It was an unassuming little lot on the side of the road, grown over with weeds and home to a few small outbuildings, that was the seed of everything that would become Mountain Feed and Farm Supply. When Jorah and Andi purchased the property in 2004, they intended their store to be a simple venture; a feed store, filling a humble need in their small mountain community. Jorah, having spent his childhood rambling about the county with his dad's mobile veterinary clinic, understood firsthand the joy that animals brought to people's lives, and they decided right from the start to honor that bond with well-researched, healthy pet food. They filled the store with critter feed and opened up shop. Customers came, to buy dog food and chicken scratch, yes, but also to talk with the friendly young couple behind the counter. In a small town like Ben Lomond, it isn't hard to get on a first name basis with folks you see every week. So the rough wooden counter became a place where people would lean, after the kibble had been paid for, and chat for a moment, about the weather, perhaps, their animals, their gardens. Their old rusty truck, idling outside. (Jorah has always had a fondness for antiques.) Looking back, these early conversations were the wild seeds that began to germinate and grow, in the backs of their minds, in the unused portion of the lot behind the store, up between the cracks in what they had set out to do. What if we could be more than just a pet store, they began to wonder. What if we could really be a part of something bigger?
A THOUSAND TINY CONVERSATIONS
In hindsight, the present can seem somehow inevitable. To look at the store today, it would seem as though it had sprung, fully formed, from the mind of a single, focused entity. In fact, the store is the result of thousands of tiny conversations.How's it going? Well, the dang gophers keep eating my veggies.
How's your mom doing? Well, I want to find a little gift to cheer her up. You know of anywhere good around here?
What year is that truck? She's a '38. They don't make them like this anymore.
Little by little, a vision began to take shape. Nursery pots appeared, filled with plants suited to life in the folds of mountainsides. The gift shop, which had once been the founders' modest living quarters, was transformed with paint and bling, into an oasis of sparkle and scent amidst the bales and bags of feed. Brick pathways wound their way throughout the lot, curved and cut to fit by Jorah himself. Fences and gates sprouted. Andi nursed their newborn baby behind the register, ringing up customers and welcoming everyone who entered. An antique biodiesel pump appeared and dispensed fuel for a while. Bags of soil and fertilizer crowded amongst the bales. If the evolution of the store could be viewed in time lapse, for a moment it might have looked like an incredible, colorful game of Tetris, or like an explosion of cellular life beneath a microscope.
A GATHERING EVOLUTIONWhen sauerkraut ferments, the bacteria present on the leaves of cabbage begin to reproduce. As they digest the kraut, their action changes their environment, making it possible for the next wave of bacteria to colonize the kraut. These bacteria, too, modify their environment, and are succeeded in turn by the next wave of bacterial colonists. Each successive batch of microorganisms builds itself, quite literally, out of those which preceded it; each change makes possible the next. So it was with the evolution of Mountain Feed.
Customers came from all walks of life. Old-timers with coveralls, young adults with nose rings and tattoos, parents with kids of all ages. Homesteaders, dreamers, retirees, students. They were drawn to the energy and the movement happening in the small mountain town, and they each held a piece of the intricate mosaic that was forming, not just in Ben Lomond, but globally.
There is a desire that runs deep, beneath disparate cultures and political views, for connection. It's a basic human need, a form of community. Connection to our neighbors and our families, to the food we eat and the places we inhabit. It was as though each customer that leaned on the counter to chat offered up a little thread, a piece of the web that was our community.
It has been our task here at Mountain Feed to gather those strands together and weave a kind of web, a vision that encompasses not only the inhabitants of this valley, but one that reaches out beyond the edges of our small community, to connect to the larger culture beyond. Having started small (remember those cells!), we have grown organically, in response to customer feedback. The response has been so positive, and along every step of the way, we have received a massive amount of support from our beloved customers. "This is your store," we like to tell them. "We are stocked by popular demand." And it's no empty slogan. There are hundreds of pages of requests, jotted down by employees who then set about finding the best product, for the best price, to fill the need.
You may have noticed that this article suddenly switched tenses. From they, to we. Well, that's what happens, when connection is forged. All of a sudden, shared interest and common ground become links that bind us, to each other and to the world. Or maybe it isn't all of a sudden. Maybe, from the outside, it might look as though we have sprung up, like sprouts after the first rains, and burst into the colorful profusion that we are today. But this garden has been lovingly tended and curated by knowledgeable and determined people, who are dedicated to furthering their own knowledge, and sharing it with others. We want to inspire, and to be inspired. It's so important to us, to have this space that empowers people. Ask us questions! We want to help.
This store truly is a a collaborative effort, and one that invites further collaboration. Our doors are open, 9-6 each day (10-5 on Sunday,) and we welcome you to walk right in. You will be greeted and served as though your presence was a welcome gift and your projects were part of a larger good. They are.
INTEGRAL TO THE WHOLE
A farm is more than just the earth and some seeds. It is made up of knowledge, and dreams, and hard work, too. It's the grass and the wildflowers, that harbor insects and birds, also integral to the whole. It's the young chickens laying eggs, the old hens destined for the stew pot, the goat or the cow lowing to be milked in the barn. It's water tanks and pasture fence and hay bales, stacks of glass jars for canning, a cast iron pan you can pass to the next generation. It is a grandmother's sauerkraut recipe, a glut of zucchini and apples, a first attempt at strawberry jam. It is all these things and more.
A farm is also a metaphor and a microcosm, a piece of an intricate ecosystem that transcends fences and divisions. Whether your farm is 20 acres of river bottom soil or a few containers on the porch; whether it is the work you do in the kitchen or in the garden that feeds your heart the most, we are honored to be included in the life you have chosen. There is something here for everyone. Can we help you find anything?
This website is the next step in our evolution, another wave of growth and change, rippling out into the wider world. We are already shipping worldwide, and have run an internet store for 2 years now, but with the launch of this website, which we have designed to more fully reflect our aesthetic and our inventory, we hope to increase our reach even more. We intend to grow as we have done from the beginning, never straying from our commitment to customer service and quality products. If you are an old friend, who has been leaning on the counter for years, we thank you wholeheartedly for making this venture so successful. If you are new to the store, or the website, we welcome you and invite your feedback. New to food preservation, seed-starting, or anything else you want to learn about? Sign up for the newsletter, and we will notify you each time we have new classes or events.
Whether you visit us in person, or online, we extend you, now and always, the very warmest of welcomes. Let us know what you need. We are your store.
HOMESTEAD HARVEST PRESERVE
- Written by Jessica Tunis