by Karen Van Wyk
Rick and Michelle Grosek, the owners of Bear Butte Gardens in Sturgis, SD, sprouted the business from scratch. Simple family living has grown into a certified organic vegetable and meat farm.
The couple married and bought a farm many years ago while in college. They leased out its pasture to other farmers. They both held jobs in town. Slowly, however, they began transitioning to starting greenhouses, where Michelle assumed daily management while Rick kept his desk job in town.
To Michelle, organic farming was “normal.” She didn’t know anything else.
It began with, in Michelle’s words, her “mother’s environmental allergies.” As a child on her farm, her mother was extremely sensitive to things such as simple sprays and smells that most would consider common. Organic gardening was borne out of necessity for Michelle’s family farm.
As Michelle and Rick were starting out and developing their greenhouses, she decided to take master gardening classes, and was surprised by all the chemicals being used. She was not comfortable with it, and so the Groseks decided to obtain an organic certification for their farm. While being certified organic requires yearly renewals and inspections, Michelle cheerfully takes on the task and has developed a successful business.
Bear Butte harvests a wide range of vegetables including greens, squash, tomatoes and peppers. Their highest sales come from the salad mix she grows and bags. They have a couple part-time workers from March to June to assist with the soil and seeding.
This season they will build an enclosed building farm stand for all their products. Michelle stated, “We endeavor to settle in with each new addition, but there are always new ways to expand which we take on bit by bit.”
The Groseks are known by the community through word of mouth and social media, where many make their orders. Bear Butte Gardens also hosts a health fair with free gardening workshops being offered. In addition, Michelle speaks at schools and senior citizen centers, usually during the slower part of the season.
One new development is a registered two-year apprenticeship program they have developed through the South Dakota Department of Labor. The chosen apprentice will learn and practice greenhouse, vegetable, livestock, fence building and other farm work.
Bear Butte Gardens is spreading the seed for healthy living and paving the way to educate those who would like to continue the certified organic tradition, and have been doing so for close to 20 years now.