Sustainable Farming in the Bitterroot Valley

If you grew up in the Bitterroot, you quickly adapted to eating produce shipped to the grocery store on a truck. Over the last several years, the explosion of sustainable and organic farming in the Bitterroot Valley has been a welcome and much-needed improvement to our grocery store shelves and health. Who knew that someday we’d be able to buy fresh greens – grown in Hamilton – in the middle of winter? 

Sustainable, organic farming has grown across Montana but has become particularly prolific in the Bitterroot Valley. Once known primarily for its apple orchards, the Bitterroot is now growing a plethora of year-round vegetables thanks to technology and clever farming techniques. 

Here we profile just a few farmers improving our quality of life in the Bitterroot by growing fresh food for us all year. 

Lifeline Farm (also known as Lifeline Dairy) is the grandfather of organic farming in the Bitterroot Valley. Starting in Victor in 1978, the farm grew field-scale vegetable crops sold at markets in Montana and along the West Coast. In 1984, dairy cows were added to diversify the operation and to generate fertilizer. Today, Lifeline is a full-scale organic farm and dairy offering produce, cheese, and meat at Missoula and Hamilton’s Farmers’ Markets, as well as at a small storefront next to Victor Merc. Look for the Lifeline label in the dairy section of your favorite Western Montana grocery store. 

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Winter Kissed Farms: What started as a work-for-land arrangement that involved volunteers living in tipis and tents, has become an impressive Community Supported Agriculture business in Stevensville. Winter Kissed Farms provides year-round produce across Western Montana through strategic drop-off locations and Farmers’ Markets. The growers of this farm follow a Japanese mantra called “Kaizen,” which focuses on the continuous improvement of working practices. The result has been fresh produce in the grossly underserved winter and spring seasons of Western Montana. WKF grows winter crops without petroleum heaters, instead using row covers and acclimating the plants to cold temperatures when they are young and more resilient. They also incorporate solar energy and provide flowering plants for bees and pollination. Visit their website or Facebook to learn more about Winter Kissed Farms and how you can start to enjoy their produce in the winter and spring seasons. 

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ABC Acres: Owners Tom and Sarah took 80 acres of Bitterroot river bottom and transformed it into a permaculture farming paradise. They have created a preserve, open to the public, that offers visitors an opportunity to interact with river-bottom wildlife, farm animals, and the Bitterroot Valley’s first year-round tropical botanical garden! Educational kiosks highlight the preserve’s path, including a honey bee pod where visitors can watch resident honey bees interact with ABC Farm’s drought-tolerant flowering plants. From there, visitors can peruse the Farm Store’s inventory, which ranges from fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, meat, and home-grown honey to educational materials and delights for the home and bath. ABC Acres also offers a unique vacation getaway with four new, well-appointed vacation rentals. This land and farmscape is a unique and memorable experience for locals and out-of-town visitors. 

Local Bounti: Local Bounti is at the forefront of the locally grown/greenhouse all-season produce movement. With several greenhouse facilities across the country (including Hamilton), Local Bounti uses 90% less water and 90% less land, using sustainable, root-on, living food raised in sunlight-supported greenhouses. The leafy produce is non-GMO and pesticide free and available year-round. The opportunity to purchase these long-lasting greens in the dead of winter has been a game changer for Bitterrooters. 

Sour Doe Cafe and Farm Store: Stevensville is home to another locally sourced treasure, Sour Doe Cafe. The cafe features farm-to-table baked goods, soups, salads, sandwiches, and organic produce, sourced primarily from their US Certified Organic Farm just four miles from the cafe. Whether you need fresh local produce, delicious fresh food, or a soothing cup of tea brewed using the farm’s fresh herbs, Sour Doe Cafe is a welcome addition to the Bitterroot’s roster of organic food offerings. 

Buck N Dave’s Eggs: Bitterrooters love their big, country breakfasts and melt-in-your-mouth baked goods, and thanks to our local free-range egg farm, we can have both! Owners Buck and Dave are rodeo cowboys who love agriculture and decided to up-cycle the old Lewis Dairy Barn in Corvallis for their free-range chicken enterprise. The eggs are brown-shell, hormone, antibiotic, and chemical free. Surrounded by majestic scenery, the hens are happy, and it’s definitely a happiness you can taste!

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Homestead Organics Farm: What started as an organic food-growing farm in 1999 has morphed into a relational, community-focused experience. The Cultivating Connections Farm Classroom has educational youth programs, contributes thousand of servings of organic soups and salads to seniors through Meals on Wheels, hosts field trips for local schools and Family Farm Days, and provides free and by-donation food at Hamilton and Darby Farmers’ Markets. This farm exemplifies the Bitterroot spirit of friendly neighbors and a helpful community. Find them on Instagram to learn about upcoming fundraising events that support these efforts. 

7B Farmstead: Katie Austin, owner of 7B Farmstead, is a purveyor of artisan cheeses, candles, and soaps. Katie has been farming for almost 20 years and taught classes on beginner farming at the University of Idaho. Today she morphs raw milk into cheddar, gouda, pepper-jack, mozzarella, and feta cheeses as well as butter. When asked how she does all that with a full-time job, Katie quips, “I don’t sleep much anymore.” Currently, 7B Farmsteads customers come from drive-by traffic at her Pleasantview Drive farm in Victor and Hamilton Farmers’ Market. Katie also sells registered cattle and sheep, and harvests garlic and raspberries. A silo/ farmstead store is in the works for Katie’s enterprise, as is a blueberry farm. 

Sometimes, it’s hard to imagine how life could get any better in the Bitterroot, but thanks to all these farmers (and many others), our quality of life and health are greatly improved! Glacier Sotheby’s International Realty sincerely thanks all of the hard-working farmers and ranchers whose tireless farm-to-table efforts improve the lives of Montanans in the Bitterroot, Missoula, and Flathead counties. 

* Images via each businesses’ Facebook page

Kat Hobza has lived in Montana since she was nine and was raised in the mountains west of Victor, Montana. There, she learned to hunt, fish, shoot competitively, chop and stack firewood, and drive on icy and muddy roads. Kat has over two decades of experience in professional writing, content, and digital marketing and is a marketing consultant for Glacier Sotheby’s International Realty. When she’s not working, she’s either hanging with her hilarious adult kids or soaking up the sun somewhere – a riverbank, a golf course, or her deck. You can contact Kat through her business website, Way Easy Marketing.


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