Although related, oats are easily distinguished from wheat and barley. Each plant grows a stalk with very upright, bluish green leaves. The end of the stalk ends in 40 to 50 very small branches. Each branch ends in a spikelet containing 1 or 2 oat seeds. When the seeds are mature, the plant begins to dry, turning a very light brown before harvest.
Most oats in Montana are harvested as livestock feed. Producers can feed the seeds as well as the straw. Montana is too far from the market for national human food consumption. However, recently some producers have begun marketing oats at a local level. Organic oats are especially valuable at a local level because oats are naturally gluten free, making them a good grain for people with gluten allergies or sensitivities.