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215. Three Hearts Farm | Rachel Hicks | Bozeman MT
26th February 2018 • GREEN Organic Garden Podcast • Jackie Marie Beyer
00:00:00 01:04:25

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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




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