June 16, 2017
While filling my grocery cart, I found a new-to-me flour called "Wheat Montana" with that logo prominently displayed. Having used the store or major brands for years I wasn't prepared for the awesome difference. The dough has a delicate feel, a softness in texture that was new to me. I even wrote a fan letter to the company, thinking it might be a small, niche business.
I have learned it is a family-owned wheat farm that consists of 15,000 acres. Dean Folkvord and his wife, Hope, have worked over 30 years to achieve their success. They raise the wheat then it goes into the system. The wheat is cleaned and turned into various products, flour in bulk for commercial use or in smaller packages for grocery stores. Some of the wheat is used in fresh or frozen bread products, prepared in their own production plant. Many of their products are shipped across the country. Walmart stocks it in their 2,600 stores. In an annual trek, Rabbis come from the east and go through a process in which they bless four truckloads of wheat that is kept separate and it ultimately ships to be used for Passover bread.
Located near Three Forks, Mont., in addition to the mill and all that entails, Folkvords built a bakery and deli, a gift shop and put in gas pumps. Their logo is a proud brand and it appears on everything they sell in the gift shop as well as every product possible that goes out from the enterprise. The bakery produces bread and buns for public sale. The deli uses the bread for sandwiches. Montana Wheat illustrates the meaning of "added value."
Due to the interest in heirloom grains, Montana Wheat has managed to obtain seeds to keep strains going. Any of the wheat plants must be hardy to make it at the farm's altitude between 4,500 and 5,000 feet. The company takes pride in keeping different types of wheat separated from others as it allows the distinct flavors and properties to be more apparent. Most commercial flour is an amalgamation of several different classifications and naturally the elemental tastes can no longer be detected.
It was while on a visit to a pineapple operation in Hawaii that Dean Folkvard first had the vision of what they could do, modeled after a company named Pineapple Hawaii. The Folkvards saw the pineapples in the fields, a processing facility and a gift shop that included a tasting room. They had the idea that if they thought big enough they could have a similar setup for Wheat Montana. Over time the dream has been realized and the company grosses over $55 million annually, with increases coming. I have only seen the Natural White, all-purpose white flour but Montana Wheat also sells various types of whole wheat flour, including Bronze Chief, a traditional whole wheat and Prairie Gold, unbleached white whole wheat, as well as pancake mix. Considering the quality of the white flour, I will be looking forward to trying additional products in the future. ❖