By Jessianne Wright EBS Contributor

BOZEMAN – Wintertime gets long, looking at long-distance tomatoes and heavily packaged lettuce in the grocery store. One of the true hallmarks of summer in Montana is the sudden ability to find fresh, in-season produce in a place where the growing season is so short, all the more augmented by cool spring weather, freezing nights and rain and snow. But, spring showers bring May flowers, as they say, and after the flowers come summer vegetable shares.

A community supported agriculture, or CSA, membership is a great way to get fresh produce and support local farmers. A CSA operates as a mutually beneficial relationship between farms and consumers, where consumers pay upfront for a share of produce grown on the farm. The format of each CSA varies, but usually consists of weekly delivery or pickup of seasonal produce that includes salad greens, cooking greens, root crops and other vegetables.

“Fresh produce from your local grower tastes way better than produce from anywhere else,” said Matt Rothschiller, who owns and operates Gallatin Valley Botanical with his wife, Jacy.

“You’re supporting a local farmer in Montana,” Rothschiller said. “We don’t have the luxury of growing all year round. My wife and I depend on CSA for late-winter, early-spring cash flow in order to farm in Gallatin Valley.”

One of the ways many small-acreage farmers work around the Montana growing season is by utilizing greenhouses, which allow for earlier and possibly more varied plantings, as well as storage facilities that extend the life of produce for consumption during the colder months when plants aren’t producing as much. Specifically, greenhouses allow local CSA growers to start selling harvest by early to mid-June in a typical season.

Gallatin Valley Botanical, which moved to Bozeman from nearby Manhattan in 2008 and operates on land near Rocky Creek Farm east of Bozeman, manages over 10,000 square feet of greenhouse space in addition to cultivating approximately 20 acres of land.

Like Gallatin Valley Botanical, Strike Farms also manages greenhouse space in order to plant earlier and jumpstart the growing season. Strike Farms owner Dylan Strike recently purchased land to accompany two land leases, which has expanded his operation to encompass 20 acres of tilled ground and six greenhouses. Strike expects to produce 300,000 pounds of food this year.

“It is extremely gratifying to feed my community, and to keep agriculture alive despite the rapid development we’re seeing,” he said. “It is also fun, and important, to show our community members that it is possible to have fresh, organic, local food available year round, despite our short frost-free growing season.”

The Gallatin Valley is home to a number of small-acreage farmers. Below is a list of several that deliver directly to Big Sky.

Gallatin Valley Botanical

Initially, Gallatin Valley Botanical just sold produce to area restaurants; however, in 2005 the Rothschillers started offering CSA shares as well. This year, they will be able to supply 215 families through CSA memberships and are continuing to sell to a number of local restaurants, including BYWOM, Lotus Pad and Bucks T-4. Gallatin Valley Botanical is a certified organic farm and offers bouquet flowers as well as produce to include salad greens, chard, kale, Brussel sprouts, tomatoes, squash and eggplant. Their products are also available at the Hungry Moose Market & Deli or weekly at the farm in Bozeman. gallatinvalleybotanical.com

Strike Farms

Located in Bozeman and certified organic, Strike Farms will be offering CSA subscriptions to Big Sky for the first time this year. As a part of an overall expansion, Strike intends to triple his produce output this year as compared with last year’s harvest, and will be offering, among other products, salad greens, onions, carrots, beets and zucchini. In addition to CSA shares delivered weekly, Strike Farms plans to sell products at Roxy’s Market and Deli as well as Hungry Moose. Grab-and-go options will be sold at the Big Sky Farmers’ Market beginning June 24, and will include flowers, cherry tomatoes and bunched carrots. strikefarms.com

Harvest House Farm

Harvest House Farm is located off of Axtell Anceny Road, just off Highway 191 north of Gallatin Gateway. It is owned and operated by Lori Davis and Big Sky residents have access to approximately 150 varieties of vegetables, greens and herbs that will last approximately 20 weeks. Harvest House will also have a booth at the Big Sky Farmers’ Market and a farm stand each Thursday at Axtell Bridge Fishing Access on the corner of Highway 191 and Axtell Anceny Road. harvesthousefarm.blogspot.com