Replay of 119: Cross-fit Gardener of 2015 | Mandy Gerth | Lower Valley Farm – Nutrient Dense Farming | Kalispell, MT

Mandy Gerth BCS Tractor Lower Valley Farm Tour

This episode originally aired on February 29, 2016 but I am replaying it because not only is it one of my favorite episodes but Mandy talks about record keeping being so important for market farmers and since my Garden Journal and Record Keeper is now live on Amazon I thought this would be a fitting episode to play!

Lower Valley Farm

Hi listeners! I am pumped up today to introduce my guest from the Lower Valley Farm in Kalispell MT!!! When I first heard the term “Gardening Crossfit” coined by Kelly Ware in episode 28 of the Organic Gardener Podcast, I have noticed several of my guest who have completed a “gardening crossfit” challenge this year. Now I have to admit I am awarding my husband Mike with 2nd place and I will post a page of the top 10 crossfit gardening episodes on the Organic Gardener but today you are about to hear from a woman who epitomizes the essence of Gardening Crossfit the Amazing Mandy Gerth!!!

So welcome to the show today Mandy!

I first met Mandy, when I went to the Kalispell Farmer’s Market last spring hoping to meet some potential guests for my show and see what I could learn. Mandy stuck out to me right away because hanging above her head at the rear of her stand was a gorgeous oversized photograph of her children!

Nutrient Dense Cauliflower

After purchasing the most DELICIOUS nutrient dense cauliflower from her she consented to doing an interview and I later found her on Facebook where I connected with her husband Jay. I saw that they were giving a farm tour in two weeks and marked it on my calendar. But I had no idea what I was going to see that day. I learned so much about where we want to get to. All the things my husband has been talking about and dreaming about were put into action all at the Lower Valley Farm.

If there was a Vogue for gardeners Mandy would take the cover. With the hot sunshine searing down on her back she took me and about 25-30 people around her farm, teaching us about their methods enabling them to produce enough food for market. I just cant find the word to help you visualize this woman, standing there all toned and muscular maneuvering the tools showing us how to use them effectively. There was so much food. So many plants. It looked like enough work for 6 people!!!

So I’ll let Mandy tell you more about how it works. Congratulations for being the Organic Gardener Podcast’s Crossfit Gardener of the Year for 2015. I’m not sure what prize you’ll actually get, maybe I can make you a certificate but you definitely win the award!!!

Tell us a little about yourself.

Great, so my name is Mandy Gerth, my husband Jay Cummings and I farm together at the Lower Valley Farm. We’re going into our 5th year this year, we’re a diversified 70 acre family farm. So we raise nutrient dense vegetables, grass-fed Angus beef, grass fed Catodin Lamb we do all that for our community.

We also have a little gaggle of chickens, a couple of hogs, and a jersey cow we keep that good food for our own family.


Jay is from Montana and I am from Indiana. We met in Art school and moved back to the valley farming full time just a few years ago. Jay and I have 3 young children. They are 4,6, and 8 years old.. We tell people all the time we are a family farm, one of the things we try to remember always is that family comes first! A farm can completely swallow you. Our kids are our most important project here. That’s like our first priority.

Nutrient Dense Farming Lower Valley Farm Cows

They’re getting a great upbringing. Growing up in a beautiful place, not just being in Montana growing up now a farm they are very lucky! One of the other things I remember at your place that I forgot is your cows are so fun!!! and playful!

They’re really used to being around people, part of that we have separate herds. In the summer time that lives with our Cotatadin ram, at that time of year there’s also a dairy calf, and the chickens are all in a rotation together. They’re used to seeing the kids a lot.

The Angus and the rest of the flock are out in the big pasture. Which is 60 ares. Jay actually goes out there every day and moves them out of fresh grass, so they’re used to seeing him, so all the livestock around on our place are used to being around people. It’s nice for farm tours because they don’t just run away!

No they were just the most lively friendly cows I’ve ever seen!

Tell me about your first gardening experience?

Neither of my parents ever had a garden, I don’t think we even had flowers, just a yard. But I begged my dad for a garden, and he made me a 4×8 little bed. I really liked it, I don’t remember if anything grew. I just had flowers I think.

I got started with a vegetable garden in college. Everywhere I ever lived in college I always had a garden. I never thought of it as a career at all. It started getting serious after our oldest child was born, that was about 9 years ago. As our family got bigger, each summer I made our garden bigger. We were living in town at the time, every bit of yard was covered in garden. Fruits and vegetables and lots of flowers too!

Was this in Indiana?

Yes, our big family garden was in southern Indiana, which is where I’m from.

Wow! That’s a great introduction. It’s a kind of nice way to introducing gardening by starting small.

Yes, Start small…

The guy who runs my podcasting class., He talks about the baby effect. When you know you have to do it to feed your baby making those phone calls or going to market doesn’t seem as scary.


Flowers For Market

Photo by Maegan Dougherty 

What does organic gardening/earth friendly mean to you?

I love this question!

There’s lots of different ways that you could answer it.

The first word that popped into my head when I read that question was


so to me, organic food, nourishing food, nutrient dense food means hope to me.

We are constantly hear in our media all these negative messages about food. Everything from

  • small farms fail
  • the percentage of farms that fail
  • farming doesn’t make any money

To on the consumer end, also a negative message

  • how impossible to feed the world with organics
  • and also how impossible the alternative is

you kind of get this sense of things are impossible. BUT what we need to know is something that we don’t see or hear in the media and that’s

“We need to know we are in an exciting time for food production!”

And all the info for a regenerative global food supply are already here! And there’s people all over the world doing something amazing! choosing as the to grow nourishing food  and build soil! 

Some as a backyard gardener and some as a career choice.

To me that’s amazing! That in spite of all this negativity, people taking it into their own hands and  growing awesome food!

So when I think of what does organic food mean, it means


You might here people say:

no food no farms or no farms no food…

but there’s no nutrient dense farms without us crazy nutrient dense farmers who are so dedicated to soil health and human health, but there also can’t be farms like ours without all of these awesome consumers who seek us out! So it’s this really beautiful partnership between committed farmers dedicated to  growing good food and committed customers who are invested in food choices.

Food choices influence your health and food choices matter.

When I think of organic food I think of the the power we have to heal with food. And that’s such a hopeful message.

Does that answer your question?

That is awesome, it kind of sums up the message I want to get our there with show. You are an amazing person is who is growing the food for people! I just talked to Andrew Malucelli from the NRCS. He’s in the Western Growers Coop.

The first time I heard of nutrient dense food when I talked to him, and maybe some guest is gonna say I talked to you about that. He was explaining to me about the difference between red leaf lettuce and green leaf lettuce. I always knew if something has more color is gonna be a little healthier. Do you want to talk more about what nutrient dense means?

Nutrient Dense Food

I think if you want to trace the term nutrient dense to it’s source you’re gonna come up with the Weston A. Price Foundation? It’s a coalition/group that supports nutrient dense farming, regenerative farming, so part of nutrient dense farming is reintroducing the micro-nutrients back into the soil. A couple of ways you can do that, there’s lots of ways of course, but:

  • Minimal tillage so you are not disturbing the top couple of inches of soil where most micro-organisms live and where they’re bringing nutrients into your soil.
  • Perennials which have deeper roots that can go down and get past that top 6 inches that’s where the nutrients have been farmed out of the soil.

William Albrecht was a soil scientist who was interested in deep nutrition including the macro-nutrients in the soil, not just npk. And his research has been very influential and it’s the research that Acres USA is continuing to research, also that the Weston A. Price Foundation (which is based off the work of  Dr. Weston A. Price) is building on. The work of both Albrecht and Price is hugely influential to lots of new generation farmers, like Jay and I, and pretty much every little farmer I know, we all want to not just be growing stuff without chemicals but growing  nutrient dense food that’s using the soil and building soil and working holistically with nature and natural systems….

How do we nourish the soil in a more holistic way? Where we’re getting all of the micro-nutrients that we possibly can into the awesome vegetables or into the pasture so that when the cows eat them and it goes with the underlying the principal that soil health is directly influencing human health!

Who or what inspired you to start using organic techniques?

When I first started vegetable gardening, I didn’t feel as much that organic wasn’t the right way it’s The only way

You know like DONT Put Poisons on your food!

I think as a beginner gardener I had the same idea that lots of consumers have, which is that organic = no chemicals. And what I have learned in the last 16 years, is that organic is so much more then that!

So its not just what we don’t do, it’s what we are doing! 

We’re doing so much that makes improve’s the soil health! 

It makes crops more drought resistant.

Basically you take care of your soil, your soil is gonna take care of you!

And that is so much of a bigger thing then not spraying chemicals!!

I think you’re gonna inspire a lot of people, maybe that think I tried to grow vegetables and maybe that’s what I’ve been missing, I just tried to grow things without chemicals. Speaking of Kelly Ware and the permaculture and you had a hugel-kulture bed at your house. That’s the first time I had ever seen one!

We have a couple, they’re just kind of experiment. Hugel is a german word that means pile, so it’s mimicking a  woodland forest ecosystem. We joke around that maybe hugelkulture is German for a “big mess!”

There’s a great book, an ok book by Mark Shepard. He talks about how to take permaculture to a farm scale, which is a great question.

I read it wanting to, some other books have been instructing on your farm, it’s really a great primer for backyard gardener on what permaculture is, but it’s really instructive with some of these ideas.

How did you learn how to garden organically?

I’m totally self-taught. IDK if I’d recommend that to other people who want to be a commercial grower, but that’s what we did. Part of that is we had 3 little kids, when we started they were really little. But moving someplace to intern, probably would have been smart.

That would be hard, how would you intern with kids?

It would be hard, it’s hard to transition… it’s hard on kids to move. So we looked at it as our first five years,

  • we’re gonna be our own interns.
  • we’re gonna stay small
  • we’re gonna try not to build up too fast
  • we’re gonna try to be gentle with ourselves
  • and we’re gonna make this work.

I’m totally self-taught and I’ve learned a lot from books .And of course from practice. What I learn a lot is from taking notes and going over my notes.

Over the last 15 years, I’ve become at really good gardener but now I’m trying to do this other learning curve which is a lot harder on how to become a really good farmer. It’s definitely a challenge but more and more up to it every year.

You’re doing an imaging job and inspiring AND Educating. Look at all those people what were there, I thought there were gonna be like 6 people there!

I know! I DID TOO! I was so surprised. There were so many people

And you did a great job I learned a ton!

Nutrient Dense Tomatoes

Tell us about something that grew well this year, those we’re some of the tallest tomatoes I’ve ever seen in my life!

Are you from Montana?

Yes, no, I’m originally a New Yorker, but I’ve been in Montana for like 25 years now.

In Indiana, the tomatoes could take over your house! But we did have a really productive year n 2015 , it warmed up unusually fast here, so all the warm season crops, did fantastic!

  • the tomatoes
  • the basil was amazing!
  • the winter squash was just great!
  • The eggplants and the peppers!
  • We actually got to harvest melons which is always exciting in Montana!

Everything that loved heat, so we had a really productive year! Great yields especially those warmer season crops they did really great!

Is there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?

This is our fourth year, there are so many changes we make each year. This year our primary focus is on efficiency. We’re attempting to keep that same level of production that we had last year. I don’t think I have said.

We did 2 acres of intensively planted vegetables.

You do?!

A Sustainable Workload

So our goal this year – this is ambitious!

Is to work 20% less hours total then we did last year with the same yields, the same sales, just less hours! 

So now we’re looking over tools and seeding and harvesting and sales and trying to make everything more efficient!

We were joking the other day, our farm, our practices are really sustainable for our land, but for 2016 is the year we want to have a sustainable workload! The year we want to be sustainable for a human!!

That’s our new thing! A sustainable workload?! We’ll see call me in July!

Yeah because now I understand so we only planted  more about an 1/8 of an acre or a 1/4 acre. Yeah, you’re like 8 times what we did! And my listeners are like, yeah Jackie we know Mike did all the work! Haha!

Each garden plot is a different section, and each one is 1/3 of an acre. We have like 6 of those.

Do you want to explain where you came up with that?

IMarketGardenerBook stole that from I’m probably gonna kill his name becasue I’m a hosier and this is a French name, but The Market Farmer Jean Martin Fortier.
The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming

I have had lots of people recommend that book. IT was a great way to say his name!

We basically used his system

  • use these 1/3 of an acre plots
  • everything is standardized row length
  • 100 foot rows

So when you’re ordering your working off 100 feet, so all of your drip irrigation is 100 feet, all of your row cover is 100 feet,  it’s really smart!

When we get our “to-scale” map out, I’m doing my planning for the year, because as soon as you pull something out, we’re  putting another succession crop in!

So, doing my planning for the year thinking of a 1/3 of acre.

1/3 of acre of lettuce I can’t water while my onions are drying out

We do a huge amount of planning beds and the succession plantings. So we never have too much of one thing.

8 interesting things to go in our CSA boxes each week.


only doing 50


part of our 2 acres is corn, potatoes, winter squash

people who are doing CSA boxes I have heard have up 200 shares on 2 acres

haven’t visited those places, but I have heard

What makes you go through all that to do the CSA and the Farmer’s Market both!

What’s nice about doing both is I want to always have are the 12 things I always want to have at market. But you know what if there’s aphids in my lettuce or it bolted and I don’t take lettuce to market it’s not big deal. Somebody else there is gonna have mix.

CSA Box Basics

  • a salad green
  • a grazing green
  • allium
  • root crop
  • seasonal vegetables

But in my CSA box each week I want to have a salad green, a grazing green, something form the allium farmily, a root crop, then I fill the rest of the box with all these beautiful seasonal things,

Whereas market week, I take whatever I have extra!

Like putting 500 bundles of kale into my CSA shares, you know what I mean? The weeks that I have a huge amount of summer squash, we’ll take that extra to market instead of bogging down our CSA shares. They work really well together because at market it’s awesome because sometimes your so busy and you sell out right away! But then sometimes you take that same product or it rains. So with CSA you’ve got your dedicated customers, but what if it hails? So the two nicely complement each other, they work really well together, and hopefully maybe a couple of years well be adding some wholesale into the pick.

Well! That was full of golden value bombs? IDK what to call them, golden sweet potatoes!

Tell me about something that didn’t work so well this season.

There were things that didn’t work this year. Also with that heat we had, what really messed us up last year, Awww Mann, we do almost everything from transplants that’s because we plant intensively and  and pretty high production for this acreage.

Putting things into transplant, stuff is not in beds as long, usually in May for setting out transplants in NW Montana, its the perfect transplanting weather, it’s cool, you get this misty rain for weeks on end at time., overcast great transplanting weather, this year it was just hot, and it didn’t rain and it was sunny everyday! Thats not ideal for setting gout transplants.  If I would have had a crystal ball, I would have direct seeded everything, but we didn’t but we had a plan and stuck to the plan!

Our first planting of all of our early greens did great they were fine, but our 2nd planting, which by 2nd planting of greens means it goes in 3 weeks later, just bolted. So there’s bok choy in the compost pile. But its part of it and it happens!

This year we were able to save a lot of our spring greens from that heat, kept stuff covered with row cover and we watered a lot, that moisture kept things cool. The watering helped.

You’re gonna lose stuff very year, it wasn’t frost the challenge was early heat.

That might happen again. I was looking and the snow is almost gone. I was looking at the mountains, we did get some moisture in July instead of our typical June rains. 

It was a record-breaking drought year.

Last year for sure!

The last five years in a row in Montana have been record breaking heat! I think.I liked the way you talked about, you can’t predict the weather. Would you  do something different?

Since we are really on a schedule. I did actually go in, I think the first week of June when a lot of stuff bolted before I thought it would. I did reorganized my rotations  over that year. Direct seeded stuff, it worked because we have the ability to overhead water

This year we would water, and just the water was just gone!

That  was another thing after I came back from our place and I look ed at my husband, we finally dug a well, 560′ deep, and it seemed like last year every few days, the well was dry. I am hoping there was a leak.                                                          

Also we had a lot of stuff bolt in the early season but I was gonna ask you.? But then our fall crops were way stronger then we’ve ever had and the spinach was so sweet and it just came back because I didn’t pull it.

If I have 1/2 of a planting germinate you have to decide do I want to keep this?

we did have some really nice fall crops, we also had some not as nice fall crops, so what I did was I decided to keep that cool 1600 feet, all the stuff that didn’t germinate, those rows I kind of marked them off and I over  seeded a cover crop there. I decided to keep it.

Everything we had in the fall, the arugula, salad, turnips, carrots,tthat planting of spinach didn’t do so well.   to

Still planted the transplants because I had them

clear out some beds expecting through

this year the

water was s just gone

Since we are kind of a schedule

need similar things

need water, need covered in the fall

if I have like 1/2 of a planting germinate

do I want to keep this

we did have some really nice fall crops

what I did was I decided to keep that whole 16 100 foot rows, the stuff that didn’t germinate well, marked them with flags, over-seeded a cover crop

a crop that’s just there to addd nutrients back to the soil

everything we did in the fall



salad turnips?


winter radishes

that planting of spinach didn’t do well

instead of the weeds come up and take over

I over seeded oats just to be there, then when we clear the bed in the fall, we can let the chickens and pigs go through there. If your growing for market 120 days between you have live stock on any bed and the time you are gonna be working in there again. It’s a food safety thing. The fall is a good time if you are growing to sell things to let livestock in, so you have that time.

Nobody’s really talked about that, somebody talked to me about that, I wasn’t really paying attention. We got 4 sheep last fall but we just have a few chickens. 

If you’re just gardening for your self, honestly I don’t see any problem if you are pretty confident about you immunity having livestock I don’t see any problem if they get in there all the time.

This is the first time they’ve been able to get in the garden and I’m sure Mike’s gonna take care of that, and then he sheep are in their paddock or pasture.? 

Something that you find is easy to grow and is generally successful every-time.

What is really great about growing vegetables in Montana, that I think lots of Montana folks take for granter is for me being form Indiana. Is the the amount of the year that you can grow awesome lettuce is amazing to me! That’s really cool.

The ease with which you can grow greens here is great. Another thing that is great about being in Montana is that we have so few pest problems

we don’t have that many bugs

sitting here in the winter

bugs are no problem

we have some slugs, especially because we mulch with hay a lot,

they’re not taking out crops, they’re just there.

we have a small amount of flea beetles and getting to know when they are gonna be out and cover with row cover, If they get in there then it’s the best conditions fro them to propagate. So it only works if they are not there.

Our biggest problem with pests

cabbage moths, easily managed with

when I remember the types of pests we had in Indiana. I’d bring my lettuce in to wash it and submerge it in water and there were  things crawling

look there’s 3 aphids in 20lbs of lettuce.

its’ amazing!!!

I love how easy it is to grow greens

the lack of pests

the longer that you do garden without chemicals

the more flowering perennial flowering things you have the more  and trees

the longer you do it the easier it gets! It sounds like one of those we’re all sitting int he villas singing Kumbaya or something…

I saw it in Indiana

in my old garden

anyone who’s got tomatoes

you just go out everyday and pick em off and it’s disgusting. But by the time we moved

the predator bugs had long enough f there lifestyles, to catch up with the bugs that eat vegetables. It’s the real deal! It’s working.

the longer we’re here


we do lose some stuff, we have some root maggot, flea beetles, but it’s not too bad.

A lot of people maybe don’t realize, you’re not just gonna put some pollinator palatines and your gonna have pests gone right away. I talked to Chris Blanchard who said he got this job, he had heard os much bad stuff about chemicals, and his firs experience was organic then he got this job on a conventional farm and they said dog spray so he did and he thought it didn’t work cause everything was still

The opposite of quote unquote chemical

Something you would steer new gardeners away from that you find is typically challenging to grow in your climate.

As a home gardener you’re advantage is you’re doing something on a really small scale, so I say if there is something you love and you’re a home gardener. Let’’s say you love Artichokes or the tomatoes

the big heirlooms

german ones

you’ve got a south facing brick wall protected on cool nights

your’e gonna have the best tomatoes you can get in Montana

and that goes for any other fussy

a potted fig plant

dwarf potted citrus tree

they’re tricky and difficult, but on a home scale, that’s really satisfying

So if something you love to eat, I’d say try it, but also do a lot of things that would set you up for success. Greens as I said, and the peas do so well here in the spring

zucchini and beans,

your gonna do it and your gonna do great

Herbs, culinary herbs

if you’re getting started with home gardening.

I think every gardener cooks

If you cook.

most bang for your buck

They’re easy they’re prolific and

And the bees love them, and the butterflies, and those beneficial insects.

That’s interesting because I was just telling my friend Dacia you should come on my show because she makes these awesome aprons and I was just thinking I’ll bet everyone one of my listeners cooks! And she could talk about healthy living, she grows a little garden but she feeds her kids all organic food and lives without a microwave which I don’t understand but…

Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden.

You know my least favorite of anything is the thing that I’ve put off, so then it’s harder to do then it should be,

really easy to do in a garden

could be

when the weeds get too big, using the bigger hoe

transplants that aren’t really healthy because you waited 2 weeks too long because

your still setting them out

things that are growing too slowly because you didn’t thin them

trellising tomatoes when they get too big!

Excellent a lot of us are just shaking our head.s

You’re always making these priority calls. Some days I don’t make it to the garden for a few days in the summer… on the other side some days I go towed there when the days are long and I feel like things have grown 3 inches since the morning.

What is your favorite activity to do in the garden.

My favorite is the exact opposite

when I have things timed just right and it feels good to be trellising the tomatoes

last year I just figured even though I’ve done it lots of years.

using the flame weeder in the past for years. But this year, I finally figured out how to use it

I’ve used a flame weeder for pre-emergent weeder

pre-emergent for longer germinating crops like carrots

game changer for us we sell a lot of carrots.

home grown carrots are amazing,

customers at the market love them.

customers love getting them in there box, love to get them every week

having a more efficient ‘way to do the carrots

You get a bed ready to be planted

let it sit there for 2 weeks

then you can flame weed that and your getting all these it bitty tiny weeds

and they’re getting dissolved by that heat.

plant your carrots

water them, depending on the heat ,4-10 days (if you’re pushing it it really

before the carrots come up, you flame weed them again, and that is where you hit the jackpot!

What i’ve done in the past is either flame weed it too late and you kill the carrots, That’s sad!


be too conservative

then the carrots and weeds emerging at the same time

this year I finally got it figured out. And it’s just beautiful. now it’s one of my favorite tools

can get

on one stick, and you can have a partner with you with a five gallon thing, with a wheel barrow thing,  probably

people who say it does work is probably waiting till they’re too big.

did teeny tiny

You still I have some weed, we’re doing all hand weeding with hand tools,y notes but I at this scale, I mean by that  no mechanized tools. I would have to look at m

guess that we would have spent 8 hours per 100 row bed

down to about 3 hours for 100 row feet

300 row feet at a time, that’s the kind of thing where you are seeing a huge (difference)

makes growing carrots for market, I can do this! Instead of OMG?! How am I gonna do this?

Sunflowers to grow last year.

What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?

I’m really self-taught. When I was just starting to get serious about gardening my favorite book was

the Garden Primer

by Barbara Dan

it’s like she’s talking to you

everything in fertility of all of those things especially in

I remember this being from her is that

:You got to think like a plant:

It think it

I read it so many times,

I probably haven’t picked it up

goes into more into it that the plant needs water and think about the soil

don’t plant something when it’s not time to get something

make sure it it’s water, make sure to protect it from pests.

I’m alway gu

I’m out of basil…

Is there a favorite tool that you like to use? If you had to move and could only take one tool with you what would it be?

YES, the thing I brought that I’m most proficient with,

is a

Broad fork

broad fork

if you have a home garden

throw away your rototiller and turn it into scrap metal or something and get a broad fork you just you use it to aerate the soil in the fall

depending on what’s gonna be in there next spring.

ever 6-8-12-18 inches

Your just lifting the soil.

so the earth worms can be pretty active in the winter time

Now that we’re on a big scale.

if I could only take one tool

I would take our new BCS walking tractor

we invested in it, whereas the broad fork is a $100 tool

anybody with a home garden, depending how much  time you spend on your garden,

a walking tractor

no physical way with just the two of us

no way 2 people could be farming 2 acres intensively without this tool

there aren’t enough hours in a day

the CS walking tractor looks kind of like a rototiller

has 2 handles, it has a crazy powerful engine

very powerful

It;s a really awesome tool!

Because somebody since then came on my show and said that’s what he should get.

It has a motor anyway

Oh! Yeah!!!

12 horse power

power take off spiring thing PTO

can buy all these different things to hook up to it

We have a flale mower?

power hero instead of doing tillage

only goes down , doesn’t m

potatoes in a way that doesn’t mix the soil

it just irritates plastic mulch layer

And we have this rotary plow that makes raised beds without disturbing the soil in a very intense way!!!

So it used to take us with the biggest hoe ever.

the grape hoe, bigger hoe, really easy to blow your back out with it, so be careful.

both pretty healthy in good shapes

takes about an hour to make a 100 foot raised bed

in 6 hours did 32 rows! It’s amazing.

32 Wow! That’s a lot!

So a lot of our land is forest right now, I mean like you have to cut down the trees, dig out the stumps. 

When were starting a new bed in pasture and there’s lots of other jobs on our farm we hire out other tractor work. So if you’re starting a totally new bed, depending on the soil

get it cleared it out, in the fall, you might want o have someone and get it started disc harrow that in the fall just to get it broken up. And just to get things started, you can use the biggest rototiller once to get things kind of to be able to work the soil, and then after that the BCS will be your most appropriate tool.

Part of the wonderful American individualism is we want to do everything on our own.  We are  your a small farm, or big homestead, farm, garden, whatever. If you can just sort of breathe into the space, sometimes your gonna ask someone for help to do that. It’s Kind of nice thing to realize that when our we gonna need a big tractor, like 3 times a year:

  • To move compost with the bucket loader,
  • To move all the piles of manure around in the spring to get them in one big pile.
  • And any time we need to break up sod for new beds.

So do we need that tool? Not right now. Now when would I want a bigger tractor?For me, for our farm, I would say, if we were going over 5 acres of vegetables, then we would and then I’d want tractor mounted weeding implements, a basket weeder. For kind of a half  acre intensive 2 acres, and it’s a nice tool, becasue if we ever do scale up.

its’ a nice of s

scale up for raising our hoop houses, for all the lettuce beds, it’s really an awesome tool.

that BCS is a really nice tool. It’s still gam great tool for homesteaders, gardeners and small farms.

Do you want to tell us about the hoop houses? Because when I talked to Andrew Malucelli, we talked about the  high tunnel profram from the NRCS which deadline was February 19th, 2015

You use a tractor to put them up?!

W’re probably not the best one to put them up.

30 x 100’

we don’t realize that time it’s gonna put up. It was one of these things, we’ve built this like this,

this will take like 20 hours, it was a lot more then that! So yeah, putting up the hoop house, we will do more of them in the future, and Im sure the more you do it the better you’ll get at it.  It’s also something if your not able to put it up the NRCS will let you know who to hire to do that for you.

I don’t think it’s gonna be that big, I think it’s just gonna be like 20 x 20. That’s a lot smaller.

let you know who you could

that’s a lot smaller

Jay can build one of those in an afternoon

easy to pull that plastic over, it’s pretty manageable. Those go together pretty face, There’s nice hoop benders


for making

smaller hoop houses are 20’x30’

bought a  hoop bender from Johnnies, so it’s like a little hoop you attach to the back of your truck, and you just buy the top rail of the fence from the fence place

making the 20×30’ hoops, I think every gardener in Montana should have one.

not too expensive

gonna get a lot of season extension

for the size

What’s a hoop bender?

your talking about

hoops can be made out of

top rail of chain link fence

made them out of something

Never mind that’s what we made our floating hoop cover out of. IDK this is the part of the podcast where it’s very clear I do all the gardening and Jay does all the projects.

Do you have any tips for eating or harvesting vegetables or fruit on time? 

I do! This is where home gardening is so worth it. You can get stuff when it’s so fresh, so if you are only on go out to you garden once a week and have those giant zucchinis that are the size of the car. Those zucchinis only fun to the

worth it to go to the garden and when they are little and they’re good

better then they

If you go out to look around your garden everyday, and take some notes and have a mental rolodex of what’s coming on…

garlic scapes

when the garlic’s scapes

harvest 2xs a day

I really like them to be perfect

you can get food that’s beyond what every our gonna buy

small fresh….

I do put them on everything. My mom also taught me how to cook the flowers. One thing we both decided were gonna try to 

Do you have any secrets for preserving food-making it last? 

Each year I do less and less water bath canning, I bet someday when I have faming really figured out and the kids are bigger, I’ll start doing more again

what we do a lot of is just storage the food.

how we store our crops, Jay built us this nice refrigerated trailer. Obviously at the end of the season it doesn’t need to be on anymore

fill it up with

cold storage, you don’t need to have a special place

don’t need to have a root cellar

underneath the bed I kept green tomatoes, we had a coat closet we didn’t really use, that faced the outside of the house, and it was cooler if the door was shut. I used to keep potatoes and winter squash in there. Also in the basement

canning and canned stuff. I kept all of our fermented beets and stuff in the basement. Now I don’t do quiet as much sour kraut and beets and stuff, I do some and I just keep it in an extra refrigerator.

we do free a lot of thing

working mother of 3 when the tomatoes are coming on, we are still so busy, so I keep any tomatoes I bring back from market, or that is questionable, I just stuff them into food safe plastic freezer bags.

food grade freezer bags is really important.

whole tomatoes

get those out and make sauce in November.

stuff doesn’t quite out till November

from those

A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?

I’m also a self-taught cook, I used to look at cook books a lot. My favorite cookbook is

The art of simple food

The art of simple food

Alice Waters

I love Alice waters!

really taught me how to cook with the stuff we grow

6 recipes with arugula in there

soup or roast chicken

once you know how to do it

then you don’t need to look at the book again

what we do

I heat up some of

giant cast iron skillets

chop up some albums

in that nice big amount of fat

sauté a whole bunch of greens

whatever else we’ve got

some balsamic vinegar

on top of potatoes

on winter squash

really good meal

when you’re working with really simple

to make it the best thing you’ve ever eaten

kind of like Alice Walters for

great simple recipe

her roast chicken

put the garlic gloves under the skin

Mike makes this herb cheese bread from there that’s really good. My mom got him that cookbook for Christmas one year.

A favorite internet resource?

I think the internet as it is, as a tool as an amazing resource

That you can just type in Kohlrabi main dish

that to me by itself

searching for things on the internet, I’ll put in the word:


So if you put in nourishing kohlrabi main dish, I guarantee the first ingredient won’t be cheese wiz…

kohlrabi main dish

first ingredients

not ritz crackers

searching for recipes online

nourishing potatoes soufflé

A favorite reading material-book, mag, blog/website etc you can recommend?

Right now I really like reading the AcresUSA magazine

they have ebook list they put

home gardener. homesteader

all the good books seem to be coming out of AcresUSA magazine

If you have a business to you have any advice for our listeners about how to sell extra produce or get started in the industry?

I would not start with a CSA.A  CSA’s a big commitment to your customers. If you’re a home gardener, the first question I would ask myself, is

Do I really want to sell produce?

do I just have extra stuff

you don’t really want to sell it

plan out your succession

if you just have a little bit of extra sometimes and you don’t need to make money off it,

find some places to gift it to

if you really do want to sell it, the best advice I can give is

keep record of your time and cost right from the beginning your not undersell yourself. Don’t be discouraged if you go to market and don’t sell anything. You have to be there every week

as a gardener going to the place, you can’t just sell what you want to eat, you have to sell what you want to buy. Because us gardeners are used to eating anything that comes out of garden, it could be a little too big, too small. But when you are at market you want it to be the best there is, that’s your standard! Anything else does a disservice to you as a seller.

So those 3 things:

  • Make sure you want to sell
  • be patient
  • keep good records.

Final question- 

If there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?

So my favorite ag charity is Heiffer International. They train farmers around the world with ecologically sound farming practices! So that is a great cause.

For us its a big question

just to know there’s not a single

out there int eh big wide world

There is a global food movement happening and we’re all a part of it, everybody here listening to your awesome podcast.

We all know that soil health is directly connected to human health. Soil health is brimming over with health and promise. There’ farmers willing to dedicate to growing this food/ Whether its one itty bitty plant  or acres, it’s all awesome and already here!

important to put our focus on!

We’ve got answers we don’t need to wait for somethings else to happen.

Do u have an inspiration tip or quote to help motivate our listeners to reach into that dirt and start their own garden?

If you think that you can’t grow your own food, YOU CAN!

Every seed that doesn’t germinate or bug that eats your stuff, it’s not a failure. It’s just an opportunity that’s there to teach you, it’s worth it!

How do we connect with you?

Lower Valley Farm on Facebook and Lower Valley, and we’re on Instagram and we have a telephone! Lots of ways to find us. And we’re at the Kalispell farmer’s market on weekends!!!

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About the author, Jackie Marie

I'm an artist and educator. I live at the "Organic Oasis" with my husband Mike where we practice earth friendly techniques in our garden nestled in the mountains of Montana.

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  1. Mike's Green Garden on February 29, 2016 at 1:25 AM

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