With the ongoing pandemic, small and midsize farmers have been looking for new and creative ways to get their products into consumers’ hands. For Bart and Wendy Morris of Missoula-based Oxbow Cattle Company, that question was already on their minds many years ago.
The duo constructed a store on their ranch property called the F2M, or farm to market store, that operates entirely based on the honor system. The Morris’ restock the freezers and let shoppers peruse, pick, and pay all on their own. The system may make some farmers weary for potential theft, but so far the F2M has been nothing but a benefit.
Not only do the Morris’ have more time to work the ranch and their management intensive grazing plan, but they’ve also created an opportunity for consumers to learn about other local food providers in the region. The F2M now carries a variety of products on top of Oxbow’s beef. An unexpected benefit from building the little store is the opportunity to offer shoppers a view of the ranch. If they come shopping on the right day, they might even see the Oxbow cattle herd grazing nearby.
Bart and Wendy are committed to raising their livestock in a responsible, conservation-minded manner. To improve their pastures, they recently added a herd of goats to address weeds on the ranch that the cattle simply don’t prefer to eat. Multi-species grazing, which includes mixing sheep, cattle, and/or goats, can offer a range of benefits when it comes to pasture improvement, soil fertility, and animal health.
But offering grass-finished beef in Western Montana’s rangeland that brings harsh winters and short growing seasons is not without its challenges. Bart and Wendy share how they help their livestock cope with the winters, which are usually more stressful for humans than animals. The region also comes with some fairly serious predators like wolves. Bart gained a firsthand appreciation for the wilderness in which he now ranches when he worked for the Wyoming game and Fish and Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks agencies.
Enjoy the show and be sure to keep up with Bart & Wendy on Instagram where they share daily scenes from ranchlife, usually on horseback. And if you’re ever near Missoula make sure to put the F2M on your agenda.