In the community

Montgomery Farms keeps the focus on community service

ONTARIO – Farmer Allen Montgomery can attest that success in life isn’t about a single accomplishment.
“It is a lot of little things tied together,” said Allen Montgomery,.
All of those little things added up to earn him, his wife Tonia and their business the title of Agriculturist of the Year from the Ontario Area Chamber of Commerce. Montgomery Farms will be honored at the chamber banquet Friday, Jan. 13, at Four Rivers Cultural Center.
“I am very honored and also surprised. I have been in agriculture my whole life,” Allen Montgomery said in a recent interview. “I know a lot of other farmers that are really good farmers who are well deserving. I feel humbled to be able to receive this award.”
Dedication to farming and community service are key themes of the local farming family and while their operation has been in place outside of Ontario since the 1960s, it is likely their effort to create a yearly corn maze nearly 15 years ago that is best known by local residents.
The maze attracts crowds of adults and school children each autumn and started after an offhand conversation Allen Montgomery had with a friend years ago.
The friend mentioned her son worked for a company that cut corn mazes.
“She asked me if I had ever thought about doing a corn maze. I said, not really. But I looked up the company. The more I looked at it, the funner it looked,” he said.
That was in 2007 and the maze is still going strong.

“If I had any clue how much work that it was going to be I never would have started but now we are at a point where it isn’t hard but it just takes time,” said Montgomery said.
The corn maze is a family enterprise, said Montgomery.
“My immediate family, my wife, our son Nathan and his wife Amy and his son Lucian. We are the main players,” said Montgomery.
Montgomery said two of his brothers and a sister also help.
Montgomery said initially the family saw an opportunity with the maze.
“It looked like we could do something fun and it would be profitable,” said Montgomery.
Early on, he said, the family realized they were just far enough away from other mazes – in places like Boise or Nampa – that they were not overrun with people.
That’s fine, said Montgomery, because over the years the maze developed a loyal clientele.
“One of the things that helped us financially survive was we started offering field trips to the schools. We always try to be educational, you know, like how does corn grow,” said Montgomery.
The 15-acre maze put the farm on the autumn map and is a good way to give back to the community, said Montgomery.
“We make a little bit of money at it, enough to hire a few high school kids but it is the community thing that really keeps us going. We could probably raise hay on the corn field and make more money but that isn’t what it is about for us,” said Montgomery.
Going to the maze isn’t just about walking through corn stalks, he said.
“There are lots of other things to do. We have a courtyard with a ping-pong table, a foosball table and we also close the season with a fireworks show,” said Montgomery.
The maze also has a mini-zip line that is popular and occasionally, said Montgomery, his farm is also the backdrop for a wedding.
Montgomery grew up on the family farm – on Sugar Avenue, west of the Ontario Municipal Airport – and became a volunteer firefighter for the Ontario Fire Department in 1990.
Montgomery said his father bought the 165-acre farm in 1960 for $15,000. The seller, George Lewis, had to get out.
“His wife was diagnosed with cancer and wanted to move to Arizona. My dad told him he absolutely didn’t have the money. George told my dad, go see what you can do,” said Montgomery.
Eventually Lewis accepted a $500 down payment and agreed to carry the note, said Montgomery.
“The rest of the story is we struggled every year to make the payment. It was a farm along the river and most everything had to come out of the sagebrush and be leveled. I think my dad totally wore out a Carry-All leveling the place,” said Montgomery.
Just about every type crop that can grow in the Treasure Valley was raised on the farm at one time or another, said Montgomery.
“We even tried asparagus. And we milked cows,” said Montgomery.
The milk check, said Montgomery, “is what set us.”
“We tried to eke out a living on the rest of the farm,” said Montgomery.
Montgomery said farming was important to him.
“I’ve always loved agriculture and raising crops, just the farming part of it. If I am out there on a tractor I am as happy as I can be. Being out there when the sun comes up, it is just an amazing feeling,” said Montgomery.
He decided to become a volunteer firefighter to help people. In 1996 joined the staff of Ontario Fire & Rescue. Next year, he said he will retire after 32 years.
“It’s been a rewarding career. Between fighting fire, helping people and farming it’s like I’ve had a very fulfilling life,” said Montgomery.
Montgomery said he is most proud of his family.
“I know everyone says that but when you have to work together sometimes things don’t always go right. I have an amazing family. I couldn’t do what I do today if I didn’t have brothers who were willing to step up. Family is what it is really all about,” said Montgomery.
What motivates Montgomery?
“I have a wife with a good stick,” he joked.
Then he became serious.
“I think it’s the love of people,” he said.
In his career as a firefighter and farmer, Montgomery said he’s learned that people are basically good.
“As a firefighter I usually see people at their worst. Where they are having the worst day of their lives. So, you get to learn how to look at the best in everything,” he said.
The farm is smaller now – about 100 acres – said Montgomery but he said he wouldn’t trade his place in the world for anything.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected].

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