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 Street 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. Today we feature Brianna and Zach Ewert of Crow’s View Farm.
Brianna and Zach have been working on building a farm business, in one way or another, for 8 years. Now that they have their own piece of land, they are modifying the infrastructure — which was set up for cattle — to grow organic vegetables which they’ll sell at the Ronan Farmers’ Market. While Zach has a track record of building high tunnels from re-purposed materials everywhere they’ve farmed, their loan opportunity will help them purchase their first ever “proper” high tunnel, bringing more diversity and value to the veggies they can offer.
“Really the heart of the local food movement is knowing who produces your food, and it’s also knowing who eats your food,” said Brianna.
Learn more about Brianna and Zach Ewert and Crow’s View Farm in our Q&A:
Tell us about Crow’s View Farm.
The farm itself is a really special place – it’s overlooking Crow Creek, which is how it got its name Crow’s View Farm, and it’s right near a major wildlife corridor. The ranch has been grazed pretty hard, so we’ve spent the last 2 years figuring out plans for better management of the whole farm, rebuilding the soils, and how to best use the farm. We’ll probably always have something other than vegetables. Right now we’re building the veggie piece, and once we have that we’ll start raising animals. So then we’ll have a really resilient place.
What will your loan opportunity allow you to do?
The Kiva loan will allow us to purchase and construct a 30′ x 72′ high tunnel that will extend our growing season and provide a microclimate that will help us produce more vegetables for the Ronan Farmers Market and more seed crops adapted for our farm. We have a contract through the NRCS EQIP cost share program that will reimburse us for the costs of buying the high tunnel, but we need the funds up front to purchase the tunnel. We will use the Kiva loan to purchase the high tunnel, and then we will use the NRCS reimbursement to pay back the loan. And, of course, we’ll use the high tunnel to grow more good food for our community!
Zach loves Home Resource, going there and looking for things and finding things there. He calls the ranch his own personal Home Resource. There’s lots of old buildings that are just full of things, and he loves treasure hunting and finding and building things.
Zach has a track record of building a greenhouse out of re-purposed materials everywhere we’ve farmed. When we moved here, he was in one of the shops and he found pipes that were the frame for something. He started putting it together and found he was missing some pieces. I was out one day and there was a burn pile of things, and underneath that was more pipe sticking out, so he put more of it together. He was able to fabricate the missing pieces by welding materials together, and he found an old door on the property. So we’ve been using that as our little makeshift greenhouse. The project for Pitchfest is going the be the first time we’re purchasing a proper high tunnel.
How do you see the local food movement in Montana thriving or adapting in the coming years?
I’d say, local food in Missoula is amazing, but it’s still this tiny little piece. There are a lot of efforts, especially with the Western Montana Grower’s Cooperative, to try to scale that up. If the local food movement wants to keep moving, it’s a matter of figuring out how to scale up to serve larger markets – which is happening – or, is there some other messaging, some other way of reaching people, to bring more people in. There’s the choir, and we know how to talk to those people, but how do you reach others?
What role do you see Crow’s View Farm playing in that movement?
It’s interesting to me being in the Mission Valley, because a lot of the food in Missoula is grown in the Mission Valley. But, you can’t get that food in the Mission Valley. There are some exceptions, some CSAs and some grocery stores. What we hope to do is help make that local food available in Ronan. Ronan has this amazing agricultural heritage. There’s still a strong agricultural base of farmland, and of people producing food here. However, it’s not always staying here. A big part of what Crow’s View Farm wants to do is to help make that good, local healthy food available here.
If Ronan were a vegetable, which would it be?
The first thing that pops into my head is a beet – underappreciated, but very hardy. I fell in love with Ronan when I worked in the Western Montana Grower’s Cooperative. I drove the northern route from Arlee up to Polson, and I would drop off CSA shares and pick up food from farmers on my way back. I stopped at Ronan and I fell in love with it. Now that I live here, Ronan has such a great community and so many dedicated people. There’s an active chamber of commerce, they had this lights under the big sky event throughout December, and we have this amazing community hospital, and a lot of interest in the community in rebuilding Ronan’s Main Street. It’s this very resilient, dedicated, and hardy group of people. And, I also happen to love beets.
What are three adjectives you would use to describe the Ronan Farmers’ Market?
Small, Growing, Potential
What are you most proud of in your business?
After becoming a full time working mom farmer, my expectations have been pretty scaled back. Just having a secure farmland arrangement is a huge thing, and it’s something we’re very proud of.
Each year, we’ve been planting more and more of our own seeds. We’ve been adding things that we grew the seed for the year before. And that means the variety is well-adapted to our farm setting, and it’s just making our farm more and more resilient. I’m proud that we can produce some of our own seed.
What is one funny or memorable moment of your son on the farm that you want to share?
There’s been cattle there, and there were cattle there from someone who was leasing the land, and he let them graze everywhere. When we moved there, our son was one, and so he spent a lot of time picking up dried cow patties and waving them around in the air.
Oh, and this is a good memory: Because we had a lot of 1-year farming arrangements, we had never been able to plant a garlic crop. So last Fall we we planted our first garlic crop. We’d gotten the garlic from someone we know, two special varieties he’d been growing for a long time. For us, that was meaningful because Carmody was out there and he planted a huge amount of garlic.
Also, we call him Muddy for short. He loves when we turn on the irrigation he loves to go play in the water and the mud puddles.
You can invest in Crow’s View Farm by making a loan at the 2nd Annual Farm Fresh Pitchfest on February 1st, 6-8 p.m., at Burns Street Bistro.