(Re) Introducing Save Farmland

May 22, 2024 / News

Dear Flathead Valley, 

We’re still wrapping our heads around this stat… 

Only 3% of the food consumed by Montanans was grown or raised in Montana. 

This used to be ~70% in 1950 and has declined ever since. 🤯

So what’s going on here? What are the repercussions? And how do we fix it?

These are the exact questions we’ve been asking ourselves for the past two years as we’ve prepared to officially launch Save Farmland as a new 501(c)3 nonprofit here in Flathead Valley. And today’s that day.

Please read-on to learn exactly what we’re up to. This is a massive issue, and we’re going to need as much help as possible.

Save Farmland 2.0 – Beyond the T-shirt

You may have seen the “Save Farmland” logo around town, and probably thought to yourself – cool message, but what exactly is Save Farmland? What do they do? Is this even a legit organization? 

All great questions! Here’s the 1-minute history… 

Save Farmland started as a slogan on a t-shirt, to raise awareness for the farm and ranchland that was quickly disappearing across Flathead Valley. The Haskill Creek owners (Scot, Carrie & Craig) decided to paint it on the side of their store and donate $1 of every order to the cause. 

A year later, the Chisholm’s bought 40 acres on Voerman Road in Whitefish because it was set to be developed. Their plan was simple: protect this open space as farmland forever. But Save Farmland wasn’t a nonprofit yet. Outside of that 40-acre donation, it was still a logo on a t-shirt. 

Then Scot met Robin Kelson, the Executive Director of AERO & Abundant Montana. Robin introduced him to many incredible organizations and people that have been working on this issue from a variety of angles over many years. From Gretchen Boyer at Land to Hand, to Todd & Rebecca at Two Bear Farm & the Farmer’s Stand.  

This kicked off a two year period of deep community engagement. Listening more than acting. Why? Because there was much to learn. We didn’t want to duplicate existing efforts. And we didn’t want to launch just “another nonprofit”. 

As we dug into the issues further, we realized that there was a huge connection between the disappearing farmland and the deterioration of the local food system. 

First, farming is a really tough gig. There’s a mountain of issues that stand in your way and most never find success as a career. The reality is that most aspiring farmers end up quitting within the first couple of years because its cost prohibitive to operate a small farm here (without chemicals and government subsidies). From land, to machinery to distribution – it’s an uphill battle from day 1 to do things the right way. 

This causes second and third generation kids to be less interested in carrying the farming & ranching torch from their parents. Not to mention that developers are swooping in and offering millions of dollars for their land – frankly, it’s hard to blame them for selling when the path to success is so difficult. 

So here’s the bottom line:

Less farmers equals less healthy food for the community and our kids. This means an over-reliance on imported food from other states and countries – much of which is drenched in harmful chemicals. It’s that simple. 

So after countless conversations and working sessions, here’s what we heard back: 

There isn’t a single organization whose sole purpose is to protect agricultural and ranch land, incubate new farmers, and find ways to keep them in Flathead Valley (so the community can benefit from fresh & healthy food for years to come). 

So, Save Farmland 2.0 was born.

Our First Project: Building a Regenerative Incubator Farm

Save Farmland’s mission is now clear: Empower the next generation of farmers and ranchers to ensure a healthy future for you and your family.

And we’re finally ready to unveil our first major project – a regenerative incubator farm on Voerman Road in Whitefish, Montana – using the 40-acre parcel that was originally purchased by the Chisholm’s (and then later donated to Save Farmland). 

Phase 1 of the incubator will serve as a launchpad for new and aspiring farmers, providing them with access to land, essential resources, and invaluable mentorship.

  • Affordable Land Access: We will lease small plots of land to farmers at a nominal cost, removing one of the biggest barriers to entry for new farmers.
  • Resource Hub: From equipment and compost to sales channels and business planning, our incubator will offer a wide range of operational resources at reduced costs.
  • Mentorship and Community: Seasoned farmers, agricultural experts and a cohort of peers will provide ongoing support, guiding new farmers as they develop their skills and businesses. 
  • Stewardship and Sustainability: We’re committed to farming practices that focus on stewarding land, soil, wildlife, and water resources, promoting biodiversity and health-giving food production. Our incubator will be a living classroom for this form of regenerative agriculture, demonstrating the benefits of chemical-free farming in harmony with nature.

Why We Need Your Support

While the land has been generously donated, we now face the challenge of transforming it into a functional farm. This summer we’ll be pounding the pavement to fundraise for Phase 0 and Phase 1, with the hopes of breaking ground on the farm incubator in Summer ‘25.

Phase 0 | Prerequisites to Breaking Ground

  • Land and Soil Assessments: To understand land and soil conditions for best siting structures and farm plots and building soil health as needed.
  • Structural Drawings: To understand the true cost of the project and get necessary permitting. 
  • Operational hire: To conduct organizational operations as this vision materializes.

Phase 1 | Break ground on the Farm Incubator

  • Land Preparation: Plant cover crop, mixed berry and fruit orchard, drill two water wells and install perimeter fencing.
  • Farming Plots: Install irrigation, fencing and power to 10, ½ acre lots.
  • Farm Buildings: Build storage sheds, wash station, greenhouses, a communal barn, and composting toilets.
  • Purchase Equipment: Buy 5-10 critical pieces of farming equipment for use by incubator farmers.  
  • Hire Farm Manager: Bring on a farm expert to oversee the build and drive the success of the farming cohorts.

*Timing for the activation of these items will be based on our ability to reach fundraising milestones.

Why This? Why Us?

Save Farmland was born from the community’s voice and vision. When we asked our neighbors in Whitefish what mattered most, they highlighted the critical need for local food access and the deep concern for irresponsible land development. This project is a direct response to those concerns, driven by the community and for the community. 

We are committed to being a conduit for the existing efforts of many people and organizations to create resilient, healthy food systems for all Montanans. With the community’s guidance and support, we aim to ensure our local food system thrives for generations to come. 

We want to express deep gratitude to the individuals and organizations that have informed our approach so far:


Food Access


Soil Health & Regenerative Agriculture

Join Us in Building a Sustainable Future for Whitefish

We believe in the power of this community, and we know that with your support, we can make this vision a reality, here are the ways to get involved:

  • Donate: Every contribution, big or small, will help us build the infrastructure needed to get this off the ground.
  • Volunteer: We welcome help with everything from planning to planting. Join our newsletter and follow us on Instagram to get updates on volunteer opportunities.
  • Spread the Word: Share our mission with your community to help us build a strong network of supporters.
  • Feedback: We want to be a representation of this community’s needs. If you have ideas, concerns or feedback, we’re here for it, please share.

Thank you for being part of this journey with us!

With gratitude,

The Save Farmland team

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