Baker, Montana – In Montana, most people can’t just go outside and pick a lime from their garden, but it’s not entirely out of reach. A local ranch family is proving that even in Montana’s climate, growing tropical fruits is possible. They’ve set up a citrus grove right in their Montana farm.
At the Barkley Ranch near Baker, they’re successfully growing citrus fruits like Meyer lemons and Valencia oranges.
This one-of-a-kind Baker ranch celebrated 100 year of existence in 2021
Todd Barkley, who runs the ranch with his family, shared that they celebrated their ranch’s 100th anniversary in 2021, the same year they built their greenhouse.
Together with his wife, Molly, Todd Barkley sells a variety of farm products including beef, pork, honey, syrup, and vegetables through their venture, Barkley’s Homegrown. The Barkleys are committed to regenerative farming, and they believe in the potential of growing a wide range of produce in Montana.
“We’re in the farthest southeastern part of the state in a Zone 3B growing area,” Todd Barkley said. “Normally it’s 50 degrees outside right now and it’s a hundred degrees in our greenhouse. So we’re in a Zone 10. It’s amazing.”
The Barkleys have built a unique geothermal greenhouse that digs into the earth. This design creates a warm environment, similar to a basement, which is effective even in Montana’s cold winters, allowing them to grow citrus fruits.
Molly Barkley finds it exciting to grow something unusual like citrus in their area. She considers it an experimental venture.
The greenhouse has a main growing area that is 82 feet long. Additionally, there’s a 16-foot space housing two water storage tanks. The whole structure measures 17 feet in width and 12 feet in height.
Inside this greenhouse, they cultivate warm-weather vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers, as well as various citrus and stone fruits.
“We have a saying: Healthy soils build healthy plants build healthy animals that feed healthy people, and builds a healthy community—and that’s what regenerative agriculture is,” Todd Barkley said.
Now in their second citrus-growing year, the Barkleys are openly sharing their journey. They want to show that such a project is achievable, even in a state known for its cold climate and cattle farming.
Todd Barkley believes that a key goal in farming is to feed people and contribute to global food needs, which brings a sense of fulfillment. He emphasizes the importance of more farmers understanding and experiencing this. He points out that, like their citrus trees which aren’t native to Montana, it’s possible to grow food in the local soil. This, he feels, connects people to what they eat and to the land they live on.