gardeners knock it out of the park on fresh
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Leach earned a degree in geology and did two years of graduate school in Fairbanks Alaska, before coming back down to northern California to help care for her grandmother, who had slipped into dementia.
“I was going to look for a real career type job in geology, but grandma got dementia, so I came down and stayed with grandma for about 7 years, helping take care of her. I always knew I would be down there till she died.” Leach said.
After grandma passed, Megan’s mom and dad helped her find and set up a farm. She says that she looked around this area and others, but when she found this expansive meadow out on Silver Butte Rd., complete with a log cabin and a built in the 1920’s barn, well, septic, and full electric power, she knew it was right.
“When I moved here I had never run a business or done any serious gardening. ” Leach continued, “ We spent that first summer of 2017 adding a greenhouses, fixing up the barn , getting the chickens and ducks in, and basically just getting set up. Then, in 2018, I set up a tiny table at the Libby farmers market, just a few bags of spinach, a couple of dozen eggs and some flowers, and we started breaking ground for some larger growing plots.” She named her farm , Dragons Breath Farm. “I’ve always been a big fantasy/sci fi fan and I always loved dragons.“ said Leach.
“2019 was the first year I felt Like I was really kind of doing it” Leach said, “I had actual bouquets of flowers and greens, tomatoes, fresh chicken and duck eggs, to bring to market. I don’t focus so much on vegies, since Hoot Owl does that so well, just the stranger heirloom stuff, and lots of flowers.”
Leach is growing Cosmos, Clarkias, Queens Ann’s lace, Delphinium, Ranunculus, Sweet peas, Tulips, Daffodils and Sunflowers, to name a few. Leach also grows a wide variety of greens, and tomatoes, including some Pink Love Apple tomatoes this year. She has installed a cold room to keep her flowers fresh for market, and now supplies fresh, locally grown flowers to Libby Floral and Gift as well as the Libby and Troy farmers markets. Her busines is a registered sole proprietorship. “This year, I am close to breaking even” Leach told the Montanian.
Bonnie and Rudy Geber both worked for the forest service until they felt like they needed a change. “ I quit a year before Rudy, so we could have a bit of a safety net.” Bonnie Gerber told The Montanian, “We started cheaply, got a ‘hoop house’ grant from the Natural Resource Conservation service, and leased this bit of land from the folks at the Riverbend.” Hoot Owl Farm was born.
Their first season was 2017, and they grew heirloom tomatoes and hothouse cucumbers in the big white hoop hothouses. Lettuces and greens outside.
Bonnie quit her job and was all in. “Rudy is the real Gardener, I’m good at the organization and planning part of things, but I’ve learned, its all about observation.” Gerber said.
Greenhouses are now hooked up to a thermostat and motorized awning system which covers it when the temperature drops below 65 degrees, and the tomatoes at 75 degrees. Besides a few nice fat poblano peppers, one of the hothouses is dedicated entirely to tomatoes, 3 types of cherry, red orange and Purple, two tasty and colorful heirlooms: Cherokee purple, and Striped German, as well as some staple slicers.
The Gherkin pickling and long elegant Asian cucumbers are in the other hoop house, and outside there are thriving rows of beets, kohlrabi, Napa cabbage, carrots, winter squash, and a variety of beautiful lettuces.
When the Montanian visited the farm, the Gerber’s had just harvested garlic bulbs, enough to cover a 10 foot table , headed soon for commercial and home kitchens all over our town.
We are truly blessed to have these farmers, and various others, who work hard to bring the fruits of their loving labor to nourish our bodies, minds and spirits. Go say hi at the market, and bring home something beautiful.
By Moira Blazi, The Montanian