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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Author Micah Larsen is a persuasion scientist and consultant. Her job is to teach people how to use subtle persuasion in their emails, conversations, and campaigns to get others to say “yes.”

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Sheila Cornwell // Montana Adventure Shuttle

Sheila’s got restless feet. The kind of feet that were made to wander, to pedal (she’s a bicyclist, too), and, now, to drive.

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Last year, Sheila blessed the Rocky Mountain region with the Montana Adventure Shuttle, a ready-to-go-anywhere 11-passenger van whose slogans include “endless roads, endless possibilities.”

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


BB: Do you remember the moment you decided to create the Montana Adventure Shuttle? What brought you there?

SC: I was tired of living in survival mode with the feeling that I had no control over my ability to succeed. Add to that the steady, growing feeling of losing my creative spark and feeling stifled by walls, proverbial and literal. Then, in late 2016, I was growing weary in my situation, missing the freedom of self-employment, and reminiscing about the previous summer’s five-day kayaking adventure in Glacier National Park. The urge to get out from behind a desk, coupled with my need for more physical movement, outdoor time, and my insatiable love for travel collected in my mind.

I soon felt this inescapable urge to break out of a failing pattern of attempts at success in the traditional workplace and allowed myself the creative freedom, my YOLO mindset, and my entrepreneurial spirit to take the lead.

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BB: What has been your favorite adventure you’ve taken with the Shuttle?

SC: I truly enjoy every shuttle trip! However, in November of 2017, I experienced my first overnight adventure with what was my first group of passengers from Missoula. A local film crew needed transportation to Helena and Bozeman and to visit some breweries for their show.

We stopped in Helena first, profiled a local hot spring, then headed on to the first brewery and filmed there. [In Bozeman] we … stayed the night at an amazing, historic bed and breakfast, then back to Bozeman’s brewery the next morning to complete filming. The crew was fun and friendly and the entire trip was full of camaraderie and laughter … beautiful scenery and singing on the way back! I remain friends with some of them, and the opportunity to serve my fellow Missoulians was invaluable!

BB: What kind of music do you listen to when you’re alone in the Shuttle?

SC: I have a varied collection of songs downloaded on my phone that I tend to listen to most. Artists and genres also spread across many genres, but mostly I listen to:

… Currently, I’m hooked on the song “Renegades” by X Ambassadors. I like to think of this as the theme song for all of us entrepreneurs!

Get persuasion tips from persuasion scientist & Badasserie author Micah Larsen

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BB: What inspires you?

SC: First and foremost is the beauty of this place; Montana, the Rocky Mountain environment, and Mother Nature. A close second to the environment we live in is the healing effect it has on me as well as the energy it feeds me. … I am inspired by other Montanans who also enjoy the numerous opportunities we have here to enjoy outdoor recreation. Their participation is a wonderful, daily reminder of what we can do here.

As a business owner, my fellow entrepreneurs are a huge inspiration, as they have a sort of energy of their own, which is kind and generous.

My children also inspire me, though they may not realize it. They are the reason I give instead of just take in this life! They need me to succeed as much as I need to succeed and I try to be a good role model for them.

Finally, but not least, my passengers inspire me to keep going with what I’m doing. They have offered a wealth of positive feedback and encouragement and ideas. Just their participation in my shuttle is validation and proof of the accomplishment.

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BB: What would you say to young women who are considering becoming entrepreneurs?

SC: Do not let the world intimidate you. I emphasize that word, “let.” Nor should you let the amount or type of work … prevent you from seeing your dream through to the end. There is a reason you are considering this option in life, so give it its due attention and examine not only who you truly are but what you want out of this life.

Your uniqueness is meant to shine, not hide behind fears.

BB: What makes you feel like a badass?

SC: Seeing this dream of mine becoming a reality. From what once seemed like a crazy idea. The idea coming to fruition.

The process itself is equally satisfying [and I’ve been] faced with big challenges every step of the way. With little funding, step by step I have been able to conquer each challenge by listening to my own instincts, and often with the help of others’.

Ultimately, I have to allow courage to spur me to take the actions necessary … instead of letting my fears hinder me. When I watch the desired outcome occur, there are feelings of pride and joy that rush over me. Then I feel like a badass!

I have also been known to squeal with delight, “This is working!!”

 

BB: What’s your dream trivia category?

SC: Oh, I would love to say, anything about bicycling or music, but I’m really more inclined to say that I’m a person who knows a little about a lot.

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

SC: I am incredibly grateful for the people who have shown me support in this community. That includes Missoula [Montana] as a whole, and the entrepreneurs and tourism organizations and other business owners I have met and become friends with.

Support is key when starting your own business and I have benefitted not only from emotional support but their combined wisdom and willingness to network as well!

I extend a hearty thank you to all of you who continue to help me, including you, Micah!

BB: Aw, gee, thanks! Ditto.

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Book your own memorable shuttle adventure with Sheila here and sign up for Montana Adventure Shuttle’s inspirational newsletter here.