The perch where Lewis penned his description happens to be only a few hundred yards from where we now farm acres of the "beautiful plains" he describes. There is no doubt that he was looking over some of the land that we now call Wheat Montana Farms. The view, save some power lines and farm roads is still intact, and to us, still rather spectacular. We can today, stand in this very spot and wonder what Lewis might have been thinking.
We are often sent into wonderment, when we see the old homesteads like the one on our farm. While it's usually a nuisance to navigate our machinery around these old buildings, where pioneers once toiled, it always sets the mind in motion. One can only imagine the adversity faced by these people, determined to succeed on these open prairies of Montana.
Around our farm today, there remain about twenty locations where farmsteads once existed. We estimate, at one time though, that there were probably 65 homesteads on the land we now farm. A review of the land abstracts reveals much about the ownership of what is now Wheat Montana Farms. Originally, most of the land was deeded to the Northern Pacific Railway. Then, slowly it was parceled out to homesteaders, where erstwhile farmers made a go at tilling and farming the land. The land documents chronicle a lively history of ownership changes and even foreclosures. During the late 20's and early 30's much of the ground was taken back by the County as the owners defaulted on tax debt. One 640-acre section was offered for $33.00 on the Courthouse steps and no one showed up to bid. Then during the post war 40's the demand for land returned, and a fresh crop of farmers took over and prospered.
It's really quite remarkable that today one family, and one farming operation, covers the same ground. It's a stark testament to the realities of this business, and the changes in agriculture during the past 80 or so years.
Of course, most of the folks who originally worked this land are long gone. But from time to time people will stop by and tell us about their life growing up in one of the big coulees to the east. Oftentimes they can take us right to the spot where many a day were spent attempting to grow crops or livestock. This past year we purchased a section of land that borders our farm and were amazed to learn how it was acquired. Local legend recalls that it "was won in a poker game," at one of the bars. The inheritants that sold us the property stand by the story.
Dale Folkvord, Deans father purchased the first sections of Wheat Montana Farm in 1958 while working a part time job. Dean attended Montana State University College of Agriculture and upon graduating took over the farm and it has blossomed into a fully integrated business. Along the way Wheat Montana and Dean have reached great achievements. In 1994 Wheat Montana Farms was awarded the Montana Family Business of the Year honor. In 1997 Dean Folkvord was named Montana's Small Business Person of the Year and in 1999 Wheat Montana Farms won the Best Managed Farms Contest out of all farms in the United States. Wheat Montana Farms has also made its way into the Guiness Book of World Records for cutting, milling, mixing and baking a loaf of bread in 8 minutes and 13 seconds!