A Letter To Sunflowers (Sunflower Montessori Parents)

Howdy Sassparillas,

ImageI’m your child’s farmer.

But, in keeping pace with the imaginations of the kids at Sunflower Montessori, I’d like it more if you thought of me as something more descriptive.  And much more real.  After all, I’m not just some bumpkin in overalls.  I’m a human being trying my best to harvest solar energy, provide habitat for the life of predatory and pollinating insects, and feed the soil foodweb.

And now that my departure from Bozeman and Montana State University nears (the graduation ceremony is in early May), I’m as anxious as ever to start applying everything I’ve learned on 10 acres 25-miles from the school.  We call our project the Missoula Grain and Vegetable Company and for 20 weeks, the school will be preparing our veggies, but also the grains and legumes and fruits as they ripen.

Visiting Sunflower over my spring break and talking agriculture with your sons and daughters was the highlight of the year thus far.

I’ve been tucking in their ‘Weisnichts Ukrainian’ tomatoes, their ‘Oro de Valle’ quinoas, their ‘Bright Lights’ chard ever since.

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If you’re a gardener, you may have started a few seeds inside already, too.  It’s such a wonderful experience – rediscovering, really, how much care you have to put into every interaction you have with these plants, because they’re at the fragile seedling stage.

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I haven’t clocked any hours of parenthood, so I won’t draw any comparisons.  But I’d like to think that what I’m feeling right now is similar.  It’s a massive dose of responsibility in any case.  It’s caring deeply about many things.  From what enters their bodies to what environmental conditions and organisms they’re exposed to, and, ultimately, how their young life on this planet is spent.  These are every day realities endowed every mom and dad and stepmom and stepdad.  But for me, it’s all new.  It’s all good.

Sending your child to Sunflower is something you’ve done to ensure that their bodies and minds are fed well from the beginning.  Meeting Correy and Katie, the many teachers and the school chef in March left me with such an incredible impression.  These are people that don’t just know what they’re talking about when it comes to food…They’re clearly acting on their understanding and beliefs.  Their resolve was enough to convince me that I need to do more to surround every Sunflower kiddo with good chow whether they’re at school or the family dinner table.

To start, I’m offering every family a Sunflower Discount!  If you’d like to pick up your son or daughter AND a weekly supply of produce at the end of a long day, you deserve a 10% discount.  That chalks up to two free week’s of food for full share members of the farm.  And one free week if you become a half share member.

I also want to make this an affordable thing.  Generally farm shares are paid off in one or two lump payments – which is a major barrier for many families.  But If you’d like to pay as you eat, you can.  Just check out our Agriculture Supported Community (ASC) option.

Whether you buy a full share, a half share, or whether you support our work with a mighty check in May, or many payments throughout the season, I’ll see to it that your farm share is ready for pickup at the school on Wednesday afternoons for 20 weeks, June through October.

Here’s an example of what we’ll harvest and deliver each week:

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Every week’s delivery is accompanied by a farm update + several recipes we send paperless to your email inbox.  We imagine these emails can be read with your kids in the kitchen and at “story-time” before they descend into dreamland.  Obviously we’re open to other ideas you guys might have about connecting your family to the farm – that’s what farm membership is all about!

Here’s a little more about your farm and farmers:

  • The Missoula Grain and Vegetable Co. is a cooperatively managed farmscape.
  • Here’s what we grow – nearly 140 vegetable varieties, and several types of grains, legumes and pseudocereals.  Fruit’s also on the menu, thanks to our knowledge of Missoula area backyards and the connections we’ve made with bountiful orchardists.
  • Our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program gives farm members an opportunity to source a consistent stream of veggies each week of the growing season.  Members are also treated to tree-ripened fruits, local honey, and a variety of staple crops harvested and cleaned in the fall.  For Sunflower-ians, half shares are $225 … while full shares can be had for $450.  Please check out this application if you’re interested!
  • This isn’t my first growing season.  Last summer I had the pleasure to work alongside these guys … the summer before that, I apprenticed here … but it was the Blue Barn Farm of Moiese, Montana that really started me on this path in 2009.

This is getting a little lengthy, but before I sign off, I want to express how UNBELIEVABLY busy this first season is going to be.  It’s something I need to apologize for right now (!) because it will mean that I won’t be able to do all of the things I want to organize (family picnics at the farm, a well-structured farm tour, and more) for you.  Greater things will come.  But in the meantime, it’ll be my pleasure being the guy behind the scenes at Sunflower.  Just knowing that your offspring’s mowing down – on the three beet varieties we grow as well as the many apricot, apple, plum, and pears we pick from unsprayed Missoula neighborhood trees – will be enough to keep me treading through the busy.

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That said, I hope you’ll come out to visit.  You are all welcome to come out most every day (except harvest days – Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday mornings) to see your farm.  I’ll be sending photos Brooke’s way to update the blog.  And we’ll also give you a few in-field writings throughout the season.  You’ll definitely want to keep on the look out for any happenings – especially the YOU-PICK alerts which we’ll send out when the edamames, the sugar snap peas, and the kohlrabi are so abundant we need you and your munchkin’s help bringin’ home the bounty!

Yer Farmer,

Max Smith

P.S. I think everyone who finishes a blog deserves a gift.  So thanks for readin’ about the Sunflower Montessori’s farm!  Now enjoy this if you haven’t already!!

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