MITCHELL | Steve Strasheim first became interested in farming while growing up in the shadows of this grandfather’s sugar beet farm near Sidney, Montana.
Today, he and wife, Marcy, operate Twisted River Farm in Mitchell. However, their involvement with local food production started in 2013, with broiler production. In 2016, they started raising micro and salad greens.
Living in a small house, with limited land space in Nora Springs, the Strasheims began searching for an acreage to expand their business. When they decided to drop their poultry production, they discovered the Mitchell location online, finding it to be a perfect fit for their micro green and market gardening enterprise.
Micro greens are produced in a heated environment, under artificial lighting. “In trays, we plant seed in a peat moss mixture,” Strasheim said. “Then we water it down and cover it to let the seed germinate. Later, we uncover the trays and put them under grow lights. We harvest the greens when they are in the cotyledon stage.
“One of our bestselling micro greens is sunflowers, but if they grow beyond the cotyledon stage they become bitter.”
Once harvested the peat mixture is composted and later used on their outdoor gardens. Most of their micro greens are marketed to restaurants for garnish.
Micro greens are a baby version of the full grown plant. According to Strasheim, the advantages to eating micro greens include their pronounced flavors, nutrient density, added texture to salads, eye appeal and they can be used for salads, pesto and sandwich wraps. Most restaurants and cooks use them for garnishes, to add color and flavor to dishes.
The Strasheim’s market gardening takes place in tilled outdoor beds. “We have adopted a gardening style with varieties that grow quickly, are high yielding and are mostly used as salad greens,” Strasheim said. “We could have from four to five crops off each bed by fall. From planting until first harvest, growing time can range from 21 to 35 days. We generally get from three to seven cuttings off each crop.”
The Strasheim’s operation is not certified organic, “but there is no fertilizers or chemicals in any of our production. Our weed control in our no till operation, comes through crop rotation, and flame weeding,” he said.
To control weeds, new beds are watered so weeds will germinate. After weeds appear a flame-weeder is used to destroy them. The bed is then immediately seeded, to retard weeds. Strasheim only tills an inch deep to get rid of root matter from a previous crop. Above ground, misting is used to both water plants and cool greens during hot weather.
During harvest, the handheld Greens Harvester’s small sickle, powered by a cordless drill, cuts the greens and the rotating frayed nylon rope ends bats the greens into a canvass basket.
Cut greens are later placed in hydro-cooled tub to keep them fresh, while circulating water cleans them. The greens are later spun in a drier to remove. Cleaned greens are then placed on a wire mesh table, where overhead fans dry them.
“Drying is essential, because it extends the life of the greens,” said Strasheim. “Unlike our greens many are handled several times and shipped great distances, before arriving in grocery stores.”
The Strasheims sell to local restaurants, and attends two weekly farmers markets. “I work here throughout the week and get my socializing at the markets on Friday and Saturday,” he said. “I love to visit with repeat customers who enjoy our products.”
Strasheim said he would rather work with local markets in a 60 to 80 mile radius than to market in larger cities. “One of the things in local farming is transparency,” he said. “I welcome people to come and visit us anytime.”
The Strasheims provide onsite sales of greens. From 2 to 4:30 p.m., on Sunday, Aug. 12, the public is invited to their Field Day. More information on the operation can be found at www.twistedriverfarm.com.