By the time the farm crew arrives around 7am, Matt and Jacy Rothschiller have sent their kids to school, fed the chickens, been to the meat shop and back, and started on chef orders.
Then they join the farm crew in picking leafy greens, herbs, and bunching greens like kale, chard, and lettuce. Harvesting continues after lunch as carrots, radishes, broccoli, tomatoes, and cucumbers are pulled from the soil and plucked from their stems. Once the produce is washed and packed, it’s ready for shipment to local restaurants, grocery stores, and community-supported agriculture (CSA) subscribers.
These scenes take place at Gallatin Valley Botanical and Rocky Creek Farm, adjacent properties operated by Matt and Jacy. The farms are situated east of town, wedged in a corner between Frontage Road and the mountains.
This piece of the valley is beautiful as well as functional: fresh rainbow chard, colorful chicken eggs, and rows of sprouting seedlings make it a veritable candy shop for the eyes. Life there is busy, and includes tasks like sowing seeds and caring for an acre and a half of flower fields.
“Both of us are wired to do a lot of different things,” Jacy explains. “We thrive off of changing tasks and having a lot going on, and we still love being in the field and working with our hands.”
This piece of the valley is beautiful as well as functional: fresh rainbow chard, colorful chicken eggs, and rows of sprouting seedlings make it a veritable candy shop for the eyes.
This love likely stemmed from gardening throughout their childhoods. Jacy grew up in Kalispell surrounded by her grandfathers’ gardens. One grandfather grew food and tended to fruit trees; the other hybridized dahlias and started a side business selling flowers and tubers. Jacy worked in greenhouses while attending school for biology. After graduating, she worked in restoration and started a native plant nursery.
Matt grew up in a family with eight kids. His family cultivated sizable backyard gardens for as long as he can remember. He spent much of his time pulling weeds and picking beans, and his mother had Rodale’s gardening books and Mother Earth News strewn about the house. He carried on this tradition after he moved out, maintaining his own backyard gardens and bringing his produce into a few restaurants.
From 2000 to 2001, Matt and Jacy lived in different apartments in the same house on 8th Street in Bozeman, where Matt kept a garden. There, they discovered a shared affinity for working and playing outside. Jacy laughs as she remembers being at a dinner party with Matt.
“Somebody asked him what his dream job was and he said, ‘Oh, I want to be a farmer and grow vegetables for restaurants,’ and I looked at him and I was, like, ‘I can do that!’”
They decided to uproot and head to Napa Valley, just north of San Francisco, where they spent a year working on farms and in restaurants. They returned to Bozeman in 2002 and, after inspecting a two-acre field available in Manhattan, leased their first plot of land in 2003 and christened their farm Gallatin Valley Botanical.
Nearby, they rented an old yellow farmhouse with a red barn. They thought they might get sidetracked if they focused first on saving money. “So we’ve bootstrapped everything,” Jacy says. They pooled their knowledge and available resources, and dove headlong into farming.
Slowly but surely, their farm started to grow. In January 2008 they were able to purchase seven acres of Rocky Creek Farm, bringing Gallatin Valley Botanical much closer to Bozeman. In 2017, they acquired the rest of Rocky Creek.
In 2006, they welcomed a new family member: Jacy was picking parsnips the day before their baby was born. They have two children now, Ania, age 9, and Zachary, age 12, both of whom are allowed to come and go from farming as they like.
“One of their favorite pastimes is going into the greenhouse,” Matt says. “They get in their own little world and they go and putter around. They know a lot about plants already, just from being next to them for their whole lives.”
One thing the children already know is that they have fresh, local food at their fingertips.
“We want to eat healthy, so we try to eat what we produce. Our kids especially like to eat raw produce,” Jacy says. Matt and Jacy work on the bustling farm every day, but also take turns focusing on their children. “This allows us to have meaningful time with the crew and with our children. It’s good for both of us to be involved with both aspects of our lives,“ Matt says.
One goal Matt and Jacy share is offering more recreation to community members. “We’re working on building trails here so that people can come out, get some fresh air, see what we’re doing, look at our fields,” Matt says. “Part of the long-term goal of Rocky Creek Farm is to showcase agriculture, at least a glimpse of agriculture people can see firsthand.”
This glimpse would show they are working towards having an ecologically sustainable farm. They do so by growing a variety of crops, rotating them, adding animals into the system, and composting manure. Currently, they have fourteen ewes, a couple of rams, twenty-four lambs, several pigs, and a unique mobile chicken coop. These animals help care for the farm’s soil. As the animals are rotated through the pastures, they clean up crop residues and fertilize the soil. The chickens and pigs are also fed leftover vegetables to cut down on waste. Matt and Jacy also provide habitat for bees. “We’ll maintain brushy areas and flower strips around the perimeter of our farm for bumblebees,” Matt says, “which are great pollinators.”
They also bring in beneficial insects like wasps by allowing certain Brassicas—a family of plants that includes broccoli, kale, radishes, and arugula—go to flower. “When harvest is over, those plants send out flower shoots, which attract wasps into the field,” Jacy says. These wasps then prey on pests that would otherwise damage crops.
With so much activity at one farm, Matt and Jacy recognize how important their employees are, and encourage the community to thank the crew for their hard work when they see them at farmers markets or at the farm stand. Those workers, along with community support, “make us able to take care of this little corner of the valley,” Jacy says.
Community members are welcome to visit the farm and see these processes firsthand. This summer, Matt and Jacy are hosting kids’ camps, flowers and wine workshops, and U-pick berries. They are also holding several farm dinners that are open to the public, and offer produce at their market stand and in their summer CSAs.
On the surface, Matt and Jacy’s farm is picturesque, with its gurgling stream, blue homestead, and flourishing fields. But their story—its seedling beginnings and their passion for their work—adds depth to the farm’s beauty and highlight how valuable they, and other farmers, are to the Bozeman community.