SCOBEY, Mont. – Shauna and Terry Farver farm and raise cattle on the prairies of northeast Montana. Terry is the fourth generation to make a living on their operations’ soil, so tradition and family are of the utmost importance to the Farvers.
When their two children were nearing college-age, the Farvers began to talk to them about the future, and both indicated they wanted to come back to the farm. Shauna and Terry were in a quandary – they very much supported the idea of having the farm transition to the next generation, but up until that point the farm had supported only one family, how could it support three?
“Off-farm income is always an option, but we started to look around thinking, ‘We have all of this, so what can we do with what we have?’” Shauna reflected.
After contemplating some different options, the prospect of a value-added product rose to the forefront as the best choice for the Farvers. Shauna had some experience in that arena, so she took the idea and began making baking and meal mixes that use either wheat or lentils grown on the Farver’s farm.
This value-added venture started four years ago. Somewhere along the way, Shauna had an idea for another product and began experimenting with making a lentil-based snack. Shauna baked the lentils at first, but they didn’t come out right. A chance encounter at a tradeshow led to Big Sandy Organics offering to cook the lentils similarly to how their famous Kracklin’ Kamut snacks are made.
That was the ticket and Farver Farms Lentil Crunchers were born.
“That was about 18 months ago and the Lentil Crunchers have just grown like wildfire from there,” Shauna said.
All of the wheat and lentils used in any Farver Farms product comes directly off of the family’s generational land, with the only exception being the flour used in the baking mixes. They use Wheat Montana flour for those. The Farvers do sell some home-raised beef, as well, although that aspect of the business has slowed with shipping times being delayed due to COVID. Farver Farms currently only ships meat in-state.
After being cleaned at a facility in Plentywood, all of the wheat and lentils harvested from the farm returns to Scobey and is made into mixes. The spices incorporated in the mixes are the only things not sourced from Montana. The lentils bound for the Lentil Crunchers are placed in 50-pound bags and transported to Big Sandy. The one-ounce packages are made in Big Sandy while the bigger quantities are labeled and packaged back in Scobey.
In the beginning, it was only Shauna who did most of the labor associated with the Farver Farms products. She rented out a kitchen in town in order to have the space necessary for compiling the mixes. The growth of the Farver Farms’ value-added products over the years has been calculated and intentional to guarantee success.
Shauna now has a building dedicated to their products and she is able to hire one full-time employee and has access to several part-time workers that can be called on when things get busy. By working with other Made in Montana producers and employing locals from her town, Shauna has created a business that is beneficial not only to her family, but to her small farming community, as well.
“I don’t think about it most days,” she said. “Most days it is just about doing what we are doing and getting orders out the door, but when I do stop to think about the collaboration with other entities and how we are creating some jobs, it is pretty cool.”
On Nov. 1, 2019, Farver Farms took their value-added idea one step further and purchased a restaurant in Scobey. By serving their own products, the Farvers felt a restaurant really fit their farm-to-fork mission. In addition, they wanted to maintain a restaurant resource for their community.
Shauna will be the first to admit, 2020 has been a challenging year for their business, but that has not stopped them from working toward expanding their production facility and gearing up to offer new products.
“We have a couple of new flavors coming out after the first of the year and a new baking mix coming just in time for the holidays,” Shauna explained.
Agriculturalists have long had to look outside the box at times when it comes to generating extra income. With fewer and fewer young people opting to return to their family operation, those that do choose to return are a rare gift. Shauna and Terry Farver have found a way to increase revenue on their farm and positively impact their community, all while carving out enough room for the next generation of Farvers.
Farver Farms products can be found at select retail locations across Montana with a few even in South Dakota and Idaho. All products can be found at their website: www.farverfarms.com.