215. Three Hearts Farm | Rachel Hicks | Bozeman MT

Three Hearts Farm Family

Rachael Hicks Three Hearts Farm

Rachel Hicks | Three Hearts Farm | Bozeman MT

~ Recorded November 22, 2017 ~

Tell us a little about yourself.

So, I grew up in Moiese north of Missoula, close to the bison range. We did a lot of gardening, outside work, 4H, that kind of thing. After I was married, Josh and I moved. 

Three Hearts Farm logo

We spent some time in Harrison and north of Ronan. While we were in Ronan. Josh’s Aunt and Uncle had the opportunity to buy Three Hearts Farm. They asked us if we would be interested in Managing farm, and they gave us the opportunity to manage it and own it as well. So we are still in that process of getting there.


We moved a year ago from last June. We’ve been here about 18 months. We learned a lot about Bozeman and the community and gardening here.

We have 4 boys the oldest is 11 the youngest is 3

We enjoy teaching them about

  • gardening
  • working with people
  • helping at farmer’s markets

We have a milk cow, and we enjoy her and some ducks

our primary animals as well!

Tell me about your first gardening experience?

So I always remember working in the garden. 

I remember sitting and I was with my parents bothers and sisters. We would pod peas for hours on end while dad read a story to us. Or we would snap beans IDK I remember being up late late at night  processing corn so we could freeze it with my mom and my sister. And the crazy things that you do because garden season just happens that way.

Family Chores

We had

my brother and sister and I

chores in the garden

planting seeds with my dad early on. 

We just did a lot of gardening growing up.

I love that I have always pictured mike and I sitting on the porch shelling peas with the grandkids.

I feel blessed having that growing up

real appreciation and connection to the land around us

how it feeds us

and how we can take care of it.

Important things

I hope we are passing it on to our kids as well.

Are you a millennial? I figure millennials are born between 1980 and 1995.

I was born in 1973.

My listeners and guests are the kind of people who want to share those things with their children.


How did you learn how to garden organically?

I definitely started learning about gardening organically growing up

It’s been a journey

When we were living in Harrison I met a woman who’s become a good friend, Jenny Carl. She really introduced me to some other organic gardeners and really paying attention to the soil.

To treating the soil as a living organism as well

How to be thinking about how to take care of the soil

it’s so important for growing really healthy nutritious food for us as well

I continue to learn

I don’t think I’ve arrived yet at thee best way to garden organically.

Every year the climate change and seasons are changing My husbands constantly talking about how things have changed so much even since 10 years ago.

For sure soil health has been the biggest talking point on my show. IT all starts with healthy soil. Do you have anything about how you keep your soil healthy?


I feel as though we’re really working on developing a system for maintaining healthy soil here in our particular area, on our particular land

there isn’t a real system set in place

not that its really rigid

  • some cover cropping
  • tilling that in
  • manure applications at time
  • nothing consistent and
  • in a good cycle of rotation

We’re really working on trying to develop diverse cover crops

and to

really expand and explore that

allowing for a rotation

not just rotating vegetable crops

  • land in and out of production
  • growing a cover corp and then 
  • grazed by animals
  • series of cover crops before it’s tilled under

before it’s put back into vegetable production


Also looking for other sources of manure 

You have to be so careful these days what to bring into your land because it’s hard to know what your 

  • herbicides
  • pesticides

that have a long residual

explore ways of regenerating our land with just the

  • practices
  • minimal inputs

Three Hearts Farm is 20 acres

there are

there’s a deer fencing

  • land opened up that’s for market gardening
  • between 3-4 acres
  • between close to another half acre of land of greenhouse or hard houses
  • some protected land

We’re actually looking at reducing the amount of land were putting into practice

  • actually gardening 1-2 acres
  • rest would be in cover crops
  • rotating through with different cover crops along with animal grazing
  • the hard house high tunnels that we have in some type of rotation as well.

You’re dropping lots of golden seeds for listeners. I’ve been running this study group based on the book by Anna Hess Home Grown Humus. Mike’s the gardener here. Do you want to tell listeners what a cover crop is and how that whole rotation piece works. 

Cover Crops 101

I feel inexperienced at this as well

I think of a cover crop as a crop that you plant


  • seed it any time of year
  • different crops at the time of year

other farmers

  • winter rye and hairy vetch in september

We’re looking for that to kind of over winter and start growing early n the spring. We would like for that crop to get really tall to wear it’s setting  – starting to actually set seeds but not mature enough for them to be viable for winter.

Then bring animals in cows and sheep followed by chickens or ducks even after that to have 2 sets of animals moving across that and grazing that down and that would happen in June

put some in  so that the animals are crushing that organic matter back into the ground

Then seeding something like buckwheat which can come quickly or 

  • oats and peas

Would also be a good combination

always trying to have a cereal grain along with a legume together kind of pairing

second crop would grow into August or Sept at which time you would either 

graze it again or mow it and then seed it again for a second fall crop

terminated it early enough

seed a fall crop

that would grow up and would winter kill

We seeded it in August I think it would have to be August

Sept didn’ get tall enough so I think you have to seed in August and then it would winter kill in the that time

You could almost have 3 cover crops

following spring would hopefully be ready to prepare the soil for planting vegetables


I’d really like to get into

between my vegetable rows

kinds of clovers are good in walkways leagues that add to the nutritional

Understory cover crops

transplant things like your brassicas

You can seed in these smaller lower kind of growing clovers things like that that will grow along with the other crops with the vegetable crops

Kind of more intercropping rather then cover cropping

The idea is that your trying to keep plants growing all of the time

because as they are growing they are feeding the soil

a number of crops

direction that we are moving in is

less tillage

lower tillage

as those roots are growing

networks growing and develop

longer we let that soil grow without telling it the healthier…

see how we can make it work

That’s so true. I want to mention to listeners I know that Rachel is talking about their farm, you can do this if you have a small backyard garden. I bought this because I talked to Jes Pearce at the John Jevin’s Institute. HE wrote a book that talked about growing enough food to feed your family in the backyard each year and she talked about how they spend 60% of their space growing cover crops but like you said we have a hard time doing our little garden with soil. 


Tell us about something that grew well this year.

I feel like we had a great crop of garlic this year!

I honestly don’t know why it was

  • planted at a good time
  • liked the season
  • the place it was

and it just was an amazing crop of garlic was really fun to see how well it’s doing!


that did really well!

We had  a great tomatoes in our greenhouse!

So that was fun

Everyone, many people love tomatoes our family is no exception to that eating them fresh!!

We had other things that did well as

such a blessing!

Three Hearts Farm Tomatoes

So Tomatoes

I talked with David Wolverton in Arlee who plants his seeds in December and I also talked with Richard Wiswall and he talks about keeping them in greenhouses any time of year because they provide the ideal condition for a tomato.

In Montana, we struggle to get tomatoes that ripen and turn red.


we don’t keep our tomatoes

all through the year

heat our houses

pretty supplemental heat to keep our pants

we would have to provide supplemental heat and probably light.

to sweeten them up

they really start slowing

thats a little bit earlier

we start ours about the middle to end of feb

He actually starts them as flats in his living room until about February. The tomatoes were not cheap but they were affordable and they were a nice size in the middle of June! They were probably totally worth it. 

we start

one of our hard house

double layer then


More insulated then a hoop house

No, I was gonna ask what’s a hard house?

It’s kind of common

you can get hard plastic

comes in sheets like metal roofing has a layer of insulating

double layer of air

hard plastic instead of soft plastic

instead of new

houses are smaller

We get a significant amount of significant

Their solar energy is a lot less

They’re not quite as cold

solar energy can heat

We do have electric heaters

We’ll start them in February

  • you know we transplant them once
  • go into 3-4” pots
  • end of April and May they go into the hoop houses
  • hoop houses taller plastic


hoop houses

We do have to be careful because even in May we can get a pretty hard frost that can damage them

There are days we covered them with row cover

Are they closed on the end?

They could be closed better

There are  a couple of different styles

They have hard plastic on the ends, sliding door that opens and closes

long hoop house had ends that roll up they are not very well insulated but you’d be surprised at how much solar energy they gather. 

It does pretty well

We don’t have ripe tomatoes by the end of june but definitely by july

not quite as early but they’re getting there.

Do you save your seeds?

No I would like to I don’t

might work into that

start things

one thing at a time


Another great way when talking about adjusting to the climate

saving seeds I think plants can adjust and adapt

You start to find certain varieties that grow really well in your particular area. 

  • Climates can really valley
  • micro climates that vary in small distances

Saving seeds that’s a great idea i haven’t gotten there yet


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

I was talking a little bit about intercropping

I would like to try some kind of intercropping

I haven’t exactly pin pointed what that is

if you are going to grow kale then to grow – I would like to put a little clover under the kale to see if that would help the kale.

Try things like

radishes in between onions or something maybe that’s not a good example because those are two roots

  • radishes between lettuce
  • intercropping
  • alternating rows

Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening

theres a book that’s written called

Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening

She has lots of suggestions for plants that do well together.

One thing I was gonna say is if your doing this intercropping thing there are probably not a lot of weeds growing. I planted this little mini salad garden in my windowsill this fall. I’ve been trying to get myself a new set of plantings, when I was in Paris like 2 years ago exactly and I got a meal of eggs with arugula.

I think that our bodies change with the seasons those type of greens taste amazing

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

I love growing pumpkins and winter squash I feel like they didn’t do that well this year

we transplanted them out. We started them in the seed house. We put them out in Late June and we got a 

late frost

It did not kill the plants I think set them back

Then we didn’t get in and get on top of weeding it

  • weed stress
  • not so much early on
  • when everything in the garden!
  • gardening seems to peek and

everything that needs to be done

  • larger scale
  • watering
  • need a different kind of watering cycle

we had our squash kind of all

in the same water line

  • as the greens
  • need more water
  • didn’t like it
  • didn’t do that well
  • got some

thankful for what we got

taste good

weren’t very many

plants looked

Do you have any secrets for a different year when you were successful? Becuase we always struggle.

Do you start them inside in covered area?

I think so?

I think pumpkins like mulch

like that

real swings in temp

We get really hot days

we get really cold nights

not uncommon toe be high 40s and 50s and hard on those crops, that swing can be hard on them.



ground cover cloth to hold in heat that might help.


not here, I used to have this real compost pile

This pile the manure from the start from the cows in the winter

I would just seed my pumpkins on top of that but I think they loved the nutrients in that pile

But I think they like some nice rich soil

Three Hearts Farm Farmstand

I wanted to ask you, how big is the produce you are creating? Do you have a CSA?

We can produce quite a lot

In peak season were producing we’re probably producing boy I would say 300lbs of tomatoes 2xs a week!


we do have this last year

we had about 70-80 CSA members

produced for about 4-5 restaurants

coupld of grocery stores


  • kale
  • radishes
  • bunch radishes and bunches of kale
  • bunches of chard

An example between 5-6 cases of kale per week

There are couple of distributers

She gathers local produce and washes and processes it for typically other institutions want something more prepared to use either cook or serve

not as much as some

It’s fun!

Maybe you can hook me up with that root cellar woman!

Her name is Christina Angel

I’d be happy to give her your contact info

she’s been in the area for quite a few years now and has seen some changes in the trends and the willingness of people to work with local

working with local producers has it’s own kind of unique situation!

can’t always get tomatoes locally

not as easy to get them in the middle of winter

Do you supply that Red Tractor Pizza Place? I love them!



What are some things you’ve found that are successful  with restauratns.

you know talking to the particular restaurant that you have in mind and see if you can work out what would be helpful

different restaurant s really like tomatoes

that tends to be one of our main crops for restaurants

I would

talk to specifically

go talk to them

Maybe take some of your produce in so they can see what it is.

Sometimes people have to taste it before they’re willing to switch over to make that commitment

We have one particular restaurant and he says you just provide x of amount of dollars worth of produce a week, I will take it  and cook with it!

and that’s wonderful because if things that are really available and doing well at that time! It gives us a bit of flexibility. 

Which is helpful because things don’t always ripen at the same time each year. 

I would also suggest going to a farmers market

get a booth at a farmers market.

It gives you a sense for what is happening with other farms in your area and a feel for pricing in your area as well.


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Now Let’s Get to the Root of Things!

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

I have a hard time and going out and starting the pump because sometimes it


I can totally relate and Richard Wiswall talked about how water can triple your production because that’s essential.

What is your favorite activity to do in the garden?

I love picking tomatoes

thats one of my favorite

I get to sample

Im big on cherry tomatoes.

I like having my children work in the garden, I like having my children in the garden so they can sample. 

My kids have been bugging me, when the snack buzzer goes off, we were bringing them purple tongue beans, carrots, Mike bought them 2 boxes of local apples. Those kids love healthy food, they have a fruit and snack bar at lunch every day. They love veggies and fruit! They’re really trying to get this Farm to school movement growing. They’re definitely trying!

What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?

I had a friend years ago, she was an a amazing gardener, she said don’t plant more then what you can take care of. It’s really hard to do!


well spoken

Yeah we get that spring fever and in the spring you put it in and you think you have this brown space too. And what you were saying in the beginning about watering, more watering you have to do in the summer. 

spading Fork 3 hearts Farm

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.

So, probably one of my favorite tools is the little strip hoe good for my body, don’t have to bend down so much but If I had to move and could only take one tool 

I would take a spading fork, it’s just easier to work the ground with that.

What’s a spading fork like a broad fork?

Not quite

A broad fork is bigger and more heavy duty

smaller fork

like a shovel

lot of areas that have quack grass


  • looks like a pitch fork
  • you can stand on it like a shovel
  • shorter then a shovel


You tend to

  • spade the ground
  • step in and losses the dirt
  • like a shovel will
  • dirt will go through

quack grass will pull up those long roots and you can grab them out better

A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?


one of the things we really love

take onions

  • chop them and
  • saute them
  • with olive oil and salt and pepper so they are kind of caramelized


similar with onions

they call it onionata!

tomatoes with a little olive oil and vinegar

  • pepper
  • fresh basil

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

4SeasonHarvestI have some books

Eliot Coleman’s book

Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long

New Organic Grower Eliot Coleman

New Organic Grower

text reading that

Reading a book called


Miraculous Abundance: One Quarter Acre, Two French Farmers, and Enough Food to Feed the World 

 Perrine and Charles Hervé-Gruyer 

in france

really enjoyed their work

lots of books

Organic Farmer's Business Handbook

Richard Wiswalls

The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook: A Complete Guide to Managing Finances, Crops, and Staff – and Making a Profit

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?

I think on many many organizations which have really good causes they have wonderful people working for them the one thing I would say would really help a lot of Americans especially in the western world is just for people to just do some of their own gardening!

  • start small with something you think you can grow
  • learn how to take hour little spot of soil!
  • Grow some of your own food!
  • Share with your family and neighbors!

how to have dinners together with food you have grown yourself

really connecting to the land in more ways then we live

weher you live you are feeing the land and the land feeds you it helps

we could talk for probably house

if more people tried to have their own little garden in a container you know

trying to ask what grows well in this area

slug got into the lettuce

connecting people to their land

  • resources they have
  • do with the water
  • what they do with garbage

That’s part of why I have my little windowsill garden is to see what people can grow. Many of my listeners are in cities I mean I suppose there are lots of people in cities. Urban gardening is popular on my show. I mean IDK, google analytics says most people are on my website for like 90 seconds so what they are doing?  Last year we had a windowsill garden for my guinea pig last year.

How do we connect with you?

Thanks for visiting and asking good questions.  If people would like to go to the website there’s ways to connect with us there.

Happy to meet with or visit with people.



Native relationship tradition for the relationship to have a heart. You have a heart, I have a heart and the relationship has a heart so it’s 

3 hearts of the relationship

We are growing produce and we have members and friends who support us who share our produce

that relationship has heart for the farm.

Three Hearts Farm logo

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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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