STURGIS | Rick and Michelle Grosek are building a new addition to their Bear Butte Gardens organic farm, with one eye focused on present needs and another looking at the future.
This fall they started construction of a farm stand where they will sell their organic produce, vegetables grown either in their nearby fields or in an on-site greenhouse, along with eggs and grass-fed, pasture-raised beef and lamb.
Additionally, the new building, going up on the entrance road to their farm, east of Sturgis off Highway 79 and just south of Bear Butte, will incorporate a commercial-grade kitchen, and a small guest space for travelers or seasonal farm employees.
"We talked about doing some form of those since we started Bear Butte Gardens in 2010-2011," Michelle said.
Before opening their farm business, Michelle helped establish, then directed the nonprofit Sturgis Center for the Arts in downtown Sturgis for several years.
Leaving the Center for the Arts in other capable hands, she looked to start a greenhouse, either for flower/bedding plants or vegetables, but decided to focus on produce when she realized there really weren’t many gardeners growing vegetables to sell, say, through a farmer’s market.
She and Rick immediately established Bear Butte Gardens as certified organic, meaning no pesticides or chemicals are involved in the growing process.
“That’s how I was raised,” she said.
“Mom had allergies to chemicals. We just didn’t spray stuff around. We use manure and we squash bugs,” she said.
They eventually added a few livestock to provide manure for soil fertility. They raise chickens, both for eggs and to sell as broilers, along with lambs and steers.
Bear Butte Gardens offers its produce through a Community Supported Agriculture program where subscribers pay a seasonal fee to receive a variety of products either weekly or bi-weekly.
They also sell through their website, bearbuttegardens.com and also participate in the Sturgis Farmer’s Market from June through September in town.
The new farm stand will allow Michelle to have a set place to sell her produce, instead of sharing space with their vehicles and farm implements in a nearby garage.
“We just needed to move up from having people get stuff out of the garage,” she said. “You want to work on the tractor or another vehicle out there, that means I have to move all my garden stuff.”
The blueprints also include a commercial kitchen where they can properly prepare their produce for canning. The kitchen would also be available for rent by other cooks, or for special events, she said.
The final addition, that of a small bed-and-breakfast space for tourists or temporary workers helping out during growing season, was enough to finally get the project going this fall.
“We just needed to have the plans made and get going before we added something else,” Michelle said.
Rick, also Senior Database Administrator for Regional Health in Rapid City, and Michelle also offer a state-approved apprenticeship.
One position, officially titled as diversified organic farm manager, is filled. Michelle is currently writing guidelines for another apprenticeship, that of a commercial kitchen manager, once their new building is complete.
They hope to have the new building up and running in time for the spring gardening season and certainly in time for August when the summer Farmer’s Market selling season hits full stride.
They built their farm after purchasing the pastureland in 1996, adding a home, garage and other buildings, planting trees for shelter and even grading the land in places to capture snow for moisture.
Rick, originally from Lead, wanted a view of the Black Hills to the south. The east offers vistas of prairie and of course, the prominence of Bear Butte to the north, providing Michelle with fond memories of her upbringing near Newell and Belle Fourche.
“It was just a big pasture when we bought it,” Michelle said.
The new farm stand/kitchen/guest room is by far their biggest addition, with a budget capped at $250,000, Rick said.
“I still have a little sticker shock, doing a commercial building is way more expensive than anything else we’ve ever done,” he said.