Since 1987, the Montana Department of Agriculture has awarded low-interest loans and grants to farmers, manufacturers and others in the agriculture industry through a program called Growth Through Agriculture.
“Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in the state, and we are reinvesting in our food future here in Montana,” says Angie Nelson, program manager.
A $12,500 grant, plus a dollar-for-dollar match from a local investor, is all it took for a small certified-organic vegetable farm in Bozeman to almost double its production in one year.
“With the grant proposal, we had a five-year plan, and we hit our five-year numbers before our first year was even up. We were selling about $150,000 of produce a year from 2009 to 2012. Then, in 2013 we sold $278,000. It took our farm from an eight-person payroll to an 18-person payroll,” says Matt Rothscholler, who owns Gallatin Valley Botanicals with his wife, Jacy.
The grant, as well as the matching funds from a local restaurant that purchases salad greens from Gallatin Valley Botanicals, enabled the Rothschollers to purchase equipment that streamlined their salad greens production, including a growth chamber to speed up microgreen production, a salad greens harvester, a high-density salad grain seeder and a bed shaper.
“When we were harvesting lettuce by hand, I was harvesting 10 to 12 pounds per hour,” Rothscholler says. “Now, when I’m using our salad green harvester, I’m able to harvest 200 pounds per hour.”
The Growth Through Agriculture program seeks to help Montana producers compete in local, regional, national and international markets by funding projects that require innovation through research or specialized equipment.