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198. Three Fiddles Farm | Bozeman Farmer’s Market | Matthew Broughton
6th November 2017 • GREEN Organic Garden Podcast • Jackie Marie Beyer
00:00:00 01:01:13

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sorry everyone about the sound but I felt that Matthew dropped so many valuable golden seeds I couldn’t not share.

I’m super excited to introduce my featured guest Matthew Broughton from 3 Fiddles Farm.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I guess since this is farm related I’ll give you some history of myself and our farm. In our pre interview you asked me how old I was. I am 4 days away from being 44. Being a farmer is a relatively new career for me.

I came to farming 9 years ago.

My background, is I am the son of a marine that traveled around the US and Europe for most of my childhood without having a home.

When my dad left the marine corps we came to Montana

Went to MSU and studied biological sciences and I got a job after graduation as a research associate  studying

organic cropping systems

organic pesticides

I had never grown a vegetable for food and I had never really had a garden

then I met my wife, when we met she was already in 2007 a professional farmer.

We were married in 2008.

I promptly became an organic farmer

Was your dad from Montana?

My family came to Montana

in the early 1980s late 1970s on a vacation

when he was a young man in the 1960s maybe 50s he came here before he  went into the Marine Corps to become a cowboy. Back then Montana had a lot of Cowboys, instead of trucks and 4 wheelers.

Worked in timber and also worked in Jackson hole

infected with the west

Louis LaMore novels

he had this idealized dream of what Montana was

when he retired from the Marine Corps he bought a little ranchette in the mountains and that’s how we ended up here.

In late ‘80s

move I went to university and studied organic ag.

I went to grad school at MSU and was considering a PHD program but the majority of the places that were applicable for my field of students which was mechanical pesticides

none were in the mountains

Kansas State and Purdue and places where the mountains were badly erased by the glaciers. Decided not to go on and pursue a phD and stayed in Bozeman

I’m a musician

started playing with the Bridger Street boys

The band had enough momentum and business

didn’t leave Bozeman

the short version

how I came to be in Bozeman and how I started farming.

Then is your first experience on your wife’s farm?

My first experience was the first season on our farm

she worked for a big organic farm

when we got married she decided she wanted to be her own boss

started our farm in the first year of our marriage.

We were skeptical of how wise it was to start a business when you’re starting a marriage but my wife and I we work well together.  We powered through the learning curve of her husband being her intern.

I did not know the difference between shell peas, snow peas, snap peas, and beans when we first started.

I grew up in a family that did not have a very intense food culture. We were very much average American food consumers. It was a very enlightening experience who grew up in Minnesota with a mom who was an adamant organic gardener. Her family practiced food preservation and year round  garden food consumption

My family was a weekly grocery shopper

It was a very different experience for me

food culture

I was the ignorant

along for the ride

Now 9 years later, I am an extremely ardent and passionate organic farmer.

Practice homestead arts year round food consumption from our farm

enlightening experience and stuff gain a land connection

You have this degree in biology?

I went to graduate school for etymology but studying big ag not small organic

organic wheat storage and also worked in sugar beet production

Trying to develop organic pesticides in those industries. When I worked at the University we grew plants in a greenhouse but we were growing

pesticidal plants.

Do you think about going back and becoming a teacher?

You know my wife and I have long term plans of taking our farming technique and transitioning it into education. W’ere practicing I guess its own little discipline

stick landscape and soil management

Native cover cropping

nutrient cycle management

that is very much not inline what contemporary organic industry is practicing.

You seem to have a knowledge base, a very scientific background, and you know what it’s like to teach and you’ve been a student of those practices and then you’ve gone out on your own and done this other project with your wife and you seem uniquely positioned to teach this well.

I’ve heard a lot of people talk about going to school and learning what is very different then best practices especially wanting to get your PhD at some point to stay in Montana

Tell us about something that grew well this year.

We’re just in the start of the growing season, just transitioning from spring into our cool season.

It could be from last season or something that grew well this spring like peas…

things that grow well for us on our farm

focus of our production system


head lettuce

we also grow lots of crops in our greenhouse

tomatoes and peppers

the tomatoes and peppers are the mean stay of our year round diet

vitamin c consumption for our family and something we put a lot of focus.

You grow those year round in the rocky mountains in Bozeman.

not getting food from out garden but we are eating it all year round.

grow in a short intense season here in the rocking mountains

drying, canning, fermenting and

freezing we are able to eat, my family consumes a year round diet of vegetables and meat off of our farm.

The property is 13 acres

we have a little over 2 acres for vegetables

the raining property


2 beef cows

extensive shelter

various berry

service berry and choke cherry

about 6 acres of grass for grazing

3 acres of trees and brush and berry bushes

Awesome, that sounds lovely but 2 acres sounds like a lot of work for 2 people.

We used to have interns and volunteers and it was too complex of an issue

did some business analysis of effort and reward and decided to change our business model

no outside

we don’t live at our farm

live 12 miles away from our farm

commuting to and from the farm

weather events

coordinating schedules

unsustainable for us to have people work for us

we didn’t change our production scale

we changed our techniques

it is challenging

we’re tillable

15,000 lbs of fresh produce per year

You sell your produce at the farmer’s market

85% of our production is sold across the table at farmer’s market

remaining 15% is for sale is to Red Tractor Pizza

sell a bunch of vegetables

meatball or steak pizza

gamut of vegetables…

I had a farm man pizza! It was so good.

What’s the biggest challenge to the two of you doing it by yourselves?

At this point in farming

9th season

my wife’s 11th season

the biggest challenge


financially and psychologically is marketing

To growing food the challenges of farming in Montana while difficult

it’s pretty predictable

your gonna have

  • bad weather
  • bugs
  • weeds

that’s to be expected

when you harvest a bountiful amount of food and needs to be sold immediately and your beholden to the whim of the customer and the whim of the market

If you harvest 200 heads of lettuce and there are only 100 people buying lettuces

I know that seems to be the problem with us either like I was thinking I should take the swiss chard to the market but I didn’t go. You seem to be making it,you show up at the farmer’s market.

So I think what one of the ways we address that challenge of marketing

So over the last nine market seasons there have been lots and lots of opportunities to interact with customers.

When I first started farming and selling I didn’t have this aggressive eco warrior attitude about things.

most people’s that are shoppers are not militant leftists

it became an important part or our marketing key to make the

happy healthy client.

food is great and makes you happy to eat it and it’s so healthy for you

Stop with the message why it’s important to grow

break out of the corporate food system….

My take on things, I have many people who consider environmental and health problems deeply it’s very easy to become passionate and a zealot of what’s going on

as a business owner and as a marketing director for our little business

rapidly became obvious

marketing can’t be intertwined with the activist aspect of what we’re doing because it’s very easy to turn customers away from you by being overly passionate about the activist thing.

I run into that all the time… getting myself in trouble and running my mouth off, especially thinking everyone thinks like I do, and I think this is great for people to know

That’s the extent of our listening online

pretty low-key

tells people where we are and what we grow

basic biographical facts about the farm

considered trying to take the modern approach

extra effort

Facebook saw that as the exposure for a challenge in business when we considering it with the friends of planet natural organic gardening stores

He told me a tale of woe because people were trolling him

kinds of time to manage his Facebook

employees help him

sounded like a rabbit hole we didn’t want to go down as business owners since we were doing direct marketing

didn’t see the digital thing as an important step so we consciously chose not to embrace the digital media.

I think people will be excited to hear that too that don’t want to be digital and that there are other options out there

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

We’ve been doing varietal trials the whole time at our garden

source our seeds from fabulous

seed purveyors

primarily taste evaluation sometimes we value our crop on productivity but since we are the primary consumers of our food flavor is of upmost concern to us

We trial probably 100 varieties of tomatoes

Every kind of pea and bean that’s available.

all kinds of carrots and beets and cabbage seeds

only have a couple new trials this year

we’re not really trying too many varieties.

One thing we are doing is attempting to grow sweet potatoes

You are I love sweet potatoes.

They are vining nicely right now

I just just acquired a fabulous digging fork industrial grade 2 handled digging fork

challenge of digging

we won’t know till we get close to the fall frost


cold cycles at the start of the spring

our spring crops

our early turnips and spinach

the things we fill the table with at the start of the market season

all bolted.

who get seeds?

most of our seeds are sourced from Baker Creek Heirloom

Fine mowing

nickel seeds

most of them

mainly the smaller

Tell me about something that didn’t work so well this season.

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

Even things that make us uncomfortable we enjoy

We use thistles to mine those minerals. There’s a deep layer of soil and minterals below your crops..

thistles very important for our nutrient cycle system

one of the things that’s unique about our farm

the soil is extremely deep

beaver meadow

parts of our landscape.

when you get into mountain valleys in Montana there are areas that are very flat

every time a beaver makes a dam

mountain builds up the silt

when the water stops flowering the beaver moves

continues to block the water

those ponds and collections of silt

the top soil

somebody dug a pond


dug a 20foot deep hole