Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Beyond growing organic

Cycle Farm continues to set environmentally conscious community agricultural standards
Bridget Schneller
Trish Jenkins examines garlic cloves at Cycle Farm, a CSA started over 12 years ago

In an age where people feel isolated, produce is induced with chemicals and the environment is continually diminished, some feel a need to contribute to finding solutions to these dilemmas.

Over 12 years ago, Jeremy Smith and Trish Jenkins observed these issues and started a business called Cycle Farm in Spearfish to contend with the problems they witnessed around them. The farm is dedicated to cultivating an atmosphere of communal growth while providing produce that is healthy and environmentally friendly.  

The root of this business stemmed from their passion for protecting the environment and involving the community as well. 

“We came to agriculture through the excitement of food, excitement about land health and excitement about the climate,” Jenkins said. “We were also excited about engaging with our community around food.”

Smith and Jenkins formatted their business through the market style of community-supported agriculture (CSA). In this model, consumers invest in the farm pre-season and the produce is then sold to those shareholders when it is harvested. 

“We put together a box of what is fresh from the farm and the customers come and pick it up,” Smith said. “So that’s how we started farming, through a CSA model.” 

This company that Smith and Jenkins established was an uncharted experience that encompassed the help and support of the community. They were transparent to the community about their limited knowledge of farming–at the time–and how the new business was going to be a learning experience.

“We got here [in Spearfish] and started putting up fliers in local shops [about our new company],” Jenkins said. “We don’t know what we’re doing, but we’re really excited about this, are you excited about this?” 

Several community members were intrigued about the burgeoning business and even volunteered their skills and time to Cycle Farm. In February of its first season, a group gathered at Smith and Jenkins’s home to assist in launching the farm. 

“We had 25 people we did not know in our living room who were like, ‘yes, let’s do this thing,’” Jenkins said. “So right away we had this community in Spearfish. We had people who wanted local food, which I think is amazing.”  

Over the past 12 years, Cycle Farm has continued to involve the community in not just consuming its produce, but also by creating gatherings for Spearfish locals to be a part of. 

“We have farm tours, we have seed saving workshops, moth parties which after dusk we set up sheets with lights and nerd out about bugs,” Jenkens and Smith said. “We also have school groups that come out for tours and BH students from art classes will come out and paint on the farm, and we also have a harvest party coming up.” 

Another way Cycle Farm is dedicated to the betterment of the community is by using climate-friendly methods. Even the name of their business developed from this environmentally conscious ideology. 

“Cycle Farm is both being excited about bicycles and using that as our main type of tool around the farm and around the community to run our errands,” Jenkins said. “There is a history of truck farms in the valley, but we don’t have a truck, we have bicycles. It is also a nod to the lovely cycles that we get to work with every day.”  

With bikes as their main form of transportation, they utilize other eco-friendly practices geared toward improving the environment. An example of this is sequestering carbon which contributes to lowering carbon dioxide in the air. 

As plants photosynthesize, they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and put it into the ground. Sequestering farming keeps carbon dioxide in the ground.

“Most agriculture practices don’t keep CO2 in the ground after it’s there or do other things that minimize that process [of eliminating carbon dioxide in the air]” Smith said. “That’s a lot of why we got into farming because it’s a way we could be in the community that can help to mitigate climate change and build community resilience.”

These practices have proven effective, as Cycle Farm is deliberate in attempting to quantify the significance of its alternative farming methods. 

“We limit our carbon output expenses and then we try and estimate our soil health practices and what we are doing on the land is sequestering carbon,” Smith said. “In the last five years doing that calculation the farm has sequestered more carbon than we emitted over the course of a year.” 

Smith and Jenkens also use other practices such as hand weeding and not tilling their land which are safe practices for the land. 

“When farmers spray herbicides for weeds we use hand weeding and use mulch [instead],” Jenkens said. 

They also capitalize on the opportunity that Spearfish offers to the people by using a ditch irrigation system to water their plants. 

“Spearfish has a really cool irrigation system through the valley, and we are linked into that irrigation ditch system,” Jenkens said. “There is enough of a slope to the property in the ditch that we are tied to so we can run a drip irrigation without a pump.”

With these practices that Cycle Farm is dedicated to going above-and-beyond the traditional standards of organic farming, including focusing on regenerative soil health. 

“Looking at the soil health is more organic as [compared to] tilling the hell out of your field and all sorts of things that are considered organic,” Jenkens said. “What Jeremy and I are working on is beyond organic and stewarding healthy soil and fitting our farm into a bigger ecological system. Regenerative agriculture is a mandatory thing for society to get to.” 

Cycle Farm is committed to continuing to set an example of the effectiveness of alternative, environmentally conscious farming methods. Not only is their farm an example how to positively impact the environment, but the success of the business demonstrates that there is a market and community demand for products cultivated in this way.