While eating insects as a source of nutrition is common in countries around the world, it’s still considered by some a taboo in the United States. For this reason, Kathy Rolin with Cowboy Cricket Farms in Belgrade recommends eating a chocolate “chirp” cookie as a first step into entomophagy.
“At first people are hesitant,” Kathy said. “But once they try it, they all say the same thing: that was actually quite good. The biggest challenge is education.”
As the only cricket farm in Montana, Cowboy Cricket Farms is making waves across the Treasure State.
Let’s Start a Cricket Farm
When you walk into the Cowboy Cricket Farms facility, it feels like taking a step into summer time. You can feel the temperature and humidity rise, and the faint chirping of crickets is audible in the background. While this pristine cricket environment reminds visitors of lazy summer nights, Cowboy Cricket Farms has been a nonstop adventure for the Rolins family.
After starting the farm in January 2017, Cowboy Cricket Farms’ first accolades came in October 2017 at the Family Business Day Awards in Bozeman. Along with seven other Montana businesses, Cowboy Cricket Farms was a winner in the special business recognition category. In 2018, other accolades and grants began pouring in for Cowboy Cricket Farms.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”James Rolin” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“We’re all about bringing good nutrition to people all over the world and involving the people of Montana in that decision making process.”[/perfectpullquote]
In February, Cowboy Cricket Farms was named one of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance’s startups to watch in 2018. Later that month, James was named one of the Bozeman Chronicle’s 20 under 40 award winners. Cowboy Cricket Farms latest adventure came in March when Insurance Commissioner Matt Rosendale allowed them to offer an initial public offering for the company. The IPO is set at $750,000. For $1 a share, any Montanan can own a piece of the Treasure State’s first cricket farm.
James Rolin, Kathy’s husband, said customers were already asking if they could invest in the company.
“We’re all about bringing good nutrition to people all over the world and involving the people of Montana in that decision making process,” James said. “It was an easy decision for us especially since we’re such a transparent company. We’re not making any big changes by going the public route.”
A Cricket-Riding Cowboy
The idea for Cowboy Cricket Farms was born in 2016 while Kathy was studying nutrition at Montana State University. In her class, Kathy learned about food sustainability and entomophagy, or eating insects. After she attended the College of Education, Health and Human Development’s “Bug Buffet,” Kathy was inspired by the packed room, food, and excitement.
When she got home, Kathy told James she wanted to start a cricket farm.
“He was a little bit unsure about starting a cricket farm,” Kathy said. “I told him crickets are very versatile. Originally he said no.”
After James conducted several months of research, he couldn’t find a reason why it wouldn’t be a successful business.
Today, the company is recognized by its cowboy riding a cricket. The logo idea came when Kathy saw a car with a Wyoming license plate leaving Target. She saw the famous cowboy riding a horse and thought it would be humorous to have a cowboy riding a cricket. Sustainability is another driving factor for the Rolins and their cricket journey.
According to the Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, agriculture activities create 9 percent of total U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Livestock, such as cattle, produce methane as part of their digestive process and it represents almost one-third of the greenhouse emissions from the agriculture economic sector. In 2013, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations suggested entomophagy as an eating alternative.
“We see where the world is going as far as food,” James said. “We see where it’s going with growing population and dwindling sources. The answer is to find more efficient ways. I think we’ve found one of the best solutions.”
In their old facility, the protein Cowboy Cricket Farms produced was the same amount of protein of 30 cows. But unlike cattle, they are producing the crickets in a shorter amount of time and in less space. Besides cookies, Cowboy Cricket Farms has whole roasted crickets, cricket powder and cricket lollipops. They also sell water bottles and stickers. Another way the Rollins stay eco-friendly is by selling cricket “fras”, or cricket feces for farmers and gardeners.
[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”James Rolins” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”You can bring one [cricket] farm into a dying town and you can have a thriving industry.”[/perfectpullquote]
At the start of the year, Cowboy Cricket Farms also began work on their industrial kitchen. Right now they are using their kitchen to make all of their products. They are also in the process of getting licensed as commissary space for other food manufacturers in the area to use.
The Rolins have also started bringing in partner cricket farmers to meet their demand. Currently, they have two partner farmers and are looking at bringing five others on board.
“By bringing on partner farmers, it means we can focus on processing, distributing and marketing,” James said. “And we can create jobs all over the nation that are sustainable. That can go anywhere. You can bring one farm into a dying town and you can have a thriving industry.”
To learn more about Cowboy Cricket Farms, visit their website at www.CowboyCrickets.com.
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