Get To Know Our Farmers
Q+A with Jody & Crystal
Say hello to Jody & Crystal Manuel, two farmers we'll be working with through Mad Agriculture's Regenerative Impact Program. At Purely Elizabeth, we believe regenerative agriculture helps positively impact the wellbeing and empowerment of the farmers, their land, and their communities. That’s why we’re excited to work with The Manuels to implement regenerative practices on their third-generation Prairie Grass Ranch in Northern Montana.
I had the pleasure of chatting with the Manuels, where Jody shared her personal health journey that led them to start the farm, what regenerative farming means to them, and more.
Elizabeth: Let's dive into your background a little bit and how you two met.
Jody: Both of us are fourth-generation Montana farmers and ranchers. My dad and all his brothers actually used to work for a gentleman who owned the farm that now makes up the major portion of our operation. Both of our families are from this area of Montana, so it felt serendipitous when we met while we were in college. I was at school at Montana State University in Bozeman and Crystal was at MSU Northern in Havre on a volleyball scholarship. I went home one weekend and was invited to a party where I met Crystal. And now we're here!
Elizabeth: Crystal, can you share your personal wellness journey that has helped shape where you are now?
Crystal: When my youngest was about six months, I got super sick super fast out of nowhere. I lost 35 pounds even though I was eating all the time, my heart rate was out of control, and I lost all the hair on the perimeter of my head. I ended up going to see multiple doctors hoping to get some kind of answer. After a misdiagnosis from one of my appointments, I decided to use this health journal my aunt gave me and was able to accurately diagnose myself with Grave's Disease. This was my first introduction to the concept of nutritional healing. I went back to the doctor's office with this diagnosis and they gave me a few suggestions which I decided to say no to. I picked up the book, Prescription for Nutritional Healing and followed its advice on things I should start incorporating into my diet. I started doing some research on what caused Grave's disease and a lot of it pointed towards farm chemicals. While I would never be so bold as to say that is exactly what caused my sickness, it really resonated deeply with me and inspired us to look into alternative ways of doing things. I wanted to incorporate more organic foods into my diet, but that was very difficult to find near us at the time. I started placing orders with a company called Diamond Organics based in California and loved how the shipments came with information about the farm and farmers who picked the produce in my box. From that point forward, it transformed the way we began thinking about how we grow and raise crops and the animals that we have here on the farm and ranch.
Elizabeth: What do the farm and your practices look like today?
Jody: Our farm ranch is mostly native pasture land and about a quarter of it is cropland. We're currently in the process of converting all of our cropland into perennials. One of the biggest benefits the perennials will have is on the soil. Currently, one of the biggest challenges in an organic system in terms of soil building is our reliance on mechanical tillage. You end up with a really high or low fungal to bacterial ratio, which we're trying to change with the perennials. Perennials are also an effective way to organically adress weeds.
Elizabeth: What does regenerative agriculture mean to you?
Jody: To me, regenerative agriculture is the idea of taking soil and trying to get it back to what the native ground looks like, prior to farming.
Elizabeth: Favorite book or podcast for growth?
Crystal: I really like Brene Brown. I think it's really interesting to conceptualize humanity on an emotional level. Because there are interactions that are necessary personally and from a business perspective. Oftentimes, I will integrate it and so I appreciate her insights into all of that.
Elizabeth: Favorite farm moment?
Jody: Back in 2017, we were asked to host a farm tour for the Montana Organic Association. There were over 200 people that came out that we got to serve lunch and supper to.
Crystal: It was a really beautiful meeting of minds. Liz Carlisle, the author of Lentil Underground, and Bob Quinn of Kamut International and co-author of Grain by Grain were there. So many others too who weren't farmers but just have an appreciation for food. It was really wonderful to share in that capacity.