When Cowboy Cricket Farms was founded in Belgrade in 2016, owners James and Kathy Rolin concentrated on only one thing – raising crickets.
But as the business has grown over the past three years, the couple has intentionally expanded the scope of operations into other areas. Cowboy Cricket Farms still grows crickets and produces a number of food products from them, but as the demand for the edibles grows, the Rolins have felt called to further the awareness about cricket-farming for human food production.
Rather than keep their secrets to success close to the vest, “we’ve taken the complete opposite approach,” James Rolin said. “Our big goal here is to feed more people, and we know we’re actually making a change.”
Not only does Cowboy Cricket Farms offers tours to interested visitors ranging from local school kids to agri-tourists, it also teaches courses on cricket-raising to those interested in getting into the business. Some who adopt Cowboy’s practices and standards have become contract farmers, selling the bugs they produce to Cowboy Cricket Farms to be used in food production.
“We have seven farms in our network, ranging from Oregon to Pennsylvania,” James Rolin said recently, while sorting through a 52-pound batch of frozen crickets provided by a contract grower in Missoula. “We pay a real good rate – above market – to try to retain the best farmers.”
Nevertheless, the crickets that Cowboy grows on its own and buys from contract farmers aren’t enough. Sometimes the Rolins are forced to shut down orders for foodstuffs until more crickets arrive on site. For that reason and to also expand its educational outreach, Cowboy will expand into a second facility on Bridger Canyon Drive in Bozeman in February.
“We need as much production as possible – the demand has been just crazy,” Rolin said. “We’re very, very excited about the new facility.”
In addition to solving the supply issue – Rolin said that the new farming operation will house between 35 million and 50 million crickets at a time – the building also will allow for further educational opportunities.
About 3,000 square feet of the new building will be reserved for an educational center, featuring museum-type exhibits about edible insects and their agricultural uses. The exhibits are designed to be entertaining for all ages, and the Rolins’ three children, ranging in age from 5 to 9, are helping design them.
“The new facility is going to be a place that families can learn about what we do and about edible insects,” Rolins said.
Cowboy also plans to offer private tours for groups and to host social events ranging from children’s birthday parties to corporate events.
Rolin admits that when his wife first came up with the idea of farming crickets, he thought it was a horrible idea. Today, he believes cricket-farming can help feed the world, by providing nutritious protein through a clean, sustainable industry that doesn’t require a great deal of land or water.
For that reason, Cowboy currently is pursuing a joint venture in Mexico, sharing process know-how and set-up assistance in exchange for future royalties.
In spite of moving the farming operation to Bozeman and spreading its expertise internationally, Cowboy will maintain its presence in Belgrade, continuing to produce cricket powder, granola, Chocolate Chirp Cookies and crunchy roasted cricket snacks in its commercial kitchen here.
More information about Cowboy Cricket Farms, its products and educational programs, or becoming a contract farmer is available at https://cowboycrickets.com