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Enjoy the Farm-to-Table Scene in Great Falls

Agribusinesses thrive in this Montana region, which allow residents to enjoy locally sourced fare and brews.

By Joe Morris on March 27, 2023

The Pfeifle family operates Farm Power Malt near Great Falls, MT.
Ryan Pfeifle

The farm-to-table movement has never been stronger, and agribusinesses in Great Falls and the region are answering the call with a wide and growing range of products using locally sourced ingredients.

Given the area’s proximity to the Golden Triangle, long known for its bountiful wheat harvests, it’s no surprise that local bakers and brewers are using grains in their offerings. What’s innovative is that they now are joined by other entrepreneurs who are revitalizing traditional products while pioneering new ones.

What’s Brewing? Expansion Plans

Jeremiah Johnson Brewing Co. has been brewing and shipping out a growing menu of products from its Great Falls home since 2018. While expanding its local footprint, the company continues to expand its product line across the country.

Owners Jeremiah and Katherine Johnson say the best craft beer in the country is being brewed in Montana, and they are proud to call the area home.

The brewery continues to ramp up production to meet increasing demand, and recently added two new, 60-barrel fermenters to bring capacity to eight, as well as an additional hot-liquor tank and additional canning line that also expand production capabilities.

Now, seven canned-beer products are available in Montana, Idaho, Washington, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota. Next up is a planned small-batch brewing location, where seasonal and one-off products will join a production output that is nearing 10,000 barrels per year.

In nearby Power, the Pfeifle family has operated Farm Power Malt for more than 100 years. Utilizing their years of barley-raising expertise, the family is now exploring how those grains might work in craft beer and spirits as well as traditional beers.

To convert barley into malt, the Pfeifles have built a one-of-a-kind malting drum and begun collaborations with other distillers, including one in Patagonia, Argentina, so that they can provide a full, turnkey operation: Grow and malt the grain, make the whiskey and age it all in one spot.

Nearby Teton County is also getting in on the action, with a planned 10,000-square-foot production facility to be built near Gordon.

The building will also have a 7,000-square-foot warehouse facility, according to Joel Almeida, co-founder and CEO of Karhu Koski Distillery, who told local media that this site would create new employment opportunities as well as fuel the local economy with tourism dollars.

Fifth & Wine serves farm-to-table fare in Great Falls, MT.
Lily Barone/Speaking Socially

Grower-to-Consumer Pipeline

Area residents also benefit from growers who are providing everything from feed and fiber to what’s going to be for dinner.

For instance, Fort Benton’s IND HEMP is taking hemp to many new levels and providing opportunities all along the way. This family-owned business has a strong environmental focus, working with farmers across the West to create a processing infrastructure to support a stable supply of hemp seeds and fiber for many uses here and abroad.

That approach to sustainability is also on full display at Cordova Farms, a 100-year-old family farm that provides many Great Falls restaurants with beef, lamb, chicken and pork products, even shipping those high-quality meats directly to consumers.

Owner Josh Hill grew up on the farm, and in 2018, he relocated back from Bozeman with his wife and co-owner, Igrid, who was also no stranger to a family-run farm.

Residents enjoy the results of all the hard work farmers and ranchers do at multiple local eateries, including Harvest Craft Kitchen, which offers a variety of dishes featuring local ingredients. There’s also Fifth & Wine, which bundles a wine bar, deli and restaurant into a former sheet-metal shop, and Wheat Montana Bakery, which offers up baked goods containing the area’s high-quality, nutrient-rich wheat and grains.

Golden Triangle Yields Success

Great Falls is located in the Golden Triangle, a region of North Central Montana famous for its amber fields. The hard red spring wheat crop is grown in abundance. Thanks to this wheat, several companies are yielding successful crops:

  • Columbia Grain has a network that includes 8,000 farmers.
  • General Mills operates a flour mill and several grain elevators.
  • Grain Craft is the largest independent flour miller in the nation.
  • Malteurop has craftsmen who specialize in making malt beers.
  • Montana Milling makes 100% certified organic products.
  • Montana Specialty Mills has decades of oilseed processing experience.
  • Pasta Montana manufactures about 80 million pounds of pasta a year.
Drew Hicks operates Central Avenue Meats in Great Falls, MT.
Matt Ehnes

“Meat” a Local Butcher

Geraldine native Drew Hicks, who says Great Falls was his “big city” growing up, honed his butchering skills in many different places, learning his craft in various Colorado venues as well as completing Fleisher’s Butcher Apprenticeship Program in Brooklyn.

Now he, along with his wife, Louanne, operate Central Avenue Meats, where they take pride in being a bridge between area meat producers and local consumers eager for high-quality products.

How do you describe Central Avenue Meats?
We are a craft butcher shop, in the style that’s usually thought of as a “New York butcher shop” – what people have seen in the past, where it’s an open storefront and a very transparent operation. We emphasize the local sourcing of the animals, as well as the craft of processing the animal itself. Our customers know exactly where we get our meat from, right down to the source ranch for each species, and then we do everything out in the open so people can see how we prepare their order.

How is Great Falls as a place to operate a small business?
I grew up outside here, and after being away for a while, it was great to come back. Great Falls has always been a supportive community. We opened mid-pandemic, and while it has taken us a while to get our foothold in terms of offering what people were looking for, the community has been so great. We were blown away by how many people went out of their way to do business with us from the very beginning. When they support us, they support the ranchers we source from, so it’s a great place to be in terms of everyone helping businesses do well here.

Staff Writer Kevin Litwin contributed to this article.

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