Josh Slotnick has farmed at Clark Fork Organics on the outskirts of Missoula, Montana, with his wife, Kim Murchison, since 1992. With about eight acres in vegetables and eleven acres of total crop ground, Clark Fork Organics is a pillar in the Missoula local foods community, and is well-known for their salad greens. They sell at two farmers market, through a local health food store, and to restaurants in the community.
In 1996, Josh and a few others founded Garden City Harvest, a non-profit in Missoula that builds community through agriculture. Garden City Harvest does this by providing community education while managing ten community garden sites and four neighborhood farms in Missoula. Josh is the director of Garden City Harvest’s largest farm, the PEAS Farm, which is a partnership between Garden City Harvest and the University of Montana’s Environmental Studies program.
Josh digs deep into how Clark Fork Organics builds and maintains relationships with their restaurant clients, both during the short, intense growing season and over the winter, when the farm doesn’t operate. We also discuss how these same techniques spill over to the farmers market, and how they’ve used those relationships to keep a marketing edge as the local foods scene has grown up around them. And, Josh shares the many ways that the PEAS Farm and Garden City Harvest have contributed to the overall social ecology of Missoula.
We also talk at length about salad mix production at Clark Fork Organics, as well as their irrigation tools and strategies – and about how Josh juggles two farms, family, and friends.
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Quotes from the Show
In the wintertime we really like to ski and play pond hockey, so we do that instead of harvest Asian greens.
Marketing for us is also blended in with service.
[Western Montana Grower’s Cooperative has] done a great job in that they've infiltrated the food system far greater than we ever could, but something was lost there for farmers in that we don't get that really close contact with the people who are buying our food other than at farmers markets.
The hours are long, but our season is short.
It sort of fits with the trajectory of existence in the sense that we were substituting energy for stuff early on, and now there is not as much energy, and there is more stuff, in terms of more pipe and less of us running around.
For us to work really effectively with the food bank, as a provider, not as in a sort of programmatic way, but as a provider, it behooves us to get people food that they understand is food and they are gonna be excited to eat; so it doesn't end up in the dumpster.
So much of the good part of what we do isn't in the provision of food, but it's in the act of growing food together, and the community that forms when we're growing food together, and the learning lessons that happen there.