Farver Farms grows in the 'middle of nowhere' with their wheat and lentils
In addition to farming and making value-added products, Farver Farms has added a subscription program for people who want to see content from the Montana farm that's in the "middle of nowhere."
Would you pay to be connected with a farm and ranch in the middle of nowhere? Farver Farms launched a new subscription service in 2022 hoping to attract people who want to connect to others who are hundreds of miles from any hustle and bustle.
Dubbed "52 Weeks In the Middle of Nowhere," Farver Farms has used an Instagram feature of "close friends" to offer a deeper dive into the business of farming and ranching along the U.S. / Canadian border. This new venture goes along with their established business of farming and making meal mixes and snack foods from their farm-grown wheat and lentils.
The subscription recently launched for $49.95 annually. Subscribed users get stories, videos, live broadcasts from Farver Farms, a mailed tasting of Farver Farms Lentil Crunchers, a t-shirt and more surprises throughout the year.
After it launched, I reached out to former Agweek columnist Shauna Farver to learn more. I've been part of agriculture social media circles for 15 years and have seen thousands of agriculturalists give away free content to connect with non-ag consumers, often building a farm brand around the content.
Farver Farms is the first I’ve seen to utilize a social media platform for a subscription fee, not simply relying on advertising from platforms like YouTube or Google or brand influencer programs that pay personalities or businesses fees for promoting brands or products.
“We're literally in ‘The Middle of Nowhere’ from a Washington Post article that came out a few years ago that pinpointed Glasgow, Scobey and Wolf Point (Montana) as being the top three towns (of all towns with more than 1,000 residents) in the United States that are the farthest from any metropolitan area of more than 75,000 people," Shauna shared with me.
“We think that's a pretty unique designation, and in talking with family and friends who live in more populated areas, we've realized we really do things differently here because of our remoteness. It's our way of showing folks who have never experienced rural America or agriculture a really intimate glimpse into what we're all about,” she said.
The Farver family farms and ranches at Scobey, Montana, raising wheat, durum, lentils, and occasionally canola or flax alongside their Angus-cross cattle. Five years ago, they launched a value-added business using wheat and lentils they grow to create meal mixes and a ready-to-eat snack, Lentil Crunchers.
In November 2019, they purchased a supper club in Scobey. The business never fully recovered from the COVID-19 impact in 2020, and the Farvers closed it on April 1, 2021.
Shauna said, “We intended to include some of our own lentil recipes on the menu, and to have a small mercantile with mostly local items. We were forced to close the doors for three months due to COVID, then to operate under restricted hours and capacity requirements. We closed the doors and have now moved our value-added business into that building.”
I admire the resiliency of farmers, ranchers and small business owners. Farver Farms serves as an example of one farm family who didn’t quit but pivoted their business plan to keep going.
Farver Farms currently makes and sells five meal mixes using either wheat or lentils, three baking mixes, and four different flavors of Lentil Crunchers, available in three different sizes. They sell in 25-30 retail locations in Montana, Idaho and North Dakota and are available by shipping.
“Our products do best in small or specialty grocery stores or boutique stores. There's a little bit of a learning curve explaining what a Lentil Cruncher is, and that fits best in a store where the person at the front counter greets their customer by name and can 'introduce' our product. Plus, we love partnering with other small businesses and being able to provide flexible order quantities and extra sales aides for them,” Shauna said.
Shauna’s husband and business partner, Terry, has had two major accidents in the past few years and continues to recuperate from the last one. Daughter Kaitlin Switzer and her husband, Ryan, recently returned to the farm. Kaitlin works in the production plant with Shauna and Ryan alongside Terry on the ranch. Son Martin attends Dickinson State University where he is a member of the track and field team and hopes to return to Scobey in the future, Shauna said.
What’s ahead for Farver Farms, their subscription service and small business? “Of course, we have goals, but if the last two years has taught us anything, it's that nothing is set in stone and we need to be able to pivot and make changes quickly as necessary," Shauna said.
“2022 is going to be all about organization for us. The last few years have honestly just been a sprint trying to keep everything headed in a forward direction. We'll also be expanding our wholesale distribution this year and are looking for new retail partners. Five years from now we're hoping to be debt free in our new building, having hired several new employees, and be purchasing lentils from other producers at a premium.”
Farver Farms reminds me that farm, ranch, small business and family dreams evolve into goals and grow in the "middle of nowhere." Here’s to more of us lasering in our businesses and families in 2022 and growing what we do best.
Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.