7 Questions with Brittany Moreland of Elevated Harvest
One of the best parts of being part of the Freight Farms team is talking to our freight farmers and hearing about their successes, their businesses, their customers, and their challenges. They are a wealth of information, so now we are sharing some of their stories with you!
In 2016 Brittany Moreland launched Elevated Harvest to offer heirloom varieties of lettuces, leafy greens, and herbs to her community in Red Lodge, Montana. Elevated Harvest offers local, fresh, quality greens year round through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares and at local restaurants, shrinking the distance from farm to fork. We recently spoke to Brittany about the experience of being a modern farmer in the middle of the heartland.
Freight Farms (FF): What reaction do you typically get from people when you tell them what you do for a living?
Brittany Moreland (BM): Elevated Harvest might be unique in the Freight Farmers community because we are growing in a heavily agricultural setting. When we call ourselves farmers we are often met with a raised brow. Our Leafy Green Machine is set directly adjacent to iconic farms and ranches, think fields of rolling grain and lush pastures. As soon as someone tastes our greens, it is instant enthusiasm and some recognition that we are farming, albeit modernly. The neighborly ol’ timers have taken tours and been amazed to see all that’s growing inside; some even joined our CSA!
FF: What motivated you to become a farmer?
BM: Farming is the confluence of so many issues that are important to us: it has political, social, cultural, environmental, and health implications. Although we have a grocery store fifteen miles away and might not technically be in a food desert, Montana struggles to provide a market for food grown locally to be sold locally. We have an incredible opportunity to address the challenges facing rural economies by supporting sustainable agriculture businesses.
FF: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?
BM: The global food system is very susceptible to disruption by any number of fluctuations so supporting local producers is our guarantee that we can all weather any storm. This requires some culture shifts. Local producers need to make their food accessible and affordable to their communities, but we all need to stop expecting food to be so cheap. Inexpensive food outsources its costs to poorly paid laborers, the environment, and often relies heavily on subsidies. But if everyone spends more dollars on quality, local food and builds a relationship with the producer, then there are incredible returns for economies, personal health, and strong communities. As farmers, our biggest competition isn’t each other, it’s the big box stores, so as small farmers we should all support one another.
FF: What’s the most pressing issue in food and agriculture that you’d like to see solved?
BM: Perhaps not the most pressing, but the food issue we most often contact our Senators regarding, is the federal farm bill. There needs to be some changes in the political landscape – for one, why fruits and vegetables are considered “specialty crops” and lumped together with floriculture is baffling. Secondly, the way insurance programs and subsidies are managed is misaligned to what could be offering rural America a vibrant future. Also, as currently enacted, the bill encourages consolidation, driving up the costs of land and making it nearly impossible for young farmers to start out. All of which just barely scratches the surface of how Congress interweaves policy in all farmers’ lives. So reform needs to happen on many levels, but we all have to start where we are, and for us, that’s growing good food for our community.
FF: What is one small change every one can make in their daily lives to make a big difference in our food system?
BM: We have two actually. Absolutely buy local whenever possible - but also contact your representatives. Whether it’s regarding healthy school lunches, water rights, or funding for a community garden, especially right now constituents are being heard. Food is inherently political, and as farmers we need our voice in the revolution, but food can also transcend partisanship. Eating is an act that we all do - if we’re lucky, several times a day - and so it has great potential as a uniting power. Every time we pick up our forks we have made a choice, and we should be conscious about what that decision says we want to support.
FF: What are your plans for the future?
BM: Elevated Harvest is on a producer’s steering committee with a local agricultural non-profit to create a Food Hub/Co-Op to address all the above issues. Our future includes organizing multi-farm CSAs and joining together our resources as producers to sell our large quantities of greens to institutions in coalition with grain growers, cattle, pork, and lamb operations. We also envision adding freights to school campuses for education and to provide greens for kids’ cooking classes, and hopefully placing one at our rural hospital where incoming produce requires close attention to prevent pathogens. On the land surrounding our freight we keep bees, we are planting a cider orchard, and we have plans to run a few head of livestock to experiment with grazing techniques that increase carbon sequestration. Placing the freight in an otherwise unusable location prevented us from having to till up several acres of arable land for vegetables, so we have the opportunity to be more diversified.
FF: What’s the best piece of advice you can give to people interested in becoming Freight Farmers?
BM: People drawn to being around plants, if like us, are more introverted, so our best piece of advice is to not underestimate the amount of salesmanship required. Be proud of your product. It is high quality, local, grown sustainably, clean, incredibly fresh, and it reduces food waste, but it’s still not going to sell itself.