2016 SIFT Farm Plan: Combine Gardening and Research

Want to know what we’re up to on the SIFT Farm this year? Read on!

SIFT marketing manager Jonathan Burrus makes a sale at the 2015 annual plant sale.
SIFT marketing manager Jonathan Burrus makes a sale at the 2015 annual plant sale. Photo: NCAT

Garden Expansion
We will be adding an additional plot to the SIFT Farm this year to grow perennial fruit crops such as raspberries, honeyberries, and other cold-hardy small fruits. Besides giving us another crop for our marketing mix, we will be evaluating how these fruits perform in Zone 3b. We will also experiment with cover cropping the walkways in this block.

Extending the Season
We have been working hard at winterizing the SIFT Farm greenhouses so we can extend our growing season to all but the extremely cold (and dark) months of December and January. Toward that end, we will be planting greens in one of the greenhouses that regulates temperature the best. We also will be growing microgreens for higher-end restaurants in Butte.

Worms are making a SIFT Farm comeback! We have a longer-term goal of producing (non-biosolid) compost and, ultimately, a soil mix to sell to the community of Butte. As a step in this direction we will be producing worm compost for sale at our annual plant sale. It also will be part of the homemade soil mix we use to grow our transplants in. These products also will be an additional revenue stream for the farm, which supports our long-term goal becoming a profitable farm.

Plant Sale
We are starting to plan for the 2016 edition of our annual plant sale – which is becoming a very popular event. We have expanded our greenhouse space in 2016 and are excited at the prospect of providing more plants and more varieties for Butte’s gardeners!

We will also have a workshop on spring farm and garden soil preparation to kick off the growing season on the day of the plant sale. We’re again planning a series of workshops at the SIFT this year. We’ll post details of the workshops in the SIFT calendar as soon as they are available.

Dave Scott teaches local residents
NCAT livestock specialist Dave Scott teaches local residents about farm irrigation at a recent SIFT workshop. Photo: NCAT

We haven’t yet been able to meet our goal of keeping the temperature one of the SIFT Farm’s historical greenhouses from dipping below freezing without supplemental heating during the coldest months of the year.
However, this greenhouse will be used for a hydroponics demonstration and to produce live basil that Headframe Spirits, a distillery and “taproom” in Butte, will use in cocktails. Keep an eye out on the calendar for our hydroponics workshop later this summer.

Food Safety on the SIFT Farm
With the Food Safety Modernization Act in place and in the implementation stage, we have evaluated our food-safety risks at the SIFT Farm and are in the process of developing a food-safety plan. There aren’t a lot of good Montana farm-based examples of implementing a food-safety plan, so we are moving forward with developing a SIFT food-safety demonstration site.

We will continue to do trials to identify vegetables that do well in cold climates. We are also doing a trial of an annual strawberry production system with MSU Extension. Our goal is to work with the new seed co-op, Triple Divide Seed, to grow out some of their new varieties in 2016 and demonstrate their performance in Zone 3b.

Marketing in 2016
We have an all-star marketing manager, Jonathan Burrus, on staff with us again in 2016. We will be expanding our marketing to include a farm stand on Thursdays and a farmers market on Wednesdays, along with sales to a variety of restaurants and stores in Butte. With the combination of Jonathan’s marketing skills and the green thumb of our production manager, John Wallace, it is looking to be a great year!

Posted on: February 17th, 2016