“What there is, there is” ~ Italian proverb

Hello CSA members,

Spring is here, and we have been busy training our new crew, getting the first crops planted, and building out our new market in town. The field is a blank slate…nothing but potential out there right now….but that will change quickly. Our goal as farmers has always been to build a local food system that provides our community with nutritious food, promotes better land stewardship, and adds vibrancy and character to the landscape. Over the past 14 years of farming, we’ve been through the ups and downs of supply and demand. There have been times where there’s too much food, and we rush out to find new markets, and there have been times when there is not enough food to meet the demand, at which point we have increased our production. In recent years, as we’ve reached the maximum production that our farm can achieve, we’ve been working collaboratively with other farmers and trying to make opportunities for new farmers who want to just get started.

One of the reasons that we decided to start The Farmers’ Stand market in town was to have a platform in place to entice more people into farming in our valley, or to encourage conventional farmers transition to organic or regenerative practices. We saw the writing on the wall, which was that demand for good food is on the rise as people awaken to the fact that the industrial food system is wrecking our health. But it even surprised us at how quickly demand has spiked as a result of the Covid pandemic and the increase in population in our valley. It’s one of those double edged swords, where on one hand we are relieved that consumers are starting to seek out better quality food, but on the other hand realize that we as a farm cannot provide enough of it for everyone. At the end of the day, we need more farmers if our vision of a local food system is to take root.

In the mean time, we can only do what we can do. We are working to further streamline and maximize our production. We have hired a larger farm crew. We have talked to other farmers all across the valley. But as the Italian proverb says, “What there is, there is”. There’s no calling China for another cargo ship full of local, nutritious produce. I know many small businesses that offer artisan products who struggle with the success of not having enough product to meet demand, and don’t want to turn to mass production and lose everything they love about what they do. It’s a real conundrum. It’s also an opportunity for others to step in and help fill the void.

While we had an idea of starting a food hub or retail store last year, the idea really only took root in December when we found a suitable location. At that time we realized we faced an issue…..How will we start a new store, continue to do CSA, continue to serve 35 restaurants through Wicked Good Produce, and continue to do 3 weekly farmers markets with slightly more food than we grew last year? The answer is, we can’t. It is going to take some time to make this transition, and to bring more supply on board, and we believe strongly that the store is the right approach. But that means something has to give elsewhere.

As we’ve weighted our options, and looked at the numbers and logistics, there is one market that stands out to us as the weakest link in our chain. At this point, we are seriously considering not attending the Columbia Falls Community Market this season. We realize this potential decision will disappoint many people, and we hear you. But, it also presents an opportunity for other farms or new farmers to step in and succeed.

This decision poses another issue for us, in terms of what to do about the Columbia Falls CSA drop-off, which is really the point of this post. We are open to ideas. At this point in time, we think there are a couple of options available. First, we may be able to find a local drop off point in town (a business, or someones really tidy and clean garage?) to host CSA pickup. Anyone out there have any ideas on this? Please email us if you do! The second option is that you could come to the store in Whitefish or the drop site in West Glacier to get your shares. And the third option is we will fully refund your CSA membership if neither of these options is deemed suitable. Are there other options? We’d be interested to hear form you if you have a workable idea.

Every year of farming brings a unique set of challenges. We are really excited that The Farmers’ Stand is going to move our local food system forward, but this year is certainly going to be one of transition. In order to relieve stress and keep things in perspective, we have been joking lately that the partnership between Two Bear Farm and Wicked Good Produce to start this market should have been named Bearly Good. We have extremely high expectations for it, but entering the retail food world is a daunting adventure.

We appreciate all of your support over the years, and I hope you send us your ideas to 2bearfarm@gmail.com if you have any. Thanks and we’ll be in touch soon.