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Farm to table, cow to ice cream: growing the Ag industry in Montana

Katrin Frye

Sure Montana has cows, but it also has dairies, cheese and ice cream makers. The same is true for wheat, barley, beer and liquor. Many of these are small, local businesses, but they do create jobs, and encouraging the growth of the value-added agriculture industry in Montana is part of the goal behind the state’s “Growth Through Agriculture” grant program.

The Flathead-based Sweet Peaks ice cream shops recently won a $15,000 matching grant through the program.

Owner Marissa Dauenhauer says different ice cream flavors they make feature different Montana-grown products.

“Throughout the season we will get dill from 10 Lake Farms based out of Whitefish, and do a Lemon Dill. We will do… we’ve done a Hibiscus Flower and Honey from an apiary in the Flathead, we’ve done a Flathead Cherry Chocolate. So, we try to use a lot of what Montana has to offer,” Dauenhauer said they use Montana milk, processed in Great Falls. She says sourcing local is a big part of their business model.

Other grant winners have included the Flathead Valley Community College which received an $18,000 grant to develop its multi-functional agriculture program. Kalispell Kreamery received a more than $35,000 grant to add yogurt making capability to its dairy; Montana Native Nursery received a $10,000 grant to help buy the first plants to start a blueberry farm in Plains, Montana.

“You know, Montana has a lot of agricultural products to pull from that you might not think about or you might not really consider us being- you know, someplace like California that has abundance of produce all the time, but there’s a lot of farmers that are really growing and experimenting with new things,” Dauenhauer said.

Dauenhauer said they mix all their ice cream in Whitefish, and the grant helps with the costs of expanding distribution to their Flathead stores, and also a new store just opening in Missoula. She said Sweet Peaks employs about 40 people in the summer, about half that in the winter.

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