Way into kale: Josh Slotnick directs Garden City Harvest.
Stand in the hanging valley at the mouth of Rattlesnake Canyon north of Missoula, Mont., and you'd never guess that a city of 62,000 lies downhill. Two things dominate: mountains and vegetables. This fertile zone supports the Garden City Harvest (www.gardencityharvest.org), a University of Montana project. The 10-acre farm puts out nearly 10 tons of produce each year, most of it given to low-income residents. Josh Slotnick is the founder and director.
Q When's the best time to visit the farm?
A Fall is glorious. Everything is booming. The flowers and vegetables are as big and beautiful as they're going to get. Things take a nosedive after the first killer frost, lately around mid-October.
Q Can you really eat only local foods?
A Some people already do it. We have apples, pears, plums, and many kinds of greens. It could be a sophisticated cuisine. I won't buy apples from Chile, but I'm not a zealot. You can enjoy the local bounty without making your life difficult.
Q How can people find local produce?
A Try the Missoula Farmer's Market—Saturdays from 8:30 to noon through the end of October. Wherever you live, a market is nearby (www.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets).
Q You've set up five in-town gardens for low-income people. What's the payoff?
A It catalyzes a sense of community. Neighbors work together in a safe, peaceful, productive spot. And they eat really well.
Q You have a philosophy degree? What would a philosopher say about gardening?
A Albert Borgmann, at U of M, would say it's about being engaged. You can be passionate about it even if your potatoes rot in the ground.
Photography by Yogesh Simpson
This article was first published in September 2007. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.