Producer Feature: Bear Butte Gardens
Bear Butte Gardens is located just 5 miles northeast of Sturgis along Highway 79 right on the way to Bear Butte State Park. Michelle and Rick Grosek have been operating the gardens and greenhouses since 2011. In 2012 the Groseks received organic certification for their vegetables, poultry, eggs, and hay ground. A few years later they went ahead and certified the whole acreage including the grazing pastures.
Over the past 10 years of operation the gardens and farm have undergone a lot of changes and growth. Honeybees were added and then broilers and lambs. Thanksgiving turkeys soon followed. The Groseks also began buying weaned steers each year and raising them and the lambs completely on their own organic pasture and hay. Two little dairy goat doelings were brought in to the mix in 2019 and will be bred this November for babies in spring 2021.
Since 2012 Michelle has managed a CSA (community supported agriculture) for selling some of her certified organic vegetables. The numbers on the CSA membership have ranged from 10 shares to 27 shares. Vegetables have also been sold to local small restaurants and coffee shops for their lunch specials. Favorites with local eating establishments are the salad mixes and heirloom tomatoes. Spring 2020 provided an abundance of large, beautiful broccoli greens and a local small restaurant was thrilled to use them for wilted greens on their Cajun buffet.
In 2019 Michelle and Rick finalized their plans to add a farm stand onto their property to enhance their vegetable and meat sales. After much debating back and forth they decided to also build a commercial kitchen and then a vacation rental, all onto the same new construction foot print.
Three brand new businesses were created, The Farm Stand at Bear Butte Gardens, The Kitchen at Bear Butte Gardens, and The Cottage at Bear Butte Gardens. Construction was finalized around July 4th and an open house and Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting were held on Friday, July 24th. A lot of scrambling happened in those 20 days to get display tables, commercial appliances and coolers, vacation rental furnishings, etc., all purchased and in place, not to mention arrangements made with well over a dozen initial local producers of vegetables, meat, eggs, teas, honey, beeswax products, etc.!
And then the 80th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally happened, so the Groseks and their friends Desiree and Jesse Duncan from Newell broke in the new facilities selling fresh local produce, smoked pork tenderloin and pulled pork sandwich meals, and offering up a brand new vacation rental for rally use. The vacation rental immediately filled up for 10 days over rally and has been booked solid since then with only time for cleaning in between guests. The farm stand sold a solid amount of local produce, meat, eggs, and value-added products during the rally and has continued with sales steadily increasing.
The commercial kitchen quickly transitioned from rally meals to food preservation and canning, freezing, and dehydrating, and have been in full swing ever since. An inventory of preserved, value-added products is currently being built up in the kitchen to fill the farm stand through the winter months when fresh produce is not available. Kitchen staff is also experimenting with baked goods recipes so they are ready to keep a steady supply of breads, cookies, bars, cheesecakes, and such on hand through the cold months. The next experimentations will be with hot soups, casseroles, appetizers, side dishes, pasties, pizzas, and other items that are easy to take home or to work for quick meals.
Michelle and Rick look forward to the next year of settling into the new businesses and continuing with the other farm and garden activities that are in place. Bear Butte Gardens has two apprenticeships through the Department of Labor—a Commercial Kitchen Manager apprenticeship, currently filled by Desiree Duncan, and a Diversified Organic Farm Manager apprenticeship that is currently open, but will be filled again in approximately January. Any readers who are interested in the farm manager apprenticeship, or know of someone who may be interested in it, should contact the Groseks about applying. Contact information is on the Bear Butte Gardens website.