Interview: Brittany Moreland

At first I did not think that the person who walked into Honey’s Café in Red Lodge could be Brittany because she looks under 35 years old. She certainly does not fit the current mold of MGs in Yellowstone County, gray haired pensioners that we are. And that aspect addresses what she considers to be a direction the MG program should reach: younger people. She was only able to take the classes after Bob Wicks, her inspiration while in the classes and beyond, started hosting evening sessions. She highlighted the wide interest in the farm-to- table movement that young folks especially embrace.

If you have read previous interviews I have written, parents were the key influence to motivate MGs, and Brittany fits that pattern, but her parents took it to the zenith. Her mom and grandmother canned produce from a huge garden, and Brittany helped. Tomatoes were grown in pots, and they are currently Brittany’s favorite plant along with ground cherries, although she feels excited about the outcome of her apple orchard. I have no doubt that the love of gardening will transfer soon to her two toddlers, as the apple does not fall far from the tree. They are already learning what is ripe in the here and now.

She approached the MG program much like she has proven to tackle any project: Brittany completed all three levels in one year, 2011, made all the more impressive by the fact that she commuted from Red Lodge to do it. This focused and ambitious gal just started a gardening business called Elevated Harvest last fall with her husband. By March, their CSA had 35 customers. Having seven years of employment at the Stillwater Mine behind her must make this step of creating a business all the sweeter.

Her interest lies in edibles, not houseplants or flowers. Elevated Harvest grows hydroponic (growing in water without soil) lettuce and herbs. With a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from the University of Montana (Go Griz!), Brittany has the perseverance to make this business a success. Their lettuce is distributed to numerous vendors in this region. Using no pesticides, herbicides, or sprays, they however are not currently seeking organic certification. They donate produce to the Food Bank and accept SNAP dollars.

What a whirlwind of passion! Her broad experience includes gardening when floating from apartment to apartment during her university years, and working during harvest on a grain farm. Her favorite Level 3 work involved grafting. Successfully grafting apple trees, her participation in the MG program has her volunteering at Farmers’ Markets and helping Carbon County MGs Maggy Hiltner and Marcella Manuel conduct an annual seed swap.

Embrace change. Take the long-term view. Gardening is a palpable act of hope. Try again. Her philosopher emerges; ideas precede actions. I feel like I completed Level 4 of the MG program after this interview! Consider the following definitions: aquaponics- growing with fish; haskap- a fruit from Saskatchewan that can be eaten raw, cooked, or made into juice or wine, it’s bigger than blueberries and without the thorns. Its bush-like structure must be netted from birds, and it grows to one and a half meters tall; REAP grant- Rural Energy Assistance Program. Brittany and her husband were currently applying for a grant during the time of the interview.

Recommended: consider adding Passion & Stir podcast from the Share Our Strength program, which is the backbone of the No Kid Hungry movement, to your cultural intake. Plus pistachio and carrot top pesto is her current favorite in the kitchen. Shiso- a purple leafy Asian herb. On the broader plane, Brittany recognizes that growing our own food is a powerful move which ties into our culture, creating an economic connection with the environment. Will local food become the upper echelon? How can we move to a sustainable local economy? She has been a formative link during the conception phase in creating a food producer co-op with Northern Plains Resource Council. The next generation of gardeners will revitalize and inform us all! Brittany will make sure they do, and let’s thank her for richly adding to the conversation.

To read more about her farm visit, go to: qa-elevated- harvest.

Submitted by Bess Lovec