Friday, May 24, 2024

Crescent Ridge ramps up for spring produce

Mineral Independent | April 17, 2024 12:00 AM

From being a fisheries biologist to a commercial farmer, Michael Davidson has enjoyed the journey immensely.

He cut his teeth helping a buddy in St. Ignatius with his garden, and eight years ago he purchased 23 acres in Alberton. Crescent Ridge Farm has been a thriving business and Davidsson has become the unofficial president of the farmers market on Thursday afternoons. 

The farm is operated as a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) where the recipients of the yet-to-come-vegetables pre-pay Davidson earlier in the year which he uses for capital for seed, fencing, diesel and employees, so the sting of operational costs are not as severe. 

He is, again, sold out for the season and cannot take on any more customers. 

“Ten on the veggies side, so ten families on the veggie side so that’s a box of vegetables per week for 16 to 18 weeks," he said. "Sometimes 20 weeks, depending on the year (weather) and otherwise most of our produce is up at the Alberton Farmers Market.” 

That market officially starts on May 3 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. in the parking lot of the Alberton Library/Community/Senior Center. There is no charge to be a vendor to sell your products that semi-align with the original intent of a farmers’ market being fresh produce. 

However, shaved ice, custom made jewelry, freshly squeezed lemonade, specialized clothing, burgers, and hotdogs have been added over the years making this a weekly family event. Vendors are asked to make a courtesy call or email to Davidson letting him know that they will be participating but drop-ins have happened and everyone makes room. 

Being the unofficial president, it is Davidson who works with the county for the space, the city council for advertising signs, etc. and has become the point-person.

Mid-April is a major preparation time for a commercial gardener and farmer. 

“It’s getting greenhouses ready to be planted. That one’s planted, that one’s planted, that one’s planted so three of the four are planted. The big one is not planted yet but will be soon,” as he points over the acreage. “And a lot of land prep right now as we’re about to break ground. Our giant ‘football field’ gardening area is broken into thirds. There is always one that sits fallow every year, so we rotate and flip-flop making it a 7-year rotation."

“The section that is going to be fallow will just be sitting in clover which is our cover top. We plant the (clover) seed and it becomes our complete nitrogen base so when we turn it into the ground the next year, we are ready to go.” 

Crescent Ridge Farm is an organic operation with a net goal of zero waste where Davidson calculates every year to make his composting as small as possible.

For 2024, nothing has changed as far as farm-to-table produce. 

“We’re still doing our 40 varieties of vegetables and about 70 varieties of different commercial cut flowers that we do for weddings, some florists in town (Missoula). We make our own bouquets, we do our own flower subscriptions, we do market style arrangements at five or six businesses,” he explains. Crescent Ridge Farms works with wedding planners and venues where family and friends come and take advantage of its U-pick option. 

“They come and pick the flowers themselves and they rent our space and tables for making arrangements and centerpieces. They use our walk-in cooler for storage until they come back and pick them up.”

 Davidson gives priority to wedding U-picks but if flowers are needed for any occasion, he said to give him a call and he’ll check his calendar for availability.

There will be one full-time employee, besides Davidson, and the number of part-time postions has yet to be determined. In the past, Davidson has bartered with people trading his produce and flowers for their time in the fields harvesting, weeding or whatever might be the pressing urgency at that time. 

The year-round operation with around 20 acres of hay, fall flower sprays, Christmas wreaths and yuletide logs is the pace, and place, that makes Michael Davidson happy. (406) 381-0166

    Michael Davidson, owner-farmer, of Crescent Ridge Farm in Alberton is about to start plowing and planting his organic produce and flowers. Three of his greenhouses have had plants that started several weeks ago as he has over 40 varieties pf produce for the 2024 season. (Monte Turner/Mineral Independent)