We did it! We are so grateful for your help.
People have been asking us what the additional funds we generate through this amazing campaign will be used for. Any additional donations will be used for this project. Here are the top items on our list:
- A simple solar-electric system runs between $1200-$2500.
- Interior finishing, our own hand-made cabinetry, and appliances.
- Shade and wind-break trees for the yurt, low cost hybrid poplars or other fast-growing trees ($100-$500).
Check out our new rewards, including the print gallery.
House Your Farmers.
We are Mary Bricker and Noah Jackson, the creators, owners, and operators of SweetRoot Farm, LLC, in Montana's Bitterroot Valley. Our three-year-old farm has grown from just a dream into a livelihood, a passion, a purpose, and a role in our community that sometimes still blows our minds. We have learned a lot since we started in 2014, and now provide food for farm members (increasing from 13 families in 2015, to 53 members this year), the Hamilton Farmers' Market, three local restaurants, one grocery store, and the Western Montana Growers' Co-op. Though there are still many investments and improvements to make on the farm, we see a pathway towards a sustainable, profitable farm business, as our skills and experience continue to grow.
There will still be plenty of ups and downs as our farm continues to develop, and this season we had to face the fact that, while the farm is improving and growing and can pay for itself, we are not likely to make enough from it in the near future to fund a house for ourselves. Since August of 2014, we have rented out the house on the property in order to cover most of the land payment; this lets us continue to farm, and we are happy with the choice we made. But it has left us without a good place to live. We've basically camped out for two and a half years in the remodeled barn at the center of the property. It's the sort of thing you can do for a while, and it's a fun adventure....but with two winters of frozen dishes under our belt, we're badly in need of an upgrade, especially if we are going to continue the wonderful but demanding work of farming.
We've farmed long enough now to know that yes, we do really want to do it. And that we can do it, though we'll be learning and making mistakes for many years to come. But to do it, especially to do it well and happily and with all the creativity we want to bring to the work, we really need to have a home on the farm where we can recharge and recover. We are asking our community to invest in our farm now by helping fund a yurt for us to live in. We just want a small, cozy shelter in order to be able to continue to farm with joy, energy, and enthusiasm.
We believe our farm creates value in our community. Besides just food, we have become a place where friends come to work together, browse the farmstore, and see for themselves where their food comes from. We have hosted, and want to host more, workshops where people gather to make salsa or kimchee or tomato sauce together. We want to do more of this, but we know that the personal energy reserves necessary for that work require a home space that is efficient and restful enough that we can keep up.
As a sustainable small business, we cycle resources within our local economy A quick scan of our expenses in 2016 shows that the farm spent $16,284 at locally owned business within a 10-mile radius of the farm, alone. Expanding to the state level increases that number even more. Investing in our home, keeping us going and growing as a farm, will continue to help our whole community thrive.
Why a yurt?
We've considered yurts before, and have stayed in a few as guests or with friends. The open, round space is cozy but bright and appealing. But a large part of the draw at this stage in our life is that a yurt can be put up quickly, creating us a home with a minimal investment of time, so we can keep farming. It is also both structurally sound and secure, yet an easily moved, temporary structure. Someday we may chose to live in a "normal" house, at which point the yurt could become a farm classroom, a guest space, or even be moved to another location. The company we'd purchase from, Shelter Designs, is located just an hour away (no freight costs), and has a proven track record for making high-quality durable yurts that work in Montana. We've visited with them and seen examples of their work. We think their 27-fot diameter yurt will make a great home for us. We don't need a lot of space for just living, and would leave our work desks and farm office in the barn, making the yurt just home: a place to retreat, to signal to ourselves that work is done for the day, and allow us to relax and re-energize.
This size yurt, built locally by Shelter Designs, costs $17,120. An efficient, clean-burning wood stove properly sized for this yurt, costs around $2,200. The platform of the yurt, depending on construction methods, will cost between $3,000 and $6,000. Our project goal covers the yurt itself and the wood stove. We plan to cover the platform cost with farm resources. If we surpass our goal, an additional $5,000 would cover the cost of a SIPs (structural insulated panels) floor for the yurt that would both keep us warmer and make the process go even faster. More details on the SIP floor option here.
After reaching our funding goal, we could place an order for our yurt with Shelter Designs, but their creation process takes 8-12 weeks. This is one reason we have chosen just a 30-day fundraising period; we want to be able to move into this space before winter hits! The sooner we raise the funds, the sooner we can place our order and begin. While the yurt components are being built, we can put up the platform and floor, and collect materials for interior finishing. With a successful funding campaign, we could plan a work party weekend with skilled friends in late September or October to put up the yurt, and be cooking indoors by winter-squash season.
Reward Update, July 3rd!
For backers choosing one of Noah's art prints, a print gallery is here.
Risks and challenges
Can you really get this built before the snow flies?
We have learned a lot in our last three years of building, and gotten better at judging how big of a project to tackle. We tracked the building of our last hoop house at about 200 person-hours. You'll notice we aren't fundraising for a hand-hewn log cabin or an earth-plastered strawbale house. While we'd love to do that someday, we chose a yurt because it was a shelter that could be put up quickly, could be repurposed for various farm uses if we move on to a permanent dwelling, and establishes a cozy weather proof shell in the fastest way possible, so we can focus our building on the finish work. Though more expensive than some other options, this solution is the fastest, giving us the best chance at really restful shelter by winter.
Farming will still be hard even if you have a home....are you sure your farm can make it? Are you sure that having a home is the only thing you need?
We are not afraid to face the fact that many small farms fail, and many others are struggling. A yurt to live in will not magically transform farming into a pleasure cruise, and if we tried to tell you we were 100% sure our farm will be profitable from here on out, we'd be exaggerating. But we do think a home for us is a key requirement to prevent farmer burnout. It makes it much easier to do off-season work if we need to, which is common for small farms. We have built up and grown this farm and our abilities immensely in our first few years, and as we continue to learn, grow, and get good mentoring from our farming colleagues, we are hopeful that we can make a living from farming, and also create a satisfying life. We love this work, we are dedicated to it, and we are incredibly stubborn people. Creativity and ingenuity will continue to be key, but we really do believe we can do it.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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