By Mary Ellis
Each summer, CFAC partners with Western Montana farmers to host monthly, production-oriented Farmer Field Days. Farmer Field Days are geared towards beginning farmers and ranchers, ranging from first-year farm interns to farmers with 10 growing seasons under their belts, to community members just beginning to scheme their first farm venture.
CFAC’s field day series kicked off last week with a trip to Harts Garden and Nursery. Attendees spent the afternoon wandering through rows of flowers while learning about some key flower production and marketing techniques. We had a great group attend the event, with many beginning farmers and interns joining us from farms across Western Montana.
Harts Garden and Nursery is a small farm located on the western edge of Missoula. George and Marcia grow a wide variety of flowers, herbs, and foliage—everything from yarrow to a large eucalyptus tree flourishing in their greenhouse. While they mostly sell to local flower shops and florists now, you can occasionally find them at the Missoula Farmers Market selling several varieties of peonies.
The tour started with a walk-through of George’s peony flower patches. George grows several varieties of peonies and over the years has perfected the art of knowing when is the right time to harvest. George showed participants the “marshmallow test”: if the flower bud gives just a little when you squeeze it, then you know it is ready. If you harvest too soon the flower may not fully bloom after being cut, but if you wait too long, it will have a short shelf life.
George also showed the group his geothermal greenhouse, which helps them extend their growing season and grow a wider variety of flowers.
George mentioned that he sees a great opportunity for new flower farms in Montana, as there are very few in the state. He encouraged beginning farmers to start with a flower like peonies, that will continue to produce year-after-year and has a high price per stem.
Our next Farmer Field Day will be on July 17 at Mill Crick and Fourth Wave Farm in Hamilton/Corvallis area. Farmers Lindsey Aull and Randi Mark will discuss several weed management techniques at various stages and scales. Register soon to reserve your spot!
Our field days are geared toward people who are just at the beginning of their farm exploration—farm hands, interns, folks thinking about starting a farm in the near future, and those who are currently in the startup process. Of course, established farmers and ranchers are welcome too!