2018 Farm Fresh Pitchfest Business Spotlight: Kavita Bay, Rivulet Apiaries & Hindu Hillbilly Farms

On Thursday, February 1st, CFAC will host the 2nd Annual Farm Fresh Pitchfest, a live event where local farmers and food business owners pitch their entrepreneurial projects to a live audience of community members who want to meet their farmers and invest in local food. This year’s event will be held at Burns St. Bistro, and all are welcome to come mingle, enjoy locally-sourced hors d’oeuvres, and if the pitches compel you – make an investment of anywhere between $25-$10,000 toward a 0% interest Kiva loan.

We’re shining a spotlight on all four entrepreneurs who will make their Farm Fresh pitches at Pitchfest. This week, we feature Kavita Bay of Rivulet Apiaries & Hindu Hillbilly Farms.

Kavita photo 4 with Justin

Bay and her husband Justin have been in business since 2009, maintaining between 180-190 bee hives and producing honey, skincare products and candles. Now they are ready to expand their operation.

“Right now we can only direct sale our products at farmers’ markets,” said Bay. “In order to wholesale our honey, we need to have our honey house certified as a food processing facility. When our shop is complete, it will be set up to get that license.” Bay hopes the loan will help them complete the expansion project before this next season begins.

 

We talked to Bay to learn more about Rivulet Apiaries & Hindu Hilbilly Farms.

Q: Your loan will give you funding to expand your shop and allow you to access the wholesale market. Why is that an important next step for you in your business?

A: Finishing the shop part of our business – which is also value-added – is going to increase our capacity and our efficiency. That will allow us the ability to spend more time with our bees, expand the number of hives we have, and change how we manage them.  It will also make our honey more available to more people. And for us, that will result in additional funds. I hope to triple our honey sales.

Kavita photo 1 honey

Q: What motivated you to start the business?

A: It all started as a side business. I was a teacher, Justin was a contractor. As the recession hit, it was more and more part of our main income. We enjoyed the work, so we started doing more with it. It happened organically – it became most of what we did. Then, two years ago we decided to do it solely. We live a certain lifestyle anyway. We live out by Fish Creek, and grow our own food, so it just fit really well. This shift allowed us to support ourselves by doing something we loved, living a lifestyle that suited raising a family, and aligned itself with the values we hold dear.

Q: What are you most proud of in your business accomplishments so far?

A: I’m proud that we were able to make it what it is, to do it at our own pace, and to maintain our quality of life – what’s important to us – and we’ve done it all by ourselves. Beekeeping these days is a challenge. I am thankful that every year we have found a way to grow and prosper despite the obstacles we have faced. Overcoming these challenges has given me the knowledge that we have the strength and grit to make strides in this industry, for ourselves, and for our community.

Q: What would you like people to know about your business that makes it unique?

A: I feel like I now belong to this community of farmers that are doing similar things as we are. I feel like we’re stewards and that makes me feel good to be going to work every day and to be doing something that benefits someone other than myself. And, for it to be a family endeavor and to be teaching my kids Cy, 14, and Sujatha, 10, to be stewards.

Kavita photo 3 daughter with bees

Q: What’s something you’ll always remember about Cy and Sujatha in this environment of bee keeping and stewarding the land?

A: A really fond memory I have of both of them is seeing their natural curiosity play out in whatever we do. One summer, I looked and looked all over for them, and they were nowhere to be found. I finally found them laying by the hives in their bee suits just watching the bees be coming and going, watching so much happening and finding different bees with different jobs. Later, they’d be telling me “the guard bees are doing this, and bringing in this kind of pollen!” It was really neat to see them being observant and enjoying themselves and learning at the same time.

Kavita photo 5 Suja and bees

Q: What is one hope you have for the future?

A: I hope that we can continue to grow in a way that is sustainable for our family, and for the bees. There’s so much going on right now with bee health, and I feel like we’re working on a puzzle and trying to figure out the best way for them to survive, that’s good for them and their species.

Q: What else do you want people to know about Rivulet Apiaries & Hindu Hilbilly Farms?

A: Our goals are to strive for environmental sustainability in our beekeeping practices, to educate and foster understanding and appreciation of honey bees, and to live a good life and provide a good life for our community. And we want to continue doing that by example.

You can invest in Rivulet Apiaries & Hindu Hilbilly Farms by making a loan at Pitchfest, Thrusday, February 1st, from 6-8 p.m., at Burns St. Bistro. Contact info@missoulacfac.org for more information.

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CFAC’s Spring 2018 Internship: Learn New Skills, Make a Difference

Intern Blog Posting

CFAC seeks an intern to help plan and promote on-farm workshops and more in 2018.

Want to help Montana’s beginning farmers grow successful, sustainable businesses?  Want to learn new skills like how to develop new resources, plan educational opportunities, host events, and evaluate programs?  CFAC’s Spring 2018 internship could be for you! CFAC’s paid intern will assist with a range of projects, including:

  • Promoting and marketing a new statewide resource, Farm Link Montana, to farmers and ranchers and the people who work with them across the state
  • Planning, promoting, administering, and evaluating a series of workshops in Missoula on topics including farm law, land access, and business management
  • Supporting MSU Extension and small business staff across Montana in offering business planning workshops in their communities
  • Working with a range of farmers to collect reports and data from a farm equipment investment project, and designing resource guide templates for project reports
  • Planning and promoting a series of on-farm, farmer-led Field Days

Note: The intern will not be expected to lead these projects, but will have the opportunity to assist in their development and management as appropriate. This internship will provide the opportunity for an intern to assist with multiple projects.

CFAC offers a $1,000 stipend to an intern who can offer at least 10 hours/week between January and May.

To apply, email dave@farmlinkmontana.org with a resume and a note on the project(s) of greatest interest, and any additional relevant information not covered in your resume.  We will be reviewing applications on a rolling basis with a planned start date of January 29th.

 

Annie Heuscher, CFAC Program Director, Leaves a Legacy of Hard Work, Creativity, and Laughter

This week, CFAC staff, Board, and friends said goodbye to Annie Heuscher, our Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program Director. Annie came to CFAC in 2012. In 2013, she developed the Beginning Farmer and Rancher program and built a state-wide network of resources, farmers, workshops, and an online platform to connect them all.

If you know Annie, you know she’s a force to be reckoned with – resilient, innovative, and hilarious. We will miss her and wish her all our best as she discovers her next adventures.

Here’s a look back on some of Annie’s CFAC highlights:

 

Q: Why did you think it was important to work for an organization like CFAC? What motivated you?

A: I love Montana; I was born and raised here. I started out working in planning and economic development, and I really loved the connection between all of those things that CFAC represents, and I think they’re all really important – the way we use land and sustain our ag economy in Montana.

Q: What do you like best about working in this world?

A: I loved all the people I worked with. There’s amazing people farming in Montana and it’s an honor in being able to support them in doing what they do really well.

Q: Tell us about a time when you did something you never thought you’d do while you were at work.

A: Hmmm. I never thought I’d watch an ultimate Frisbee tournament and get bit by a parrot all in one day at work.

Q: What was your earliest success? 

A: Getting the first Beginning Farmer and Rancher-related grant. It was a risk-management grant for $50,000 in 2013.

Q: What is your hope for CFAC in the future?

A: To keep innovating and making a difference across the food system.

 

Annie sendoff

Some of the CFAC staff cheers to Annie (left) on her last day.

Q: Your office jams are the best. What’s your favorite song to play at work right now?

A: “Good as Hell” by Lizzo.

Q: What was one really impactful moment for you during your time at CFAC that made you think, “I made a difference.”

A: Doing our evaluations from the specialty crop mini-grants and seeing how much that small influx of funding made people feel so much more confident in being able to grow their businesses.

Q: If you could pass on a few words of advice to folks working in the world of sustainable agriculture, what would it be?

A: Be open to all of the different places where ingenuity can come from.

Q: If you could give nicknames to everyone on staff, what would they be?

A: I’m going to give out nicknames, but I’m not going to say who’s who: Sugarlips, The Handler, The Fixer, The Performer (no pressure), Fountain of Youth.

Q: What’s Montana’s biggest strength when it comes to sustainable agriculture?

A: Decades of hard work, ingenuity and perseverance.

Q: If CFAC had a mascot, what would it be?

A: A big, juicy tomato. Because they’re delicious.

Q: If you were a big, juicy tomato, what would you do all day?

A: Chill in the shade.

Q: Anything else you want to say?

A: Thanks for the wild ride.

Reciprocity Reigns in the Mission Valley

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By: Shay Farmer, Mission Valley Food Access Program Coordinator

CFAC’s work focuses on cultivating an interconnected local food system. Sometimes this path can wind between program areas of food access, beginning farmer and rancher training, and agricultural land preservation ever so subtly, reinforcing our overall programmatic impact as an organization, and offering immeasurable social impacts to boot.

In early October, CFAC’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher program leaders partnered with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) organize a week-long Armed to Farm conference, a Sustainable Agriculture training for military veterans.

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Twenty-five military veterans joined CFAC and NCAT for Armed to Farm, a week-long sustainable agriculture workshop specifically geared toward veterans in the Mission Valley.

Cora Coleman and Jeff Newton, a military family who attended the week-long conference, have also helped extensively with CFAC’s Food Access Program in the Mission Valley. And, they happen to live on seven acres of prime, unused farming land outside of Polson.

Dave Renn, Beginning Farmer Program Manager, said “the goal of the project training was in recognition of the fact that our veterans possess a lot of the skills and traits that make a successful farmer.”

“We learned so much,” Newton said about the conference. He hopes to develop a business opportunity from the knowledge he took away from the conference.

Coleman was introduced to CFAC two years ago from attending Double SNAP Dollars (DSD) incentivized self-sufficiency classes in Polson. She brought her family to learn to garden, preserve, and cook local food and to earn DSD incentives to spend on fresh and local food at the Polson Farmers Market.

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Double SNAP Dollars participants learn the basics of dehydrating and freezing in a Polson Farmers’ Market Double SNAP Dollars class this summer. Participants receive monetary incentives for attendance, which they can then spend at the farmers’ markets.

This year, our Food Access team recruited Coleman to be a part of the Double SNAP Dollar Street Team. As a DSD program customer, Coleman and other Street Team members provide valuable insight into DSD’s customer base and help promote the program within their personal networks during the summer.

As the summer winds down, Coleman has asked my family to help her family prune the many fruit trees that haven’t been tamed since the passing of her father years ago. In exchange for my husband’s help with pruning, they have offered us a goose from their flock.

The reciprocity of it all has really struck me; between professional and personal and the small part we all must play in our community, we are all re-learning skills and necessities that have sustained us for generations and prevented hunger in the past. And we’re doing it together.

Introducing CFAC’s newest team member, Annie Carlson!

Meet CFAC’s new AmeriCorps VISTA, Annie! Annie has only just started her one year volunteer tenure at CFAC, and she has already brought such a bright and positive presenIMG_4894ce to the CFAC team. Welcome Annie!

My name is Annie Carlson. I grew up in Kalispell Montana where my love for food and agriculture began. I followed that passion to Montana State University in Bozeman to study Sustainable Food and Bioenergy systems. Now that passion has lead me to Missoula to complete a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA with CFAC.

We interviewed Annie in her first week with CFAC. Read on to see what she had to say to our outlandish questions:

Krystin: What is your Myers-Briggs Personality Type?

Annie: ISFP (she had to take the online test)

KG: Why are you really passionate about food systems?

AC: I really like to grow food. My favorite activity is gardening. The magic of it is really exciting. It’s just a really nice way to spend time and get away from things, and it’s relaxing for me. I also really love cooking and sharing food with people. It’s always something that’s been big in my family: eating together and cooking together. I wish everybody could feel the way I feel about those things.

KG: How do you think the world would be better if they did?

AC: I think if everybody had the opportunity to enjoy food in all the ways it can be enjoyed, it would mean a lot of things: people have free time, people have resources to access those things. It’s important to know where food comes from and how big of a role it plays in our lives. Because even if food isn’t your passion, it’s still a major part of your life.

KG: What is your favorite vegetable to grow?

AC: OOOOOOO! I really love garlic.

KG: Why?

AC: Well, I like that it’s planted in the Fall and it sits all winter, preparing itself, and then it comes up so early in the Spring. It’s kind of wild, and I like that it has so many ways that it reproduces. So I kind of just like the plant structure in general. It’s so strong, and it leaves a lasting impact.

KG: On the earth or in your mouth?

AC: In your mouth!

KG: If you were a vegetable which one would you be?

AC: In the past I’ve answered it that I would be garlic, but I think I just have an obsession with garlic. It’s an always changing question. It’s a good reflecting question for myself, because a lot of things are changing for me right now. I’m thinking of a cold weather type. It has to be sturdy – so maybe collard green. Ready for the cold. Maybe a mixed green patch – a variety of things all in one. In a few months we’ll update everyone: “Annie is now this vegetable.” Or, you know there’s always that random volunteer vegetable that comes up in a spot where it’s not supposed to be, but it’s still in the garden, so kind of in the place where it’s supposed to be but not sure yet? It’s a deep question, Krystin.

KG: What are you going to be doing for CFAC?

AC: I don’t have a big project yet, but I’m going to be working with the beginning farmer and rancher program. I’m going to be helping the program to keep it going into the future, for a long time.

KG: What kinds of tools are you brainstorming right now to make that happen?

AC: Event planning, we’re doing resource development, researching evaluation tools and management tools.

KG: What do you see as CFAC’s greatest opportunity while you’re here?

AC: Because I’m focused on beginner farmer and rancher program, CFAC is in a unique place, especially with Farm Link, to really connect people and to keep a lot of agricultural land in agricultural production, and I think that would have a really lasting impact to fight the thought that agriculture is dying, or that if you’re retiring and don’t have a child to pass the land onto, that you have to sell to a developer. Changing that mindset, and getting the idea out there that there are beginning farmers out there who really want to farm, I think CFAC is in a unique place to do that.

KG: What has been your most exciting discovery about Missoula so far?

AC: It’s a really beautiful area, and I haven’t had the chance to explore it as much as I want, but I did get to go to Rock Creek last weekend, and that was an awesome area. There’s a lot of natural beauty around here that I don’t know about yet, but I’m excited to get to know it. Also the people who live here just LOVE it.

KG: What would you do with $1M?

AC: There are a lot of things I would do with one million dollars. I would probably give most of it to some type of organization, or multiple organizations, that I believe in. Try to do some type of social good. But then also I might use some of it for myself, probably to travel, and eat food around the world, grow food around the world.

KG: Favorite constellation?

AC: Pleadies. Because I like all the different stories about how they came to be.

KG: What is one thing you want people to know about you?

AC: I’m a pretty positive person. I’m passionate about the things I believe in. I believe that kindness and compassion are great strengths and qualities that maybe our society doesn’t focus on enough.