I know you are going to love her because she was our Crossfit gardener of the year in 2015! And you have taught me so much! I love all that you do and your delicious food and what you do! And she’s gonna share their new LVFarm Academy
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am Mandy Gerth! Farmer and co-owner of Lower Valley Farm in Kalispell, MT
my husband Jay and I are are going in our 7th year of full time farming. We run, I think we’re at about
4 acres of production
primarily sell through a CSA
community supported ag
separate rotation then intensive
I think that is new since I last talked to you.
overview of the farm!
We also have 3 school-age children 7,9,11 they have grown up on the farm very literally
really helped make this farm go
under all of that is our community, we also couldn’t do this without our awesome customer base!
I could talk about the farm forever!
OK, I think, what we want to hear about what’s been going on and how does your journey go from gardeners to farmers.
Back to the beginning?
We started out thinking we would be running livestock
vegetable operation would be what would help us make money while we get a livestock operation going.
Before the beginning ~ what made us want to do this
our family had a life changing experience
We volunteered on farms a lot! We loved being a part of our farm community in that way
We were doing a raw milk share
you can do in Indiana but not in Montana
super local food
But we were buying farm pastured eggs
slowly with each investment we made in lifestyle changes in our food
Our young children’s health changing dramatically
one of our children had some serious sensory issues
We got in really deep and we were spending almost all of our money on food
it was like we don’t have a farm because we aren’t farmers because we
don’t know how to farm
if I could go back to myself
you have no idea what you are getting into!
We have a garden we can do this!
what I would go back and tell myself
having land is not having a farm
access to land that had been in Jay’s family for 3 generations
Parents had put it in a conservation easement
It was just a conventional hayfield
it’s been a steep learning curve
made that huge dive
you should farm
I was like yeah!
we can do this, if people like us don’t do this who does?
IDK maybe people with experience
IDK if JM’s book was out yet? I’ll go back and look and see
in Curtis Stone, I’m not sure his book was out yet, we were watching lots of stuff on youtube then, watching tons of things
go for it
that first year we did everything by hand 1/4 acre
That’s what I feel like, when I look at Mike’s mini-farm it seems huge but then compared to what I saw at your place on the farm tour! I’m like whoa!
It’s a lot but what makes it doable is the 2nd year we invested in the BCS tractor and that was amazing!
when I called to make that order he was like oh you must have read the book.
started out there with JM’s template
since then we’ve adapted it to what works here for us, we’re in a similar climate to him but I think our weather is a little more severe. We’re just North of Flathead of lake and we have some really intense wind so we have to adapt.
And with all that wind, you end up with lots of erosion you have to worry about? Right?
The problem where we keep the soil covered is we have invested in a tremendous amount of sandbags. The first ones were not the ones.
Now we get them from
Farmers Friend LLC lots of sandbags I’ve seen on other hand poof!
What are the sandbags for? Holding down plastic?
So our row cover we use
2xs as many sandbags
on the south as we do on the northside
we cover the sandbags for row cover
We’re wind pros now!
Well that can be trouble also like your high tunnels.
Jays got that really dialed in, he take’s care of taking care of our infrastucture need extra reinforcement.
it is amazing! we have a lot of snow here, right?!
our large tunnels they’re 35 feet wide by 100 feet long. Those stay up over the winter
We also have small caterpillar tunnels those come down
I think there are six
12 foot wide by 100 foot long
two full size that stay up over winter.
When we get heavy we snow, then we go out and bang the snow off the tunnels so they don’t collapse.
Good thinking, I think Mike was just so surprised last year.
A family with small children
first we did 1/4 acre
then the second year went up to one acre which is a big jump able to do that because of the BCS tractor
Then the third year we went up to 1 1/2 acres
1/2 an acre were non intensive crops
potatoes we kept in a different rotation then the intensive crops
That year we bought a 4 wheel tractor
all of our weeding is done by hand
We are just using the tractor for all of our intensive crops
4 wheel tractor is complete different production system for the little bit of storage crops we do for our CSA customers.
slowly adapted over the years
we had our one full time employee and now we have 5 wonderful part time people who work with us who work with us May-October.
It’s not just Jay and I working with us.
We have our full time person Mon-Friday and she’s here April – Oct
our one full time person she’s trained to do lots of things! She’s incredibly super intelligent. She can do everything! And she’s a quick learner!
part time people trained to do a few things
monday and wednesday those are the days we have our part time field work people come in
tues and thurs
harvest days we have our packshed crew there.
On Friday we go for early out for the crew.
pack for market
field, harvest, packshed
hopefully they can go at 1pm
leave us to do paper work office work done from 1-5pm.
don’t use any interns
no interns we only use paid employees
We have a young family so we are attempting to keep our life structured for your children. You know that a farm can swallow all your time
What’s the difference between employees?
So we have one person who can do all of those jobs who is with us m-f full time
mon-wed field workers
We train how to
We’ve been really fortunate to find great people
I’ve heard so many horror stories about hiring
put an ad out on
Usually get about 20 applications for every job that we post
questions for men, we have a primarily female crew here
everyone coming into our team listening to woman
somebody doing field work
call their references
Then we do a full day paid workday interview
WE usually know right away if they are a good fit for our crew. If they are we hire them at the end of the day
That’s the process
It’s always in the shade
it is wet that can be uncomfortable
On a hot sunny Montana day that could be nice.
may is a little uncomfortable
Oct is miserable and really cold!
That’s a downside pack shed work
fun place to be they’ve got the radio going
In the season May it’s the garden season summer coming. In Montana, people don’t understand you get off of work you get like an extra day after work, the days are so long to go to the lake after work! It’s like crazy summer!
third position you ask about
our full time