Gallatin Valley Botanicals is a seven-acre small-scale vegetable farm nestled at the base of a mountainside a few miles east of Bozeman. On any given day throughout the growing season a gaggle of interns and workers, as well as the farmers Matt and Jacy Rothschiller, can be found working in the fields where they might be seeding, pulling weeds, transplanting seedlings, or harvesting. Matt and Jacy sell their produce to their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members, to 12-15 restaurants in Bozeman and Big Sky, and at the Bozeman Farmers’ Markets. This is their third year at this farm. Before they bought this land, they leased five acres west of Bozeman in Manhattan, Montana, where they learned the fundamentals of running a small business and developed a method and style of farming that fits the landscape, their market, and their lifestyle.

Matt had big family gardens while he was growing up and always dreamed of being a small-scale farmer. Matt and Jacy both studied biology at Montana State University; when they met after college they decided to start farming. Though they have been farming for eight years, their occupation provides new challenges from year to year. “Every single year is different, even if you’re growing the same things. Every single year is different; there are new challenges in farming with every season. So it’s dynamic, it’s not a boring profession at all, there’s lots of fun things to do,” Matt said. “And providing healthy food for our community is rewarding in itself.”

In addition to growing food for their community and operating a financially sustainable business, another of Matt and Jacy’s goals is to encourage and grow new farmers in the area. This season they had three interns, one assistant grower, and a few part-time workers from town. These relationships not only give Matt and Jacy much needed help, but they also provide an educational experience to their workers. Part of growing new farmers is teaching people how to grow food, but another part is teaching new farmers how to run a successful business. “We did start with nothing and were able to get into a farm, so I think it is a good model for other people who want to get started and don’t have anything but a little bit of knowledge. Our role is in teaching and being a model and providing for our local community,” Jacy explained.

For the Rothschillers inspiring others to grow products for local markets creates a positive feedback loop. More small scale growers producing food for the local market can help grow the customer base by providing a consistent supply of local food. If a consistent supply is available, customers will develop stronger buying habits toward local products rather than seeing buying local as a novelty. There are many more people in the Gallatin Valley who might want to buy local produce than those Matt and Jacy currently reach. “We need a lot of us around,” Jacy explained, “because there is no way we would ever want to supply that many people.” In addition to supplying a growing market demand, having more small scale growers in the area builds community. Farmers can swap ideas and problem solve, share equipment, and help when weather destroys a crop or farmers face other challenges.

Matt and Jacy are able to support themselves and their two small children, Ania and Zachary, year round on their farm income, but for the first few years they also worked winter jobs to make ends meet. Like many beginning farmers, Matt and Jacy have learned that making a year round living from farming is something that only comes with time and hard work. In the beginning there are inevitable start up costs (land and infrastructure), and the challenges associated with figuring out how to market products and learning the practicalities of farming. The factors contributing to the financial success of their operation include things like not spending beyond their means, creating markets for their products (such as the Bozeman Winter Farmers’ Market), an incredible amount of hard work, and keeping in good communication with their customers, specifically chefs. In addition and perhaps most importantly, they have the support of their community. “We have had so much help from different people getting started, all along from people coming out and volunteering to people leasing us their land for nothing. It’s not really leasing,” Jacy said with a laugh. Later, as a final thought on the success of Gallatin Valley Botanicals, Matt added, “The other key to our success is finding the perfect person to do this with.”