By Matt Rothschiller
Southwest Montana is not the easiest place
to be a produce farmer. In spring, just when a
patch of dirt appears, another heavy snowfall
blankets our fields. Our beautiful summers
are short, and fall can come early. Fortunately,
working in the greenhouses and cold frames
lets us get our hands in the dirt even during
cold spells, keeping us sane with seeding,
weeding, and even providing an early spring
harvest of tasty cold hardy greens and root
crops. The cold weather keeps them sweet!
At Gallatin Valley Botanical, we start harvesting
our November seeding of cold hardy
spinach from our cold frames in mid March,
and radishes, turnips, Mesclun, chard and kale
are ready in April and May from winter seeding.
Find all of these crops, plus lettuce heads,
herbs, green onions and green garlic, asparagus,
rhubarb, broccoli and cabbages at farmers
markets in early June. Beets and carrots come
on next, but because the last spring frosts are
in late May, tomatoes, basil, summer squash,
and other field grown warm weather crops
aren’t available until late June. Corn, peppers,
and eggplant are ready in July and August,
and then it’s back to the other side of summer’s
cool weather crops: Brussels sprouts, winter
squash, potatoes, onion and cabbage.
Kale, chard, spinach, and other cold hardy
greens are available almost year round in
Montana. When we eat them in abundance,
we embody their hardiness and vitality. Use
greens in salads. Try a chiffonade (cutting the
greens into strips) of kale, sauté as a side dish,
or add to omelets or pastas. Don’t be surprised
if kids like them!
Where to find local food:
Before the local Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs)
farms start their season in early June or the summer farmers
markets open up, early season crops can be found at select local
restaurants and groceries and at online farmers markets.
Local food online:
fielddayfarms.com and bigsky.luluslocalfood.com both offer
farm fresh produce, meats, bread, and dairy and deliver year
round to Bozeman, Big Sky, Harrison, Livingston and West
Yellowstone. These online markets are easy to shop and offer
a customized selection for the consumer. For us farmers, they
provide a flexible market for the harvests that our climate will
allow, especially in the spring.
Most small communities have farmers’ markets if there are
farmers in the vicinity. They offer a great social scene with
music, food, and crafts, and are the best way to get in touch
with the many small farms of Southwest Montana whose only
outlet is their local market.
Area farmers’ markets opened this year on Wednesday evening,
June 1 in Livingston, Tuesday evening June 7 at Bogert Farmers’
Market in Bozeman, Saturday morning June 11 at the Ennis
Farmers’ Market, and Saturday morning June 18 at the Bozeman
More markets opened up in July when summer’s
bounty really provides: Wednesday evenings in Big Sky
and Manhattan, Saturday mornings in Belgrade, and Saturday
mornings in Livingston. Most of these markets run
through September. After that, the only farmers’ market
around is the Bozeman Winter Farmers Market, biweekly
at the Emerson Cultural Center from October through
April. Dillon, Boulder, Twin Bridges and Virginia City all
have summer markets, as well.
At least seven CSAs offer produce to Bozeman, and at
least two deliver to Big Sky, Livingston and West Yellowstone.
Check online at localharvest.org, a farm search
engine with details of local CSA farms, and be sure to talk
directly with the farmers about production methods and
At Gallatin Valley Botanical, members pay up front or
monthly to receive a weekly supply of our best vegetables
that are in season for 18 weeks. We promise to grow our
produce well, in a healthy manner, and to provide an abundance
for our members to share with friends and families.