BELT - Organic and sustainable - the foundation of Ever Westward Farm.
Nestled along Little Belt Creek on 10 acres of land sits a white farmhouse, two greenhouses and plenty of farm animals.
Tristan and Jori Bradford are innovators in Central Montana for organic and sustainable farming.
“We thought we'd start going that direction and it's completely broadened the horizons for us and to what we're doing with sustainable and regenerative farming approaches,” said Tristan.
It’s a two-person show at Ever Westward Farm.
Tristan has a background in horticulture. His day job is with IND Hemp in Fort Benton.
Two years ago, he and his wife Jori ventured into greenhouse gardening.
Gardeners by hobby, the array of plants grew, and braving Montana winters became a challenge.
The two got the idea about farming in a greenhouse from a farmer in Nebraska.
Taking similar plans, they began on a journey for a healthier life.
The farm is small, but mighty. With more than 50 species of produce and herbs, outside of the greenhouse the farm flourishes.
Raising pasture-grazed turkey, fowl, waterfowl, and hogs. It’s no Charlotte’s Web tale. Their pigs are native to New Zealand, Kunekune.
They sure are cute, not all are for Christmas ham, they raise well for pets.
“They are pasture raised. They don't get quite as big as your typical land raised pigs. There are large pigs, so they produce quite a bit of fat. And they're perfect for the Montana winters,” explained Jori Bradford.
Heading back inside the geothermal greenhouse, it’s easy to find a plant that you have probably never seen before.
Banana, okra, lemon grass, and even eggplant, yes, eggplant. It takes a lot of care to grow the produce.
For the Bradfords, trial and error has been a blessing and a curse, finding out what grows well and what doesn’t, while also getting the greenhouse to the correct temperature and humidity.
The buildings run on a fan system that lets in warm and cold air through underground ventilation.
Once the two got the recipe down, growing produce was practically a breeze.
“We've been able to protect plants. We were able to have perennials, perennials that you wouldn't normally ever be able to grow in Montana, have all kinds of crazy things like lemongrass, that you just wouldn't really be able to grow in this zone.” Tristan noted.
With any sort of farming, pest control is a major step in ensuring that the final product makes it to harvest.
Ever Westward Farm and Tristan’s expertise with alternative methods has allowed for natural pest control methods by using hemp and tobacco plants.
Nicotine is a natural pesticide, and the plants attract pests to feed on its leaves instead of other fruits and vegetables.
“It’s about having control,” Tristan said, “and knowing that basically everything in our fridge and freezer more or less came from here.”
In farming today, being organic gets a bad rap from some.
The Bradfords are working on destigmatizing the trade, saying that there is more to farming than what much of the economy produces in Montana.
The two highly respect the farmers who stick to traditional methods.
Their goal is to educate others on how anyone can adopt these methods and potentially add a couple greenhouses to an underproducing corner of a wheat or barley field.
“You're just not going to get the yields; that there's a lot more work involved with it. I can't really disagree maybe with that, but for me, I find the work to be more rewarding.”
Jori oversees the day-to-day husbandry of the farm.
She checks on the animals, works in the garden, and runs a delivery service into Great Falls that she markets on social media.
“I deliver once a week to Great Falls. I post on Mondays what produce and what meat we have available if we have any meat available at the time. It's a really good way to get seasonal produce and seasonal products from the farm right to your table.” She shared.
The goal is to create a farm-to-table subscription box that customers can pay weekly for and get produce that adds color to a diet.
Farming remains unpredictable. This business will remain unpredictable in how the market picks up for the two.
They have major goals with their farm, hoping to host seasonal activities for kids, hosting bands, beer gardens, and educational events that allow the public to learn how to butcher animals.
Although the foundation of the farm lies in being organic and sustainable, education is also high-priority.
Jori noted, “I guess you could say we're first-generation farmers. It's been a very new and eye-opening experience for us, but we're enjoying every minute of it, and it's been very rewarding.”
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