Welcome friends! I'm Melissa and I would like to share with you is a little glimpse into my story and the story of Aspen Grove Farm.
Like everyone, I have a past, but, unlike most, I grew up in a polygamous cult. Some memories are happy and some are not. As a child, I didn’t understand why we were different or what we were. I ran happy and free through the hills behind our home in the small community of members where I grew up. It was a community made up largely of my dad’s parents and brothers and sisters. My friends were my cousins. But as we grew, we became more attuned to things around us. Teachings became stronger and built up in the young minds of the children. I knew nothing of others from the outside world other than that they were dangerous, and we were not to mingle. And so, I became what I was groomed to be.
Fast forward many years, and my life journey brought me to Montana through my polygamous marriage to a man who lived here. We appeared to be the perfect family within the cult, but things are not always as they seem from the outside. Pain and loneliness were buried deep, abuse was not spoken of. These things must be justified in order to survive. My sanctuary, my church, was always in my garden. There was healing and peace in the early morning hours with my hands in the soil and the birds and bees awakening around me. I would dream of being a real farm girl and hosting people at my farm and selling at farmers markets.
As the years went by, my eyes began to open to the lies and manipulation of the corrupt men in the system I was a part of. I began to turn my back on their teachings and the shunning from the community and abuse from my spouse intensified. During this time, my husband miraculously decided to give me permission to be a farmer. He saw it as a means for me to bring more money in for him, but I finally saw my door to freedom. I had a way to escape and realize my dream.
My first markets consisted of a few zucchinis, a couple baskets of strawberries, and a few jars of jam that I frantically made the night before so my table wouldn’t look so empty! Now, in 2022, I am blown away by how fast my business has grown. I have a beautiful 6-acre berry farm and process my gourmet jams and syrups in quantities by the 1,000’s. Our products can be found in locations all across Montana, and we are heading into our first year of full production on the farm.
As I came to know folks in the farming community here in our valley, they began to reach out to me. I have found friends who are passionate about the land just as I am, and I have also been surrounded by a large faith community who have helped me and my children become free from the tyranny and abuse of the cult. I work hard at my dream because I have the right to! There are days when the work is too hard and the memories of my past are too great, but God surrounds me in these moments with friends and the bounty of the harvest to lift me up and give me purpose. Nothing brings me more joy than to be able to share what I grow with others. I love meeting you at the markets and having you come to my farm. I love seeing the next generation of children bury themselves in the raspberry patch and come out with berries stuck on the ends of their fingers like olives, or stuffing strawberries into their mouths that are as big as their palms. I love the delight on your faces when you taste the unique sweetness of a honeyberry for the first time.
The story of Aspen Grove Farm is a story of freedom, of faith, of community, and of the American dream. I hope that my story will be an inspiration to other women coming from abuse and a call to action for all of us to reach out a hand of hope to those in need around us. Please come visit it us when you are in the Bitterroot. New faces are always welcome.
Owner/Farm Girl/Crazy Berry Lady