Two Bear Farm was created in response to changing circumstances and a shared vision of a better future for our community. The farm is a partnership between Ten Lakes Farm, owned and operated by Todd and Rebecca Ulizio, and Whitefish philanthropist Mike Goguen.
After 6 years of growing Certified Organic vegetables for the Flathead and Tobacco valleys, Ten Lakes Farm outgrew it’s location in Eureka and needed to find a new home. At the same time, Mike Goguen was looking for a way to keep land that neighbors his ranch in agricultural production, as well as continue his support for projects that enhance our community in Whitefish. By partnering in the farm business and moving to Whitefish, we have strengthened our ability to continue to grow fresh local produce for the valley, while at the same time providing a much better platform for stewarding the land and launching new projects. We are very excited about this opportunity!
Two Bear Farm sits on 65 acres bordering the Stillwater River at the base of Spencer Mountain approximately 7 miles west of the town of Whitefish. We are passionate about land stewardship, production of healthy food that improves human health, and educating young farmers to prepare them for their own farms someday.
We have been Certified Organic for the past 6 years, and are in the process of transitioning our new farm location into the program. This means we continue to use organic practices in compliance with the program rules, but will not be able to advertise as organic until 2015 (when our transition period ends).
Nutrient Dense Food
I first learned of this concept when reading the book “The Intelligent Gardener” by Steve Solomon. I later learned that the Weston A. Price Foundation has been promoting this idea for decades. The basic premise is that healthy people require healthy food, and healthy food requires healthy soil. Or to look at it the other way, if soil is deficient in important minerals, the food, and hence the people who eat that food, will also be deficient in those minerals. It’s a rather simple concept, but rather mind blowing at the same time. The reason our industrial food system doesn’t talk about this is it costs money to amend soil, and you would have to care about more than shareholder profits to take this approach. To ensure our food is as nutrient dense as possible, we use a rigorous soil testing process and amend our soils whenever necessary to bring them into balance. The extra money we spend on these amendments never gets recovered by the farm in the sales price of our food, but we continue to do it because it is the right thing to do.
We are focused on building a resilient farm that will thrive in an uncertain future. This includes producing our own soil fertility on farm through cover cropping and composting, working with other farmers to produce our own seed, and one day potentially making our own bio-fuel. Rather than focus on energy-intensive operations that allow year round production, we focus on low energy season extension techniques and crop storage. Keeping a root cellar cool in Montana in February to store crops is a lot smarter and easier than trying to heat a greenhouse in February to grow crops.
Educating New Farmers
A big part of our farm philosophy is having an apprenticeship program that trains young people to become farmers. Aside from growing healthy food for our community, this is the single most important thing we feel we can do to build a better future. For the first time in a long time, the number of farmers, especially young ones, is on the rise in this country. Young people are responding to the social and ecological damage caused by an industrial food system, and they are searching for ways to engage in something meaningful. Unlike the past, most young farmers have not grown up in farming communities, and so they face a very steep and daunting learning curve. By taking them into our apprentice program, we enable them to learn about all the rewards and challenges experienced by farmers, as well as the specific skills and practices needed to succeed.
We’ve always agreed with the paraphrased Ghandi quote “be the change you want to see in the world”. In today’s day and age, we believe meaningful change that benefits individuals and communities is going to have to come from the ground up. Given the extent of agency capture and the amount of industry money in politics, we have no faith that anything positive regarding our food system is going to flow from the top down. It’s time to stop waiting for our government to help us. It’s time to affect change on our own. We don’t plan on saving the world, but we do plan on improving our own lives and the lives of our neighbors. And if everyone did that, then we would change the world.