Farver Farms’ lentil crunchers are in the hands of top trade officials in India, with Sen. Steve Daines touring the country to talk up Montana pulse crops.
The tasty snack has made appearances at local agricultural events in Williston, and Shauna Farver was a featured speaker at WREC’s recent alternative marketing strategies for pulse crops.
Daines’ visit is in advance of the U.S.-India Trade Policy Forum later this month, and is an effort on Daines’ part to elevate Montana trade priorities with Indian officials who will be participating in the forum.
“Agriculture is Montana’s number one economic driver and part of our way of life. Leveling the playing field and opening markets for Montana farmers is a top priority of mine, especially with India. With Montana being the number one producer of pulse crops in the nation, and India being the largest consumer of pulse crops in the world, it’s a critical market to open for Montana ag. I look forward to ensuring the voice of Montana farmers is front and center of future trade talks,” Daines said.
Farver Farms is well-known through out the MonDak. The farm has been in the family since 1926, and produces spring wheat, winter wheat, field peas, lentils, corn and barley. It’s been featured during the Wheat Show as well as many other agricultural events in the MonDak.
The farm has developed a direct-to-consumer approach to selling some of its commodities, using both its wheat and its lentils tfor various products, including the lentil crunchers, meal kits, and baking mixes. These products are available in local stores, including Cooks on Main, or they’re available for direct sale online as well.
Farver Farms was a fairly traditional small operation with 3,500 acres and about 12t head of Black Angus cow-calf pairs. The Farvers’ children were talking about coming back to farm once they graduated from high school, and that started the wheels turning in Shauna’s mind about how to make that happen.
At a conference for women in agriculture, Shauna heard how one woman does a fundraiser with cookie dough, and how that started from home. That idea clicked with Farver, and she began to think about ways to bring value-added to the commodities that Farver Farms produces.
“We went through a lot of really crazy things and put them all down on paper and talked about what the pros and cons were,” Farver said. “What would fit, what wouldn’t fit, what the investment would be. We’re located in a really remote area, a long ways from everywhere in Scobey. I mean our whole area is, I don’t have to explain that to any of you, but Scobey is really4 5 miles from anywhere on roads that are less than desirable.”
The geographic facts ruled out some ideas, because overnight shipping just isn’t available. But, eventually, ideas began to come together, and Farver realized that food was still the answer for their farm.
“I had a German grandmother, and I remember when I was two, her pulling a stool up to the counter for me to stand on and watch. She would bake, and she told me that we feed people, we feed them often, and we feed them well.”
She decided to design a line of mixes using wheat or lentils in their raw form and their seed form.
“We talked about it being almost like an adult Hamberger Hellper kind of thing,” Farver said. “So then you add meat or other things that people have in their kitchen, add to those mixes to make a meal for their families.”
Lentil crunchers, meanwhile, were an idea she got at about 3 a.m. in the morning. She was lying awake, thinking about lentils and wondering if she couldn’t do something with them similar to corn nuts.
At a trade show not long after, she connected with someone from the Big Sandy Organics facility, who suggested she send him some lentils for a trial processing run, just to see what would happen.
“We really had no idea what would come from it,” Shauna said.
They turned out well, and since then, the snack has become something of a flagship product for the farm, with 100 percent growth last year.
“We’re on track to see 100 percent growth again this year, which is pretty amazing to me,” Shauan said. “And we know that’s not a sustainable number, but we’re gonna take it and run with it as long as we can.”