What does "farm membership" mean?
Farm members are a special type of customer, a more intimate part of the farm than casual market visitors or wholesale buyers. By the end of the season we are likely to know some of your favorite foods (and what you don't love so much), and you get to really see us, the farmers, in our natural habitat. Members provide about 20-30% of our income, and often the most stable and reliable part of our farm budget. Because they commit to a membership early in the season (long before the first markets, ideally), they are also crucial to our yearly budget, providing much-needed investments to get each year's season started. 2018 will mark our fourth year of farm memberships, and we love that some of our members have been with us since the very first pick-up. We continually strive to make our memberships work well for both the farm and the eaters, and welcome member involvement and input. If you are interested in a farm membership, visit our membership page here.
How does payment work?
The farm incurs most of its yearly costs in the winter and very early spring—months before any market sales. Therefore, it is best if members pay their fee in full when they sign up. If you are not able to do that, you can pay 1/3 of your membership upon registration, and be billed for two more installments, in late May and late August, to spread the cost out through the season.
What if I will be out of town for a week? Can I do an extra fill at the end of the season to make up a week that I missed?
If you’re out of town you can send a friend, neighbor, or family member to pick up your produce. Many members use their weekly fill as a thank-you to friends who are house-sitting or watching their pets when they leave town. You can also let us know beforehand (ideally 2-3 days notice) so we can find someone to donate your bag-fill to. There are many families in need in our valley and it's one reason we've setup our Eatership program. If you want to “make up” a missed week, please talk to us first; our quantities and sales projections can get thrown out of whack pretty quickly if many members try to do this at once; growing plans allocate a certain amount of everything for each week, and the spinach you missed in May is not around in November! Also, please realize that we price the memberships assuming that everyone misses a week or two here and there through the season—if you hit every single one, you’ve gotten a bonus.
What if I forget to pick up my share?
One of the most popular and unique features of our farm membership is its flexibility. It's not really possible to miss your pickup, because you can do it any day of the week. The self-serve farm store on the front of our barn acts as the member pickup area and is always open. Tuesday afternoons are the time when we can guarantee that you'll be able to get everything on that weeks' menu list, and it's your best chance to hear straight from us about exciting news, great recipe ideas, and what we're excited about that week. At midnight on a Sunday we might be out of a particular item you were hoping to find like snap peas, but there will still be plenty of options; we keep the store well-stocked so that with a little flexibility, you'll find plenty to eat.
How many people does a share feed?
This is a hard question, because it depends a lot on your appetite, tastes, and how many vegetables your household eats per week. In general we recommend the small feed bag for single individuals, or for two-person households who are quite busy and don't always cook and eat at home. The large feedbag is the best choice for most households of 2+ people.
I'm out of town quite a bit but I want to support the farm. Can I still get a membership?
If you are away more weeks than you are home, you may find that a membership is not the best value for you. But there are still plenty of ways to support the farm even if you can't be a member! You can shop at the market or the farmstore when you are in town; you can tell your friends and neighbors about our farm, the farm store, and our programs. We try to keep our offerings updated on our Facebook page. More details and directions are here. A great way to support our farm is to also support our Eatership program.
Are you organic?
Ever since we began farming (we've been on this patch of soil since 2014), we've farmed using organic practices. Our farmland was fallow or grazed for about 10 years prior to our purchase, and we were happy to find plentiful weeds that indicated no chemical sprays (we also contacted the relatives of the previous owners to confirm the history), and we tested soils and our well water around our impacted areas for a variety of contaminants. We have been certified by Montana Homegrown since 2014, a process in which other local farmers inspect our operation to ensure compliance with the standards of the Montana Sustainable Growers Union. Whenever we are in doubt about a practice or material, we call the state organic office to check, and we get good mentoring and advising from many organic farms in the area, both certified and non-certified. We are considering applying for USDA Organic status, mainly at the request of some of our wholesale accounts, but do not yet have that certification. We are completely open with our practices, and we welcome anyone to visit the farm, and verify for themselves what we do. We are happy to answer detailed questions about our practices and choices, especially if you can carry on a conversation while hand-squashing potato beetles or weeding carrots.
What inputs do you use?
We use no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, and never have. Our sources of straw and hay (for animal bedding, animal forage in the shoulder seasons, and for mulch) are all non-GMO and comply with organic standards. We generate a good deal of compost on farm and purchase compost from Huls Dairy to amend our soil. (note: though Huls Dairy is conventional, the process their manure and bedding goes through in their biodigester and compost aging renders it acceptable for use in organic production--and we also like that it is just 4 miles away). Seedlings start their lives in PeaCo organic potting soil produced in Big Arm, Montana, inoculated with a slow-release organic fertilizer that includes beneficial microbes. When soil tests indicate deficiencies, we amend with certified organic options, but we are striving to minimize inputs by increasing our cover cropping, pastured poultry, and crop rotations. We love to mulch, and will gladly accept fall leaves, lawn clippings, and wood chips from unsprayed yards and homes!
What about labor? Do you have internships availalbe?
The bulk of the SweetRoot labor force is the two of us, so we are constantly working on improving our efficiency as farmers. We are advertising for two full-time interns for 2019, and hoping to lock in our farm team soon. If you are interested, email us for an application. We occasionally have fun, single day volunteer work parties for large projects, and announce these in our newsletter and social media; follow us or sign up for the newsletter if you want to join in on those days. If you are interested in volunteering regularly outside of those work-party days, please email us to discuss options. We do have opportunities for volunteers if they can commit to a predictable weekly schedule. Farmwork can be relaxing, but our week runs on an extremely tight schedule, so it does not work for us to stop our day to orient un-planned volunteers to a task, even if there is a ton that could be done, and we usually do not come out ahead if people can only put in an occasional day here and there.
Do you grow everything yourselves?
Yes! All the produce, fruit, flowers, seeds, starts, eggs, and meat we sell through any of our venues, we grow at our farm in Hamilton. It's not always the prettiest, but it's our own. We want you to know, without having to ask, that anything we offer was grown, made, or roasted right here on our place and meets the standards you expect from us. We do not buy-and-sell from other farms (no matter how great they are or how good our friendship) even though this would sometime give us a better selection or a more rounded offering for members. This does mean that sometimes we won't have eggplant, or hot peppers, or some other item. But we like the clarity and accountability of this policy, and it helps keep the pressure on us to improve our skills and get better at growing in order to meet demand. And what's that about roasted here? The coffee we sell we purchase as green beans directly from organic farmers in both Indonesia and Papua New Guinea we have a working relationship with from Noah's conservation work in Asia. We roast this coffee on farm weekly for both the farmers market, our farmstore.
How do you decide who receives eatership funds?
So far, we have usually been able to fund all families requesting help, though we can’t guarantee that in every year. We keep track of the order of applications, and disperse funds in the order in which applications were received. We do not ask for any personal financial information, and do not judge or rank applicants by level of need. If you tell us you need some help we will believe you, and we will do the best we can to make it happen.