Montana Farm & Ranch

Program Itinerary

Montana Farm & Ranch

– High School Summer Program Itinerary –

The itinerary depicts the typical 21-day program program notations made for excursions that are not included in the 15-day trip. The shorter program also has fewer volunteer hours and will miss some of the local afternoon activities. The actual flow of the schedule may be a little different due to the flow of service projects, weather or impromptu community events that we are invited to.

Day 1: High school volunteers arrive at the Bozeman airport, where VISIONS leaders greet each student upon arrival. All teens make a quick call home before heading to the VISIONS farm, about ten minutes from downtown Bozeman. (Additional calls home happen once a week, but as with all VISIONS locations, this is otherwise a tech-free teen summer program.) We have rolling meals and orientation activities as students arrive throughout the day and evening. 

Day 2: Orientation and workshops to get grounded in the experience ahead! Hand- and power- tool training in the carpentry workshop; introduction to planting and harvesting in the farming workshop; composting and cooking basics in the food waste workshop; and safety, farm boundaries and hiking protocols in the outdoor workshop. We enjoy a hearty cookout and then have our first Circle meeting to start getting to know each other.

Circle meetings continue every other evening throughout the program.

Days 3 – 6: Time to dig into some volunteer service work and feel the soil in your hands! Choose from different worksites each day, including sustainable farming at neighboring Rocky Creek Farm, homesteading and building at the VISIONS farm, helping at the Food Bank, and local conservation and trail work. We also launch into our “homebase crew” days with rotating groups that prepare breakfast and lunch, clean our living space and run program errands. 

After work ends around 2 pm each day, we have a variety of fun and engaging activities. Early in the program, a Native American community member does a blessing of the land and teaches us the history of this special place. We also start exploring nearby hikes and swimming, and rotating groups head to Paradise Valley for a fun Challenge Ropes Course.

Throughout the program, guest speakers talk with us about themes including raptors (we see live raptors!) to archeology, and sustainable textiles to Lewis & Clark’s journey through this area. 

During Circle meetings, our group transitions into the “working stage,” delving into activities to learn more about constructive feedback and effective community building.

Read more about daily life on VISIONS programs.
–The shorter program condenses the schedule above by ~ 1 day.–

Day 7: Travel to North Bridger Bison Ranch in the Shields Valley, which is rooted in principles of holistic management and regenerative agriculture. Students take part in the field harvest of a bison, done with honor for the animal and the land that supported it. This is an optional activity, but has been extremely popular. (Note for vegetarians: we also discuss the environmental impact of large-scale commercial farming compared to regenerative agricultural practices.)
–The shorter program may not include the bison harvest, though may still visit the ranch for a work project.–

Days 8 & 9: Rotating days with one group going rock climbing with professional guides. The other day includes an engaging workshop where you learn the traditional Native American way of tanning bison hides and also make simple felted moccasins. One evening we’ll have a cookout with bison burgers, all the more connected to the land, our food, and each other. (Vegetarian and vegan options are always available.)
–The shorter program does not include rock climbing.–

Days 10 – 13: Work day rotations continue and we also include volunteer time with Hopa Mountain, an organization doing important work with Native American communities around the West. Groups will also venture to the incredible Paradise Valley to work at Barney Creek Cattle Ranch, where you’ll get a taste of Western life and regenerative agriculture at its finest. 

Afternoon and evening activities include a visit to the Museum of the Rockies (renowned for its dinosaur collection), strolling through Gallatin Valley Farmers Market, hosting a conservationist guest speaker, taking a sunset hike and exploring downtown. 

One afternoon we’ll end work a bit early and head to the Madison Valley’s Norris Hot Springs, where we soak in the mineral-rich pool and tour gardens that thrive with the geothermal input.
–The shorter program condenses the schedule above by ~ 1 day.–

Days 14 – 16: With miles of designated forests, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has some of the country’s best backcountry areas. We break into groups for backpacking trips that include hikes through alpine terrain and fields of wildflowers. We hike into the backcountry on the first day and spend the second night at the same basecamp. This leaves time on the second day for short day hikes, relaxing and learning about outdoor ethics. No previous camping or hiking is necessary! 

Days 17 – 19: It’s back to work! Woven into the week’s volunteer rotations is a workshop with a permaculture expert who teaches us how to design a homestead that mimics natural landscapes and produces healthy organic food. This is a popular activity with inspiring lessons to incorporate into life back home.

Other activities include choices of swimming at a nearby swimming hole, exploring more of the mountain trails learning about conservation initiatives, biking the dirt roads of the VISIONS farm and adjoining Rocky Creek farm, games and guest talks. And per the usual in Montana, the evenings offer stargazing and one night is set aside for the always fun VISIONS Talent Show! 

Circle meetings and our time bonding as a group also take on new meaning as we transition into thinking about how the summer experience might continue to play into our lives back home.  

Day 20: Take an exhilarating white water rafting trip down the Gallatin River with professional guides. We end the day with a goodbye dinner and celebrate our successes! 

Day 21: Our adventure comes to an end. Leaders take students to the airport throughout the day and see each participant off for their travels home. Until next time!

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