Ranch family keeps gardening tradition alive

CASCADE COUNTY — In Montana’s early years, settlers planted gardens to sustain themselves for an entire year. While this trend has decreased over the decades, the tradition is still alive for Ken and Phyllis McKamey.

In the middle of a sea of brown, dried-out grass and forages, a vibrant, green garden is nestled behind the McKamey’s home. Sweet corn, cucumbers, watermelon, and other vegetables showing off their season’s growth.

The McKameys and their family raise Targhee sheep and cattle west of Great Falls along the Smith River.

According to Phyllis, the garden is all Ken’s responsibility.

“I want everybody to know that the garden is not mine,” Phyllis said with a smirk and humorous tone. “Because, come fall, then it’s all a bunch of work for me and I don’t like that! So, I invite all my friends over to this corn party so that we all get to have corn.”



The corn party consisted of four of Phyllis’ friends who each took a freshly shucked ear of corn, stood it on end, and in a downward motion cut the kernels from the cob. From there, two cups of corn are placed in a plastic bag, frozen, and enjoyed throughout the year.

So far this fall, the McKameys have harvested and shucked more than 360 ears of sweet corn.

“It’s enough to feed at least five or six families,” Phyllis explained.

Having home raised lamb or beef with a side of veggies from their backyard is an example of true self-sustainability.

Being a rancher and having your own garden is not for the faint hearted when it comes to planting, tending, and harvesting your efforts. The McKameys are the first to say that it takes a village to pull off their garden harvest and processing.

“Make sure you have good friends that want to come help,” Phyllis said with a grin.