Dean Folkvord didn’t want to go to Hawaii.
“The first part is, we were young and he didn’t want to go,” said Dean’s wife, Hope. “I had to beg him to go on this trip to begin with. Finally he said, ‘Quit nagging, we’ll go.’”
But it was on this trip during a visit to a pineapple farm in the mid 1980’s that the idea for Wheat Montana was born and the Folkvord family’s entrepreneurship journey began.
A Farming Legacy
During their trip to Hawaii, Dean and Hope visited a pineapple farm. Their tour took them around the farm’s fields and included a stop at the gift shop.
“They were growing pineapples there in this place in Lahaina on Maui,” Dean said. “The fields were back there, and they would give you a tour of their processing plant where they were processing pineapples. They had a gift shop up front where people could buy pineapples and pineapple drinks and they were shipping boxes all over the country. They called the place Pineapple Hawaii. I looked at Hope and said, ‘Geez, I think we can do this with wheat and call it Wheat Montana.’ That was the genesis of the idea for what we thought we could do.”
Today, Wheat Montana’s operations encompasses 15,000 acres in Three Forks. The company employs more than 190 workers and in 1994, the company was awarded the Montana Family Business of the Year honor. Dean was named Montana’s Small Business Person of the Year in 1997.
The Building Blocks
Dean grew up in Helena and some of his earliest memories of farming include riding around the fields with his father. When Dean or his siblings grew tired, their father plopped them on the side of the field for a nap. Their farm was located near the Glass Slipper east of Canyon Ferry.
After visiting the pineapple farm, Dean and Hope jumped head-first into growing the idea of Wheat Montana. They began with selling specialty wheat flour to a health food store. Dean said they then started cleaning the flour and sold half a truckload of the specialty flour. Quickly, they began selling a truckload every two months.
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