Hey! We've Moved!

Farm Friends,

We've moved our website to this gorgeous place over here.
The new website.


Thanks for visiting! See you soon!

2016 CSA Pick Up Schedule

We are so excited to see you for your first farm share pick up. For Great Falls and Power members, your first pick up will be Thursday June 9.  Helena and Choteau members will pick up Thursday, June 16.

Full share members will pick up every week. Half share members will pick up every other week. Following is the schedule for half share members:

Great Falls, Power:
June 9
June 23
July 7
July 21
August 4
August 18
September 1
September 15

Helena, Choteau:
June 16
June 30
July 14
July 28
August 11
August 25
September 8
September 22

Here are the details for pick ups:

Great Falls:
Where: 2509 Upper River Road, Great Falls, MT 59405
When: Thursdays (starting June 9) from 4:30-6 p.m.

Helena:
Where: 705 Saddle Drive, Helena, MT (our super volunteer Susan's house)
When: Thursdays (starting June 16) from 5:30-7 p.m.

Power:
Where: On the farm
When: Thursdays (starting June 9), 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. (please contact us if you need to make other arrangements)

Choteau:
Where: To be determined
When: Thursdays (starting June 16), To be determined

A few notes:

>These first few shares will be early-season crops like greens (galore) and cold-hardy things. We'll ramp up as the summer progresses. This is truly eating in season. By July and August, we'll be getting into tomatoes and peppers and eggplant and cucumbers and summer squash and the like. By fall, potatoes, onions, garlic and other fall crops will come on. The season runs 16 weeks.

>Each pick-up day, look for an email from us with a reminder as well as some recipes to inspire you in the kitchen. (We love to use recipes from members too, so share if you have a great one!)

>Please remember to bring bags or boxes to pick up your veggies.

>Each week, we create the shares based on what's fresh and ready for picking. Within those constraints though, we aim to please, so as the season gets rolling, if there's anything you'd like more of, or less of, in your share, let us now and we'll do our best to accommodate. And, if ever you'd like to stop by our market stand at the Great Falls Farmers' Market and pick up extras, we'd love to see you there!

>If you can't pick up, we're happy to make other arrangements, but do try to give us at least 24 hours heads up so we can make those arrangements and don't end up with more veggies than we need for the pick up.

>We also have our heritage and ancient grains, flour, and sourdough bread available for add-ons. We do round out the early summer shares occasionally with samples of our grains, but if you'd like to purchase any in larger quantities, let us know!

We are so looking forward to growing your food this summer. Thanks for supporting local food and family farming!

As the 2016 Season Begins, Prairie Heritage Farm Pivots



Photo by Missy Sprouse.
The summer season seems to sneak up on us every year, but this year, it's been extra sneaky.

This winter was a long one (aren't they all?) as we grappled with some health issues (mostly fine now!) that gave us a late start but also helped us better prioritize by focusing on what's important.

So, this season will bring some changes at the farm. We've scaled back on a few things (we've capped the number of traditional summer CSA shares and reined in vegetable production somewhat) so we can expand other enterprises (like the Farmers' Market Share program and a double-down on grains and sourdough bread).

Life (and business) lesson #458: Sometimes you have to say no to some things so you can say yes (and not just a yes, but a Heck Yes!) to others.

It's a tricky balance. You might even call it precarious, but that's running a small business or a family farm for you -- living in an almost constant state of flux. It means being vigilant in choosing which enterprises and crops and markets are going to best serve your land, your community, your bottom line and your family.

Sometimes, it feels like we should have it all "figured out" after seven years in business. But if we've learned anything, it's that "figured out" is like "caught up" -- a fictional state of being.

And with the right intention and mindset, flux isn't chaos. It's innovation and experimentation and the latter two is where true change and true progress happens.

So, here's what we're working on in 2016 on the farm:

Artisan sourdough bread made from the Sonora Heritage Wheat we grow, grind and bake. We're expanding the baking and adding in some variety: Seed bread, olive rosemary bread, focaccia and straight up sourdough, which we call "Papa Bread," because that's what our 3-year-old yells (and we mean YELLS) for in the morning. We will be selling bread at the Great Falls Farmers' Market (Saturdays starting June 4) but we're also in the midst of applying for a wholesale license, which will allow us to sell bread farther and wider eventually.


More sales and production of our ancient and heritage grains, both for home bakers and cooks and as seed for farms like ours. This year, we're focusing on Prairie Farro, Bronze Barley, Sonora Heritage Wheat, Einkorn, Japanese Hulless Popcorn (Popcorn!) and Early Riser corn (For cornmeal! Tortillas! Polenta!). We will continue to offer these grains whole but also hope to have our big mill up and running this summer to be able to start offering fresh flour as well. And soon, we'll start selling some of these grains as seed to other farmers interested in these unique, important varieties.





Fresh vegetables sold at the farmers market, through some grocers and restaurants and in our CSAs. As we mentioned above, we're focusing on a smaller traditional CSA this year to best serve that membership and offering more Farmers' Market Shares, which are like pre-paid cards for shareholders. Instead of us picking what veggies to include, customers get to pick whatever they'd like from our market stand at the Great Falls Farmers' Market. We're still growing all kinds of veggies, but we are scaling back somewhat to hone in on specific crops. You'll also find some of our fresh veggies at 2Js Fresh Market in Great Falls and on occasion at awesome local restaurants like Electric City Coffee.



Hearty, high quality vegetable seed, which we sell through the Triple Divide Seed Coop but also to national companies like Fedco, High Mowing Seeds and Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. This year, we're planting for seed:  Snow peas, mustard greens, arugula, fava beans, pole beans, lettuce, kale, chard, carrots, onions and tomatoes.




And, in general, giving longer-term projects like soil health and our budding orchard more attention and care. (The orchard -- pears, apples and plums -- is still in its infancy, as you can see in the awesome photo by Missy Sprouse below).

Photo by Missy Sprouse.


In the tech world, they'd call all of this somewhat of a "pivot" and that seems particularly applicable considering the other, agricultural, definition of pivot. We love the imagery the term gives -- the water direction and flow may change slightly but the whole thing still operates from its center. The engine driving the center of our pivot is running a farm that nourishes our family, our farm, our communities and our planet.

So, let's get this truck (farm) moving! 

Photo by Missy Sprouse.


Recipe: Farmer Jacob's Baba Ganoush

 

As you can see by the sea of eggplant above, we have a bumper crop of eggplant this year. Eggplant is a delicious, hearty vegetable, but it's unfamiliar to a lot of people (including us before we started growing it.) So, here's one of our favorite, and easiest ways to cook eggplant.

Baba Ganoush

Recipe by Jacob and adapted from Farmer John's Cookbook.

2 T olive oil
2 medium eggplant
1/4 c lemon juice
1/3 c tahini
2 cloves garlic
1 t cumin
1/2 t salt
1/4 t cayenne pepper
3 T fresh chopped parsley

I roasted the eggplant on the grill until the skins were charred. After they cooled, I threw the innards and all the ingredients in the food processor and blended away. That's it.

10 New Beginnings on the Farm This Spring

Starting this month, we'll be sending out regular emails with updates and recipes from the farm. The aim is to keep you informed about the farm, but also to share news and views about the local food landscape in general. Click here to sign up for our email newsletter. 

Here's the first of the season:

This month, we're gearing up for our 7th (!) growing season. It's just nuts to think it's been that long since we first put seeds in the ground and took our first farm share sign ups. We've grown so much as people, as a couple, as a family (we've grown to a family of four since we started) as farmers and small business owners.

You may have read this piece in the New York Times and this piece in Salon detailing how popular, but hard it is to do what we do. There's a lot of truth in what these two pieces detail: The economics of the small farm are challenging; It's nearly impossible to run a small farm without off-farm income; and as competition in the sustainable ag market increases, it all gets harder.

But, the picture isn't as gloomy as all that. When we set out seven years ago, the market for local veggies in Central Montana was nascent. The market for heritage and ancient local grains was even more nascent. Yet, here we are, seven years later (even though data from the Small Business Administration shows that only 50 percent of small businesses survive their first five years) growing and expanding -- into new areas and into new markets. That's not to say it hasn't been challenging to make ends meet and yes, we both still work off-farm jobs. We've had to "pivot," as they say in the tech world, more often to find more sustainable models and methods and markets, but we're still here, our customers are still here and we're still making it work and loving what we do.

Today, local food is growing in Central Montana with local grocers, restaurants and caterers looking for more products from farmers like us and with customers asking and committing to local food from local farmers. In some ways, it pays to be working in a market that's just starting to grow because it allows us all to experiment and grow together. We learn to stay resilient and courageous.

The seedlings are sprouting as I type and that always brings hope, enthusiasm and energy. It's one of the things we love about farming -- every 12 months, we get a new beginning.



Here are 10 things we're excited about as we start this new beginning:

1. We're growing earlier and earlier every year. And, later and later too. Already, we have kale and chard in the ground. And boy, these are resilient buggers -- they've already been frozen a few times and the wind hasn't exactly been kind. But, Jacob always says, "we don't give plants enough credit sometimes." And he's right. Our goal is to have this food ready in May for harvest and delivery to one of our biggest supporters: 2J's Fresh Market in Great Falls.



2. Speaking of, did you know that in addition to buying our veggies through our Community Supported Agriculture farm share programs and at the Great Falls Farmers Market, you can now also buy them at several local grocers? 2J's Fresh Market is our biggest buyer but you can also find our salad mix and other veggies at Daisy's Deli and most everything we grow at our friend Jill Owen's awesome store Mountain Front Market in Choteau. Bert and Ernie's has also been using some of our local fare (for three amazing farm-to-table events last year) and soon, you'll find our goodies at the new Electric City Coffee.

It's been so fun to work with other small businesses to expand the offerings for local food in Central Montana. And, the diversification is good for our bottom line. We're always trying to find the right balance of direct sales, CSA and wholesale. I think we're getting to the sweet spot.

3. We've shortened our CSA farm share season a little -- from 18-20 weeks to 16 weeks. We started noticing over the last few years that customers were as fatigued as we were by the end of the season and we wanted to be able to offer a more affordable entry into our share program. So, we now offer 16 weeks of fresh vegetables for $480 for a full share or $290 for a half share (deliveries every other week).



4. We're always trying to innovate and experiment and this year is no exception. Some fun things we're trying: developing a consistent red bell pepper, growing sunflowers for seed, trying out a white lentil variety, improving our popcorn varieties, expanding our heritage barley and wheat varieties, expanding our orchard, and installing a moveable high tunnel.

5. We're expanding and changing our grain business to include mail-order direct sales through our grain-of-the-month club, which we call the "Grainy Day Box" subscription program. Grainy Day members get a monthly package of 2 or 4 pounds of our heritage and ancient grains delivered right to their door, with recipes and ideas for how to enjoy these resilient, nutrient-dense grains.



6. This month, we unwrapped our stone mill and started the process of being able to offer fresh, stone-ground flour from our heritage and ancient grains. We're so excited to fire it up and start selling. We'll keep you updated on our progress. We're hoping to have everything in place to meet regulations and start selling and shipping by early fall.

7. We, and a few of our customers, have been enjoying Jacob's 100% whole wheat artisan sourdough bread for years, made from our Sonora Heritage wheat. This year, we're scaling up to offer the bread, which we call "Farmer Bread" in larger quantities and more widely, so we invested in a double oven and Jacob's been fine tuning the recipe all winter. We'll be selling at the Great Falls Farmers Market when it begins in June, but have designs on being able to offer the bread more widely as soon as we get our mill and baking building up to code.



8. We are a founding member of a new cooperative, growing, developing, and selling locally adapted, resilient vegetable seeds. Prairie Heritage Farm and a half dozen other farms have created the Triple Divide Organic Seeds Cooperative. Look for our seed rack at local grocery stores in the future. For now, you can either pick up seeds at our booth at the Farmers Market in Great Falls or they're available at Third Street Market, Whitefish; Delaney's Landscape Center, Polson; Swan River Nursery, Bigfork; Missoula Food Coop, Missoula; Good Food Store, Missoula; Planet Natural, Bozeman; Real Food Store, Helena; and Lakeland Feed & Supply, Hamilton.



9. We are delighted to welcome Ben and Sarah Klein and their little man, Benjamin, to the farm this season as apprentices. They've already arrived and have folded beautifully into the farmstead. They're anxious to get growing and we're anxious for you to meet them.



10. We have grown our farm "family" with about 20 laying hens and 6 sheep (with 3 of them pregnant). If you are interested in eggs or lamb, please let us know.


I just noticed how often I used the word "resilient" in this newsletter, which, I think, is telling. Resiliency drives everything we do, really -- from the seeds we put in the ground to the food system we're working on; from the business models we use to the relationships we're creating and even to the children we're raising.



Thanks for being a part of that resiliency.

Until next time, may you be warm, well-fed and happy.

Courtney, Jacob, Willa and Eli

 

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