Wheat Montana Sold

Former owners of Wheat Montana Dean and Hope Folkvord sold the family business in January 2019. Here they pose for a photo in their daughters’ cafe on Wednesday in the RSVP Motel.

Often lauded as one of the state’s major business success stories, owners of a prominent Montana farm have sold their land.

Wheat Montana, based in Three Forks, sold its mills and bakeries to a private equity firm in 2015 and sold its farm to a new family in January 2019, co-owner Dean Folkvord said.

Though his family still has a small share of ownership in the company, it isn’t significant, and he said it’s time for the family to move on and focus on other projects.

“We’re looking toward the future, and we think we’ve done pretty much all we could do as a family,” he said.

When Wheat Montana owners first became partners in what was Yogi’s Bakery 30 years ago, they farmed on land originally purchased by Dean’s father, Dale Folkvord, working with both his parents. They operated the bakery portion using a van and sold their bread to local grocery stores.

When Dean and his wife, Hope Folkvord, also a former co-owner, went to Hawaii, he said that’s when he got the idea to turn the company into what it is today.

He went to a pineapple plantation where visitors could also buy pineapples and pineapple drinks. He looked at Hope and said, “I think we could do this with wheat.”

Now, the company’s bread is sold in 13 states and it sells its grain and flour in more than 40 states, Dean said. Wheat Montana also has delis in Great Falls, Missoula, Kalispell and Three Forks.

It’s almost like the family has been treated like mini-celebrities because of the company, Dean said. Other farmers have looked to the business as an example of how to succeed as the industry struggles.

“I think if you did what we did anywhere outside Montana, it wouldn’t be as important,” he said. “But people in Montana wanted us to be a success.”

But it wasn’t all “milk and cookies,” Dean said. There were times when the family thought they might go broke, times when they expanded without all collectively agreeing, and it was hard when his dad died in 2010, he said.

In 2005, the family turned over the company to investors, but following the recession and economic downturn in 2008, investors later sold it back to the family.

They also tried to expand the franchise by opening delis in Idaho and Washington, but both stores ended up closing. It took a few years to rebuild after a few of those blows, Dean said. But business has been good for a while now, and he said customers shouldn’t see major changes with the way Wheat Montana looks or operates.

Now, Dean said his family wants to focus on its properties in the hospitality industry. A year ago, the Folkvord family opened the revamped RSVP Motel in Bozeman, which is primarily owned and managed by Dean and Hope’s daughters, Haylee and Hillary Folkvord.

The family also owns the Travelodge and the Sacajawea Hotel in Three Forks, and looking into new projects is also a possibility, Hope said. They’ll miss Wheat Montana, though.

“It’s a tough time to say that we’re done with it,” Dean said. “Because Montana’s treated us so well.”

Abby Lynes can be reached at alynes@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2651. Follow her on Twitter @Abby_Lynes.

Abby Lynes covers business and the economy for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

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