If you’ve ever thought that direct-to-consumer farm businesses are only for those located close to urban centers, this episode will challenge that thinking. Scobey, Montana is considered the second most middle-of-nowhere town in America. That’s where Terry grew up on the farm, and where he and Shauna have built their farm and business. Together they share about their journey on Farver Farms from farming to building their own farmer-direct brand of lentil snacks and mixes.
“Our kids were getting ready to graduate from high school and talking about wanting to come back to the farm. As anyone in agriculture knows, there's only so many acres and only so many cows you can put on those acres or so much crop…So then the question became, how do we bring these two kids back and support two more families? And we knew that part of that was going to have to be off farm income.” - Shauna Farver
The Farver’s have developed and sell Lentil Crunchers as well as lentil-based cooking and baking mixes. This is a great story of finding creative ways to add value to a pulse crop marketing plan. It’s no easy undertaking, but it can be done. At the onset, Terry and Shauna pursued lentils as a part of the rotation to help with weed management.
“They didn't really have a good chemical yet for getting wild oats, which is a grass out of wheat, which is a grass. And growing a legume which is a lentil, they had a chemical that was very inexpensive and worked really well. So you go in on your wheat ground that has bad wild oats, you grow legumes or lentils, and you spray this chemical and all your wild oats are gone. And it does a really nice job. It's a really good rotation.” - Terry Farver
Like any new venture, they had to start with what they had and sort of figure it out on the fly to get established. From the initial task of production, they have expanded into direct-to-consumer lentil products. Once they started gaining some early traction it was time to increase their capacity so they could meet the demand they were creating. They also increased the number of products they offered. The Farvers estimate that in a normal year, they're still selling less than 10% of their lentil production through this food business, but it's working and it's growing. Shawna said there still is one main challenge though, that she sees for other aspiring value added farmers out there.
“Infrastructure, I think is probably our biggest barrier. I know that there's a group working on some infrastructure particularly related to food production here in the Eastern side of the state. And I'm anxious to see what happens there. That might make things a little easier….it doesn't mean it can't be overcome. It just takes a little creativity sometimes.” - Shauna Farver