Local BLD Farms in Troy provides fresh food
By Brian Baxter
It was a beautiful summer’s eve, warm, but with a slight breeze off the Kootenai River as Bradley and myself sat down with a cool drink at the BLD Farms property. We were surrounded by a clean, organized, and fruitful farm. A farm that is ingeniously powered, meticulously cared for and neat, and blossoming with flowers, fruit, and the smell of nature’s bounty.
BLD Farms was created in August of 2016. Located along the Kootenai River northwest of Troy, Montana, proprietors Bradley and Loretta Dunn-meier have transformed a one acre property into a thriving garden and small orchard.
The Dunn-meier’s are originally from central Montana where they grew up working on their parent’s wheat farms and gardens. After retiring from teaching, Bradley decided he wanted to continue the family tradition of farming so they moved to Troy and found a suitable piece of land to fulfill their dream.
Loretta is a retired, short – order cook and salesperson. She and Bradley are currently raising their grand-daughter, Alyssa. Alyssa’s mother passed away of heart failure in 2013 at the age of 29. Loretta manages the household and helps out on the farm when needed. Alyssa helps out also, and Bradley, smiling, said “They both are a great help, and take really, really good care of me.”
Bradley is fully retired from teaching and coaching girl’s basketball, and has focused his energy on building a successful produce business. He mostly taught math and science at the high school level, but his last five years were teaching inner-city kids in Portland, Ore.
When asked about the farm specialty, strawberries, Bradley’s face lit up. When asked about varieties grown, and if they had to select a strain that would do well in our relatively short growing seasons. He exuberantly said, “We are growing Seascape strawberries, an ever-bearing variety that is resistant to diseases such as verticillium wilt. It grows well in this climate and produces berries from June first until frost.”
Bradley said, “We are also growing a variety of produce from asparagus to zucchini. Especially good produce sellers have been Kohlrabi, cucumbers, tomatoes, Yukon Gold potatoes, and Walla Walla onions.” A to Z produce. This scientific farmer is dedicated, and has earned his green thumb.
BLD Farms received an NRCS grant (Natural Resources Conservation Service) in June for a high tunnel. They are currently in the process of constructing this 30 foot wide by 72 foot long tunnel.
Bradley explained, “A high tunnel is basically a green house that is not heated. It begins trapping the heat early in spring and allows the plants inside to avoid the frost which plagues gardens in early spring and late fall. So the plants under the high tunnel can begin producing a month earlier in spring and can last a month later in the fall.” Ingenious.
The BLD Farm is currently planning on making strawberries and other produce available to sell to local stores next year. They have built up to this point for several years, beginning in 2017 by converting a 20 by 40 foot shed into a green house / high tunnel. Then the family business cultivated 500 square feet on the corner of their one acre lot and planted a wide variety of produce. This was an experimental year. They only sold on-site and at the Troy Farmer’s Market.
Bradley then said, “From this first year, we discovered what local people wanted to buy. In subsequent years, we expanded the garden and grew the produce customers were requesting most. In 2020, the garden has been expanding to one-third of an acre, 14,520 square feet, with 1,500 individual strawberry plants.”
Bradley followed this with a comparative analysis. He said, “We found out early on the strawberries were in great demand. Strawberries do not ripen after they have been picked. So the fruit in stores was often picked before it was ripe so it won’t spoil before it reaches the supermarket. This fruit is not as sweet as those picked when ripe.” Makes sense. He continued, “Fresh produce really should be picked recently, not days or weeks before it hits the shelves at the store. Armed with this information, I plan to approach businesses in Troy to sell our produce when in season. 2021 will be the first year we will have enough product to sell on site, at the Troy and Libby markets and at local businesses.”
Sincere thanks were given for an informative and pleasant visit. Bradley gave me another big smile and said, “We love to have visitors on the farm. We can show our customers the fields, pick produce if desired, and just talk about gardening. We have a covered wash station where we can clean and process the produce so customers can take home clean fresh veggies.”
For more information email Bradley and the family at firstname.lastname@example.org, see their Facebook page at bldfarms.com, which has a great little map even though its easy to find, or call 406-334-4413. Mailing address is Bradley and Loretta Dunn-meier, 615 Waterfront Road, Troy, Montana 59935. We hear they may have a few chocolate covered strawberries left.
Free Summer Meals Program extended through December
Libby Public Schools is happy to announce the USDA is extending our FREE summer meals program through December 31. This means that all children 18 years or younger will have access to school breakfast and lunch without charge. All meals served in our schools as well as the grab-and-go meals that we offer weekdays for students not eating at school.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced that it would extend the flexible free meals program. The extension is contingent upon the continued availability of funds that Congress had allocated for the summer feeding through last June.
Libby Public Schools will provide free grab-and-go meals for students who are participating in the distance-learning education option. The meals will be available to family members for pick up at the District Kitchen located on the southwest side of the Asa Wood building near the soccer field – 700 Idaho Avenue. To order the grab-and-go meals, which will consist of breakfast and lunch meals, please call 406-293-4010 before 9:00 a.m. and pick up at 11:00 a.m. daily. Adults are welcome to purchase these meals for $2.50 for breakfast and $4.25 for lunch.
Please call 293-8811 if you have any questions.
Submitted by Libby Public Schools