as well. "It's an all-around holistic thing. It's also a fantastic thing for the wildlife. It really makes farming a lot more exciting and fun," Schillinger said.
Over 80% of the pulse crops grown in the United States are grown by farmers in Montana and North Dakota.