Jennifer Knoetgen // Mountain Meat Shares

It’s not a stretch to say that, for me, biting into my first Montana-grown, locally-butchered pork chop was like a religious experience.

Jennifer Knoetgen knows that feeling better than pretty much anyone. An accountant by trade but a homesteader by choice, she started Mountain Meat Shares as a passion project. It wasn’t long before it became something bigger.

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Now, Jennifer serves families in the Missoula area with boxes of local chicken, beef, and pork on a subscription basis. Her customers are well-fed, have a smaller carbon footprint, and know where their meat comes from.

On the Mountain Meat Shares website, Jennifer says that one of her most basic beliefs is that “farm animals, while their ultimate fate might well be your table, should live their lives peacefully, with their needs met, and their days spent outdoors as much as possible.”

What more could you possibly want from your dinner?

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Jennifer sprays down the pig pen so they can create their own wallow to keep cool in the summer.

 

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Here’s Jennifer herself to tell you more about how she moves the world.


BB: You’re a farmer. Was that an unexpected part of your career path or were you always heading that direction?

JK: I think I would call myself a homesteader since the food we grow here at our place in Arlee, Montana is mostly for our own household and not for commercial purposes. I grew up next to my grandparents’ farm and spent my days taking care of animals and always knowing where my food came from.

I developed a deep satisfaction of caring for animals by learning from the practices of animal husbandry from my grandparents.

[They] were Slovenian immigrants and grew nearly all of the food we ate. By the time I came along, they were retired from dairy farming, but we still had a few pigs each year, raised calves for resale, had our own milk, butter, vegetables and fruit, eggs, chicken, and beef. The farm was tidy, the animals clean and happy. I learned that their daily care came first, and it was hard work, but even as a kid, it felt satisfying. We didn’t waste and butchered all of our own animals. When I think back, I have been slaughtering meat chickens since I was probably eight years old!

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One of Jennifer’s Plymouth Rock barred chickens. Her chickens eat kitchen scraps and insects and lay brown eggs.

BB: What led you to create Mountain Meat Shares?

JK:  When friends and visitors to my farm saw how happy and healthy our meat animals were, they just intuitively wanted to have a part of it. I couldn’t commercially produce that kind of volume, and so sourcing the animals from farmers I trust and have a relationship with was a way for me to deliver that food to others.

BB: Mountain Meat Shares is a CSA. What does that mean?

JK: CSA stands for community-supported agriculture. In most cases, it means a customer is making an investment in and taking a risk with the farmer in the upcoming growing season.

There are a variety of ways a CSA can be configured. I would say MMS is like a  CSA in that we are sourcing whole animals from the farmers and the customer isn’t choosing specific cuts or varieties as you would buy at a grocery.

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Jennifer has two goats, Willow and Mina. Willow and Mina will soon be old enough to breed and produce milk. For now, they enjoy eating raspberries and following Jennifer around the farm.

BB: Do you think CSAs are the future of food?

JK: Not likely. There is too much demand by the larger population for choice, convenience, and price. But I do think that the changes and awareness that small, local farms bring will influence customer behavior and future demands of the large food systems.

BB: What differences would people notice if they replaced their mass-produced meat with locally-grown products?

JK: Taste! Animals [raised] outdoors as much as possible, on pasture under the sun, absorb the nutrients from our soil, stretch their muscles the way they were designed to, and just taste better.

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If you live in the Missoula area, subscribe to Mountain Meat Shares here.

BB: What can we all do to reduce our carbon footprint with our food?

JK: Don’t waste! So much energy, water, transportation, land use and carbon goes into our food, and as households, we throw so much of it away. I’m planning a blog post about this soon because I think I’m hardwired to despise waste and wasting food — at all levels of production, distribution, and consumption– just doesn’t make sense.

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BB: What’s it like to turn a passion project into a business?

JK: Fun and exciting. It’s invigorating to take something I’m passionate about — local food — and bring it to the marketplace to actually help families make the farm-to-table connection.

BB: What’s your favorite part of entrepreneurship?

JK: Making all of the decisions myself. Be they good or bad, they’re all mine!

BB: You’re a horsewoman. Is that what you like to do with your free time?

JK: Yes! I have been involved with horses my whole life and they are a challenge but I also have a deeply satisfying relationship with them.

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Riding is one of the ways I connect to the wilderness and take in the seasons and the wildlife that surrounds us.

Although I have had many limitations to my involvement with horses over the years, it’s something I just can’t not do.

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Jennifer and her Arabian gelding, Highlander.
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Highlander wears a fly mask to protect his eyes from insects.

BB: What inspires you?

JK: People working hard outside of the box.

I have little tolerance for excuses and following the herd, so when I meet people making efforts to better their lives, in whatever way that might be for them, I am inspired.

BB:  What makes you feel like a badass?

JK: Bucking the norms and working hard and being resourceful.

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Jennifer grew a patch of wildflowers in her front yard to attract pollinators like honeybees.

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BB: What’s your dream trivia category?

JK: Substitute ingredients.

BB: Like?

JK: On occasion, if a dessert calls for just a small amount of heavy cream, I’ll use half and half. Certainly walnuts in pesto instead of pine nuts.

BB: Is there anything else you would like to add?

JK: Thank you for inviting me!

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Jennifer often rides her Arabian mare, Sundance, into the nearby mountains.

Contact Jennifer at 406.880.3083 or at info@mountainmeatshares.com


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Mallory Ottariano // Kind Apparel

Mallory is a mover and a shaker. And as a mover and a shaker, she needed clothes that could move and shake, too, so she created Kind Apparel, a women’s adventure clothing company based out of Missoula, Montana.

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Mallory is wearing a Fjord dress of her own design. Get yours here.

Kind Apparel isn’t your run-of-the-mill clothing company (though her clothes are perfect for the runners among us). Mallory designs her own fabrics as inspired by nature and printed on recycled material made from plastic bottles.

Here’s Mallory herself to tell you more about how she moves the world:

BB: Tell me about Kind Apparel.

MO: Kind Apparel is a small women’s adventure clothing company. We design and make colorful and functional wearables for the outdoor-ist in you that are focused on celebrating the uniqueness of every woman. Our fabrics are what make our products special! Everything is made from stretchy Lycra that’s made from recycled plastic bottles and printed with my own graphics and artwork.

There is not a single solid colored fabric in our offerings and everything is very bold and very bright. Think psychedelic moonscapes, citrus fruits, paisleys, water reflections, and succulents.

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Kind Apparel skorts are designed for running, swimming, hiking, and backpacking.

BB: What do you do when you’re not working on Kind stuff?

MO: Honestly, these days I’m working most of the time, but I do make time for exercise every day, whether that’s in the gym or on a run during the week or a ski tour or bike ride on the weekends. I try to fit in as much skiing as I can during the winter/spring, and I play soccer all year round.

In the evenings, you can find me out on a Missoula trail taking my dog for a walk with my fiancê! I love to be in motion, whether that’s physically or just tackling many activities during a busy day. So when I’m not working, I’m usually moving in some capacity.

BB: What drew you to design specifically for women?

MO: Personal experience. I believe we can design best for ourselves, so as a woman it’s easy for me to know what is wanted and needed in the market. I also think — although this is certainly changing — that there is a significant lack of functional and technical yet cute clothing out there. Most women’s outdoor clothing tends to be available in frumpy fits and bland colors and I wanted to change that to include the colorful prints of lots of casual women’s clothing.

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BB: Have you ever had a “lightning bolt moment” or a sudden flash of inspiration?

MO: Yes! I had known I wanted to transition to custom printed fabric eventually, but when an opportunity dropped into my lap I certainly became inspired by how my company could grow.

On a backpacking trip, I was looking around at all the texture and color in the lichen on a rock I was taking a break on and I thought, “My prints should be inspired by nature and the amazing places where women are wearing the clothing I make!” So my next two collections have been entirely inspired by the natural world.

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Kind Apparel’s swim tops are reversible and versatile.

BB: Has being an entrepreneur changed you?

MO: Yes, in so many ways. It’s given me greater confidence. It’s taught me to be my own champion and cheerleader, and it’s taught me introspection and humility.

The most profound change is accountability. I used to, and still do, pass blame, decisions and challenges to everything and everyone but myself. But when you work for yourself and things go wrong or there are big problems, you must confront them.

There isn’t anyone else who can make the decisions that need to be made and any fault is almost always my own. I’m learning to own my mistakes and grow from them.

BB: What makes you feel like a badass?

MO: When I live up to my expectation of myself. Ha! I’m hugely competitive and set a very high bar for myself. It’s also an amazing feeling when I see women around Missoula — or abroad — wearing my clothing. Or when I introduce what I do and someone says, “Oh, that’s your company?! I have one of your dresses and I love it!”

I used to derive a lot of pleasure from physical or athletic accomplishments and as I get older this mentality and associated high do, too. Now, I feel like I badass when I see an impact I’ve created.

BB: What would you say to women who dream of starting an apparel company?

MO: It definitely sounds narcissistic, but I would say to anyone starting a business, “Put yourself first, love yourself the most, and believe in yourself the hardest.”

Certainly, you should have compassion and care for others, but no one is going to be as big of a supporter or believe in you as much as you will have to in yourself. You are your own best asset and the biggest tool to your success. Have confidence in that! Some people will dislike you and that’s totally okay.

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BB: What’s your dream trivia category?

MO: I am absolutely terrible at trivia. If there were somehow a category that allowed you to create your own questions and answers or a dream interpretation category I would be amazing at that. I’m good at bullshitting, but you can’t bullshit facts.

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BB: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

MO: I’ve been reading this incredible collection of stories lately that really inspire me as a creative woman in business. It’s In the Company of Women by Grace Bonney. If you ever need a pick-me-up or validation, you’re on the right track. The pages contain so many amazing stories of creative women living out their dreams and the journeys they’ve taken to get there.


Shop Kind Apparel and get your own unique, environmentally-friendly design by Mallory here.

Order In The Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs from your local bookstore or from Amazon here