The Whitehall Ledger - Serving Southern Jefferson County in the Great State of Montana

By Jayne Dean
Contributing Writer 

Huerta's awarded Golden Spade


October 12, 2016

Sandra Taylor

Chris and Anita Huerta were recently awarded with the Whitehall Garden Club's Golden Spade Award. Pictured in the the front are Chris Huerta, Anita Huerta, and Garden Club member Karen Ranta. Pictured in the back row are club members Jayne Dean and Ann Palmer.

The year was 1997, nineteen years ago that Chris and Anita Huerta began their certified organic vegetable gardening for the community. Chris was thoroughly dedicated to the growing of only organic produce even though at the time "being organic" was thought to be just a fad. The Huerta's found their buyers in and around Whitehall and continued to grow their business. According to Chris Huerta, although organic gardening is labor intensive, it is a much better way to grow our food, leaving off pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals not part of the human daily requirements for health and nutrition.

That being said, Huerta has trimmed down his acre plus of gardening to about ¼ acre in size while meeting the additional challenge of a stroke Chris had about 14 years ago. The organic gardening did not stop! In fact, Chris developed accommodations that allowed him to continue gardening even with paralysis. Chris uses the "European style" of gardening, which is a wide, raised garden bed planted in four rows. He is able to reach across the beds, weeding and harvesting his crops while sitting on his homemade garden cart, moving up and down the rows. Taller crops are grown in the same style, just in single rows for ease of plant care. Gardening tools are left at the end of each row, easy to find and use. In just the short time we were visiting and admiring this "garden of eating," Chris picked a wheel barrow full of beautiful vegetables that was shared with his fellow gardeners. Along with the outside garden, Chris starts his 80 plus tomato plants in the green house and then transfers them when ready. The commercial certified organic garden has over 54 varieties of vegetables, all are open pollinators and heirloom varieties. Chris uses his own labor and goats for weed control, drip systems run up and down the rows and when asked how he keeps the deer and "other critters" out, Chris told the group that he has tried alarms and fencing but decided that the best offense is his dog, and then after mid-October each year, they can enjoy organic venison, if you get his drift!

Herbs, of every kind, different melons, fruits, berries, garlic, onions, beans, tomato plants so tall one almost needs a ladder to pick from the top, peas, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, orach,(a spinach like veggie) cauliflower, you name it you will find it growing in this amazing garden...along with lots of love, too!

The Whitehall Garden Club is proud to present to Chris and Anita Huerta the Golden Spade Award for a community commercial garden and also for being "good stewards of the earth," by the developing, maintaining and growing of certified organic produce, plus their sharing 10% of what they grow with the Rescue Mission, the Senior Center and others that are in need. Thank you Chris and Anita for your dedication and beliefs in organic gardening and participation in sharing your produce with your community. Congratulations!


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