Frequently Asked Questions

Is Blue Sky Stewardship a 501(c)3 nonprofit?

Blue Sky Stewardship is a nonprofit registered with the state of Montana, but we have not yet received our recognition of tax exempt status under 501(c)3 by the IRS. However, for 27 months from our registration date with the Secretary of State, we qualify as a "pending" 501(c)3, meaning we have until February of 2017 to achieve our recognition of tax exempt status. Accordingly, if donors want to donate directly to Blue Sky Stewardship, they may take a tax deduction on their donation like they would if they donated to any other tax exempt, 501(c)3 recognized nonprofit. However, in the event that Blue Sky Stewardship fails to achieve recognition by the IRS by February of 2017, then donors will have to amend their tax returns to reflect their prior donations' no longer qualifying for tax deductibility. To avoid this risk, donors may instead choose to donate to our fiscal sponsor, the Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation (MIST), which is an officially IRS-recognized 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that can qualify donations for tax deductibility with greater certainty.

What about Blue Sky makes it a nonprofit?

Blue Sky's mission is to educate. We believe the most effective way to educate is in context, immersively. By researching and developing progressive food production systems and bringing them into operation, we cultivate a quintessential learning experiences — with opportunities to see, hear, smell, touch, and taste — for all age groups, occupations, and levels of understanding.

Why open source?

Information is the only truly infinite resource. In economics, information is referred to as a non-rival good: its "consumption" by one "consumer" does not prevent simultaneous "consumption" by other "consumers." The same can't be said for food, water, or any other material blessings we rely upon. The beauty of information's infinite nature is that it is effectively free, but only if it is set free. Blue Sky sets the information it creates free and protects it from ever becoming proprietary by securing it with Creative Commons Share-Alike copyleft licenses. Our belief is that information belongs in the public domain so that we can all become wealthier of mind and matter as we more expediently solve the pressing issues of our community.

Why perennials?

Perennials are the mainstay of an ecosystem at homeostasis. Look at a prairie covered in grass, a woodland thick with canopy trees, or an alpine meadow interspersed with grasses, sedges, shrubs — these are ecosystem-species mixes that work in nature. Prior to the onset of intensive agriculture, the American continent was dominated by perennials. A combination of petrol and chemical intensive agriculture and various blights served to shift our national agriculture system from perennial to annual in less than a century. But perennials are making a resurgence as people become more aware of the health (and environmental) benefits of pastured animal products, nuts, and fruits. Perennials build soil, sequester carbon, and typically produce a broader variety of yields than annuals do: food, fodder, fiber, fuel, fertilizer, and "farmaceuticals." Blue Sky believes perennials, intelligently incorporated into our urban landscape in the form of forest gardens, are an answer to issues related to environment, access to food, health, and economy.

Why aquaponics?

Okay, annuals surely have their place in our modern food economy and broader ecosystem. Aquaponics, a system blending hydroponics and aquaculture (fish farming), provides the opportunity for plants to grow extremely densely and quickly relative to plants grown in the ground. Why? Because the nutrients are brought to the plant in the form of pumped water. Moreover, the large quantity of water used in aquaponics systems acts as a thermal battery, staying cool when outside temperatures are hot and vice versa. The thermal buffering capacity dampens temperature swings and lets plants keep their photosynthetic engines running longer and stronger.

Why a "Chinese style" greenhouse?

These greenhouses, while considerably more capital intensive than hoop-houses, high tunnels, and other standard greenhouse designs, are very energy efficient and thermally stable due to their insulation. They help extend the growing season in our temperate climate to the outer limits.

What do you do with all the food waste you pick up from grocery stores?

We currently pick up what we like to call "seconds" — also called culls, gleanings, and even the misnomer "waste" — from our local Missoula Fresh Market (now the West Broadway branch instead of South Reserve). These seconds typically include lots of leafy greens, apples, peppers, and mushrooms. We eat much of this perfectly good produce; share it with friends; ferment it into krauts, kimchis, and ciders; and compost it.

Any other questions you might have, please feel free to contact us. Thank you!