Suddenly, it seems like every reality TV series in the popular television genre can't get their fill of Boundary County maggots.
Especially the millions of maggots raised by Pam and Dennis Ponsness, who have been growing teams of groveling little maggots since 1989 at their Porthill-based Forked Tree Ranch maggot-growing operation.
Two months after a story in Boundary County Digest and ruralnorthwest.com about Dirty Jobs' filming the down-and-dirty business of maggot farming at the Ponsness' ranch received national attention, the popular cable television channel, Animal Planet, has its camera crews headed to Bonners Ferry.
The feature on maggot farming, which will appear on Animal Planet's new "Weird, True and Freaky" series that currently airs Wednesdays and Fridays, will be televised sometime in February or March of 2009.
Associate field producer of the series, Barry Walton of Michael Hoff Productions, contacted the Digest.
"We are currently building a segment that includes maggot farming," said Hoff. "While researching, I came across the Porthill maggot farm in the article from the Boundary County Digest about the Discovery Channel's visit. 'Weird, True and Freaky' is a different format than Dirty Jobs, and we're moving along real quickly with this series. We think a segment on the maggot farm in north Idaho will be an excellent fit for us."
Arguably the largest producers of fresh bait maggots and suppliers to the disposable crop pollinator market on the continent, Forked Tree Ranch has been shipping millions of bluebottle fly larvae to USDA research stations and seed farmers for two decades, as well as maggots to fish bait distributors.
"When we first got going, we thought shipping out 100,000 a week was enormous," said Pam Ponsness. "Now we can ship 3-4 million each week through Fed Ex. We have the ability to raise a lot of maggots in a controlled environment."
Along with one employee, the Ponsnesses have five million maggots in growing rooms, along with 2.8 million in incubators that are packaged in a 3,840-square foot processing plant that packs a near-suffocating odor of ammonia. Fifteen tons of larvae are stored in cold storage.
Over the years, the couple has had requests for their maggots from Hollywood. Thousands have appeared on CSI, Medical Investigation, crime movies, a National Geographic series, Sunday Morning, even to a Florida courtroom where a medical malpractice case was being argued.
They even shipped 50,000 pupae a week for three months to the Brooklyn Museum of Art for a controversial display of modern art that exhibited their live maggots.
"It definitely was a little weird," said Pam. "But most people do a double-take when we tell them what we do for a living. Some just look at us a little funny."
Their maggots can also act a little funny if they're not continuously fed. With a voracious appetite that needs to be fed every 12 hours, buckets of ground fish parts shipped in on truckloads from the Seattle are constantly being shoveled into trays of ravenous little maggots.
"I've heard a lot about their maggot farm in Idaho, I'm looking forward to getting up there and putting it on camera for our segment," said Walton. "I hear the smell can be pretty intense, so it should be an interesting time."
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