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169. Flathead Farmworks | April & Kurt Vomfell | Kalispell, MT
14th April 2017 • GREEN Organic Garden Podcast • Jackie Marie Beyer
00:00:00 00:39:57

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Today I have 2 guests here fromFlathead Farmworks in Kalispell close to me! Welcome April and Kurt! I am sorry about the sound folks. I did my best to play with the levels and make it as good as possible but I felt this couple added enough inspiration and knowledge it was worth it to keep the file.

ChickenKurt

It says on your Flathead Farmworks Facebook page that you grow vegetables, herbs and flowers using organic methods, and making the most of the northwest Montana climate. And that you believe that fresh, local ingredients result in delicious food.

Do you want to tell us more about your farm and what yo’ve got going on down there?

Flathead Farmworks

Neither of us from NW Montana,

We both really like the area and we both like to garden, doing it for fun.

Both like to cook in restaurants over the years.

Thought about doing that as a side business.

whole food fresh and local ingredients. It’s really cool how people in this area are into that lately. Something that is becoming important to people. We are in downtown Kalispell, right in the middle on a big city lot.

Trend of Local fresh food movement!

Kurt is a Landscape architect, well tell you about how that influences gardening for him. 

I have my office here in Kalispell.

Gardening and landscape architect, and design have always gone hand in hand for me.

Tell me about your first gardening experience?

Kurt: I grew up in Frasier MI, suburb north of Detroit. My Parents growing up had a garden. My dad was a big DIY-er so just helping them around the garden kind of inspired me. 

April: I grew up in Eastern Washington. Grew up we lived almost by the Canadian Border. My parents did this back to the land thing which was kind of hards. 

I was helping in the garden, till I was like 2 or 3? I was good at weeding the carrots because I had tiny little hands and lots of patience …

Seed Fair Carrot Seed Tape

Well that’s good because my listeners know I hate carrots because they are so small. Last year I did go to this seed fair where they made this seed tape and you just took strips of newspaper and a flour and water paste and stuck the carrot seeds to it and then could just plant the newspaper strips all evenly spaced. My solution has always been get the grandkids to do it. Maybe you were someone’s grandkid then?

How did you learn how to garden organically?

Basically, yeah, I think so, a lot of it was self taught, we were talking early about organic gardening and how we got into organic gardening

  • with our parents gardening there wasn’t really another option,  that was what you do.
  • maybe there were
  • pesticides were expensive or they didn’t have access to those. 

I like that.

Tell listeners about your place Flathead Farmworks

Our lot is a half acre….

originally started out all lawn in the backyard, over the last 3 years here. started by figuring out a big chunk in the middle.

  • 42×40 in the middle converted that into a garden
  • next year a little bit more
  • last year, we tore out – we cleared a spot for a green house
  • added a chicken coop
  • cleared some more spots for flower

more then a 1/3 of our space is growing space. Works out to about 4000 square feet…

Flathead Farmworks

So you’re living in a lot outside of Kalispell? There’s a house?

it’s all one place…

I have my design practice that I work out of my house. 

the mini-farm! That’s what I call our place.

  • micro farm
  • the back 40 we joke :~)

Tell us about something that grew well this year.

Tomatoes and cucumbers

It seemed like for everybody else this year they were kind of tough, but with the greenhouse. I built a 32 x 40 foot wide high tunnel/hoop house type structure.

It’s about half full of tomatoes and cucumbers that really produced quite a bit.

Last year, 2015 it got hot really quickly, so we had tomatoes the end of June.

This year the ones outside the greenhouse 

  • took forever
  • they were slow
  • took forever to ripen…

Now are you guys selling at the Farmer’s Market or the Grocery Store or to a CSA or what? How’s your system working?

  • We are selling mainly to restaurants.
  • local businesses that want a flower share
  • don’t have time to administer to farmer’s markets and CSA’s
  • don’t have enough product

We both have a full time job or business. Flathead Farmwoks has to be it as simple as it can. It supplies one local restaurant predominantly.

They pretty much take everything  we have to offer we buy…

OK, so I love this business model, and how did you find that one restaurant? Did you know someone there, or did you call a bunch or how did you find that connection?

Funny you ask that…

It’s where we had our first lunch date … our very first date!

That’s funny the 2 questions I usually ask most couples how did you meet and what do you make for dinner?

 After we got married, I decided to do my landscaping business… income is a little….

when I first started my design business I needed some extra money on the side… I picked up some side jobs… then I became friends with the owner … through working there as a cook  … his appreciation for good fresh food

  • surplus produce the first summer from the garden
  • evolved from that
  • selling more produce to him
  • summer 2016 the first big year
  • full season of selling farm…

You said you started working there waiting tables? Cooking?

Cooking… just to make make a little extra money on the side and he turned out to be a good guy and he buys a lot of our produce.

So are there any tips you would give someone starting out to sell to a restaurant? Definitely say this don’t say that?

I think for us, we’re not real big

  • we don’t like to over promise….
  • not to over commit,
  • farming’s unpredictable…
  • push

make sure

How does that work? How does he know what to order to the regular market how does he know what you are going to provide?

That’s the hardest thing about having a small operation …

I think this is going to be inspiring to new people who want to try to just find one restaurant.

It really takes finding a chef that doesn’t mind the unpredictability

  • ordering what you bring in
  • if they order from different purveyors and have different order sheets and modifying things
  • they don’t have the time to work with the unpredictability
  • I have this and I don’t have this

Flathead Farmworks Flowers and Chickens

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

We also grow flowers…. that was kind of  new thing this year, we’ve done the vegetable garden, cut flowers to sell, big experiment, trying all different kinds of things…

One thing we would definitely not do again is we put some dahlias in the greenhouse.

  • they for the space we have and the quantity we were able to grow
  • wasn’t efficient
  • pests
  • ear wig year for everyone
  • powdery mildew

In the greenhouse harder to control or get in hand

things can happen quickly

Now we know some things now to prepare better for  or prevent before they happen.

  • well for the ear wigs for instance I learned the later in the season. I dind’t realise the flowers were gonna be damage by them,
  • you can put down some natural pest control early on when they’re really small, rather then once they are already doing damage… it’s harder to get a handle on it then,
  • do traps, get the live ones once they’re there

An ounce of prevention is better then a lb of cure is true

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Let’s Get to the Root of Things!

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

There’s always weeding!

APRIL: Well’s that’s funny Kurt was like there’s weeding, but I actually kind of enjoy weeding, under the right circumstances, I can clear an entire bed and be out there for 3 hours and be ok with it because I go into my weeding mode.  We have different opinions

I think that’s good to complement each other. I think a lot of my guests say they like that meditative state to weeding as long as it doesn’t get out of hand. 

Kurt: Harvesting potatoes is quite a bit of work sometimes.

especially if it gets out of hand

some things we don’t sell, don’t have any machinery for harvesting other then a rototiller for soil obviously

everything’s done by hand

Potatoes we don’t really sell, keep those…

Onions that are high labor as far as planting we sell some of those but not a lot

  • sell mostly things that are fresh off the vine and have a fruit
  • works well for us tomatoes, cucumbers…

I think people are feeling a little relief, maybe I don’t have to try to grow all those things, I don’t know how to grow all those things yet, I can start with these easier simpler tasks.

What is your favorite activity to do in the garden?

If it has to be related to still getting something accomplished – I enjoy raking that freshly tilled soil … That’s his form of meditation… raking it all perfectly flat.

Nice! It doesn’t have to be task related or accomplish-related. Lots of people say enjoying the garden, drinking coffee… taking pictures

April: I think my favorite I would call it puttering, see what’s growing, see what;s flowering… tasting.. poking. maybe pull a weed...

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