Shaggy Bear Farm is hard to describe. Not even pictures can fully do it justice. It’s a local farm using a pioneering new technique called Vertical Farming. Housed in two 40 foot long shipping containers under a roof covered with solar panels, the whole operation is the size of a small barn yet it contains a whopping 8000 plants.
Open the door to a shipping container and you discover a scene that feels more reminiscent of a space ship than a humble farm. In sharp contrast to the 90 degree heat outside, cool breezes blow across 4 long rows of hanging hydroponic rails that look a bit like rain gutters turned on end. Each rail supports a lush row of greenery, growing horizontally in complete defiance of gravity.
Bright strips of high efficiency LED lights provide full spectrum light, and water wicks slowly from top to bottom of each rail, using as little as 10 gallons of water per day, per container. Although not yet certified organic, no pesticides or herbicides are needed as the plants are grown in a sterile environment.
The result is amazingly tender and delicious produce, as the plants have not had to tough it out in Montana’s intense and variable climate. Without the danger of hail storms, frosts or pests, the farm can produce year round on a 4 week cycle from planting to harvest.
This means that owner Kim Curren can supply restaurants like ourselves with fresh, locally grown greens and herbs every month of the year, instead of the feast and famine of Montana’s regrettably short growing season and long winters. The nutritional content is comparable to plants grown outside, and the farm uses up to 90% less water than traditional agriculture.
Shaggy Bear Farm owner Kim Curren brought the first of these container gardens to the state, from Massachusetts based company Freight Farms, who pioneered this method of farming. The farm is fully automated, so Kim can control lights, water, and more from her phone, no matter where she is – a far cry from the grueling life of a traditional farmer. She is passionate and committed to this new way of growing and we look forward to seeing what she creates in the next few years at Shaggy Bear Farm, named for her sweet (and shaggy) dog Keema.
This Friday, July 29th, we’ll be featuring a special frittata topped with Shaggy Bear Farm‘s tender kale, Strike Farms‘ swiss chard, and roasted red peppers with lamb sausage from Montana Natural Lamb, eggs from Ryegate Colony and Bausch potatoes rounding out the Montana grown farm feast. We have limited supplies as Kim is still getting farm production up and running, so get it while you can!
Hungry for more information about this method of farming? Check out this great video from the Wall Street Journal that describes the company Freight Farms and the vertical farming technique.