Bausch Potatoes of Whitehall
Located in the beautiful Waterloo Valley south of Whitehall, Montana, Bausch Potato's land is one of the earliest cultivated sites in Montana. The first crops grown in the area were strawberries, but since the 1940s Bausch Potatoes has produced different varieties of fresh potatoes for local retail and institutional food services, and even began processing some of their own potatoes in the 1970s. Mark Bausch and his wife, Denise, have continued the Bausch family’s tradition of small-scale farming since they took over ownership of the farm in 1996. "We stuck with the mindset from the 1940s and '50s—we've just stayed local. For a while it seemed like everyone was doing things differently, larger scale, out-of-state, so there were a lot of impulses and pressure to do that too," said Mark. There are a lot of challenges inherent with owning a small farm that have increased with time. However, according to Mark, "This has always worked for us, so we kept doing it, and now it’s working better than ever. We kept to the same principles and now people appreciate them more than ever."
The Bausch family hasn’t had to manage the challenges of being a small-scale farm alone. Programs at the Montana Department of Agriculture, such as the Food and Agricultural Development Network and the Growth Through Agriculture funding program, were there for the Bausches when they needed help. "The Food and Ag Center at Headwaters RC&D was integral in helping us get a new building so we could have a roof over our heads. It was like they were looking for us—we're a perfect fit for the type of Montana ag-related businesses they’re trying to help. They even have deferred loan programs—helping you out is their goal," Mark said. In addition, Growth Through Ag’s Farm-to-School funding program helped the Bausches purchase a new potato processing machine to help increase their product volume and get more local potatoes into Montana’s school cafeterias. Bausch Potatoes already supplies Livingston Public Schools and hopes to expand to other school districts with the new equipment.
Although Bausch Potatoes has remained small in scale and local, that isn’t to say that the farm hasn’t changed at all. In the 1970s Mark’s father began processing potatoes on the farm for a value-added product, and now Bausch makes fresh hash browns and fries that are popular in many area businesses. In addition, the Bausches experiment with growing different potato varieties for different functions, especially health. Growing healthy food is important to the Bausch family. They are closely following MSU Bozeman's research on levels of carotene in potatoes. Carotene, an important source of vitamin A, which is mostly known to be found in carrots, has a lot of Bausch Potatoes boxes with label artwork from 1800's, when land was originally farmed Bausch Potatoes: Adding value on the farm and for customers 2 nutritional benefits. "Different colored potatoes, like blue and red varieties, can contain even more carotene than carrots," said Mark.
Other reasons the Bausches try growing different sorts of potatoes include quality, yield and flavor. "We work hard to create high quality products," said Mark. "I feel like a chef sometimes because I get to play around, adding different varieties of potatoes to the hash browns. For example, if I add a few Yukon Gems to the typical white potato mix, the hash browns have a richer flavor, but if the hash browns were all Yukons, they would be too over-the-top rich." Incorporating different types of potatoes into the recipe is a healthier alternative to other flavor enhancers, like sugar and salt. "Our customer response is great," added Mark. "They love the flavor and variety of color in the hash browns, and feel they're a lot better than the mass-produced, frozen variety."
The Bausches are blessed because they can look to decades of experience at running a successful business from older generation Bausches. This gives them knowledge beyond their 16 years of running the business. "It’s hard for us to take credit for how the farm's doing knowing my whole family invested everything into this before us," said Mark. But he and Denise deserve recognition too, as they have mastered the key aspects of running a successful business.
For example, Bausch Potatoes is known for excellent customer service. "We know that the restaurants and cafés we supply usually have some weekends when they need 10-20 percent more products than usual," said Mark. "I always check the orders and if it looks like they won’t have enough, we’ll personally bring them more." Customer service has always been critical for Bausch because, as Mark says, "We’re competing with lower prices. At the scale we produce, those prices just aren’t an option. We’re supplying to other guys like us: small, locally owned businesses, and we do all we can to help each other out."
Western Meat & Sausage Block of Butte
Butte Family Meat Market Continues Tradition for Over 30 Years, With New Twists
Western Meat & Sausage Block was started in Butte, Montana by the Carpenter family in 1980. Now, more than 30 years later, it is still a family-owned neighborhood business operated by second-generation Carpenters. However, it has expanded to attract customers from all over the state with its unique sausages, seasonings and other specialty items, as well as wild game processing and ready-to-eat meats.
Chad Carpenter, one of Western Meat & Sausage Block’s current owners, couldn't let the business leave the family when his parents, co-founders Betty and Smiley Carpenter, decided to retire. Chad quit his job as an electrical engineer and took over operation of Western Meat & Sausage Block with his wife Kristine. His parents stayed on to assist, but as Chad said, "It was only a six month transition, kind of sink-or-swim." Fortunately Kristine, the CEO of a children's hospital and Western Meat & Sausage Block’s other owner, has a lot of experience in areas like marketing, business administration, and personnel. "What I lack as an engineer, she brings to the table," said Chad. Betty, his mother, continues to help out and is a great motivator, especially during wild game processing. His father Smiley is always around to lend a hand and offer expert advice learned after many years in the business.
The Food and Agricultural Development Center at Headwaters Resource Conservation and Development was also there to help Kristine and Chad. "The Center showed up at the right time, when we were starting to expand our wholesale business in our state inspected facility. They told us about grant and loan opportunities, and helped us apply for them," said Chad. The Food and Agricultural Development Center also connected Western Meat & Sausage Block to other experts who helped them understand and comply with the state's regulations. "With the help of Headwaters' Food and Ag Center, we've been able to apply for a Growth Through Agriculture grant, which enabled us to purchase a new patty machine and a new labeling scale." Growth Through Agriculture is a Montana Department of Agriculture program that assists agriculture-related businesses in the state. Chad added, "Now we know where to look when expanding in the future. We've been able to keep more Montana livestock in the state, instead of it being sent out of state for processing like most Montana animals." Western Meat & Sausage Block continues to take pride in providing local Montana cuts of meat that are aged for flavor and tenderness. "Establishments like ours that process and sell carcass beef and other livestock are becoming increasingly scarce," said Chad.
Western Meat & Sausage Block credits its success to its customer service and product creativity. Customer service and loyalty are crucial, according to Chad. In addition, Western Meat & Sausage Block is known for its unique recipes and homemade sausages. Chad praises his employees for constantly coming up with new ideas. "I’m willing to try anything once, if it sounds good," explained Chad. This environment of innovation is the reason Western Meat & Sausage Block has won numerous awards for its meat creations.
Western Meat & Sausage Block has a lot to be proud of, but everything seems to come down to the people. "Everyone here works together, it’s a close-knit group of employees." said Chad. "It makes it nice to come to work every day." He added that he is very appreciative of the community. "Even though times have been tough in our community, they've always supported us."
New Meat Processing Facility in the Heart of Ranching Country
Dell Mercantile is a general store in the small town of Dell in southwestern Montana, selling gas, groceries, hunting and fishing licenses, auto supplies, gifts, and serves as the local post office. The enterprise also has a wild game and domestic meat processing operation that has undergone phenomenal growth.
"We've seen our meat processing business triple in the past seven years and have already gone through one expansion," said Paul LeMay, Jr., manager and operator of Dell Mercantile & Meat Processing. "We have simply outgrown our current building and believe the demand for this type of facility in southwestern Montana is supported by the large number of cattle ranches in this area. A local state-inspected facility would result in a cost savings for local ranchers by not having to transport their animals at least 100 additional miles."
LeMay and his partners, Jeanne and Joel Schnitzler, began working with Headwaters RC&D Food and Agricultural Development Center in Butte on a $150,000 financing package for the construction of a 2,000-square-foot building to serve as onsite kill facility and meat processing plant. They were recently awarded a $30,000 grant-loan combination through Montana's Growth Through Agriculture program as part of that financial package with which the Headwaters Center is assisting.
Dell Mercantile will construct the new meat processing facility in the heart of ranching country in southern Beaverhead County. The building will meet all requirements for a state-inspected facility. It will provide needed cooler and freezer space, as well as the saws and tables to process more than 400 animals each year.
"We are grateful for this opportunity to work with Headwaters RC&D Food and Ag Center and the Agricultural Development Council," added Jeanne Schnitzler, co-owner of Dell Center LLC. "We hope our expanded facility will be a great success and will be able to provide additional jobs in a rural area where it is difficult to find work."
Janice Copeland, Headwaters RC&D Loan Officer, said, "Working with Jeannie and Paul on expansion of the Dell Mercantile has been a great project. They have built their business up to be the economic and social hub of Dell and the surrounding area. Headwaters RC&D Food & Ag Center works to build strong, vibrant communities. This is a good example of how the Food & Ag Development Center and Growth Through Agriculture programs complemented each other to create an economic impact in this very rural area of southwestern Montana."
Montana-Made Biodiesel Available Here!
Earl Fisher Biofuels, located in Chester, Mont., has been a client of the Bear Paw Food and Agricultural Development Center in Havre since the program's inception. With a $50,000 Growth Through Agriculture grant, acquired through the assistance of the center, Earl Fisher Biofuels and project partners set two primary goals for their project – to pilot the use of biodiesel as an alternative fuel in the railway industry, and for local producers and other stakeholders to recognize and prepare to realize the potential for increased biofuel production in north-central Montana.
Publicity has highlighted the project's achievement of good engine performance in BNSF's locomotives and the reduced harmful emissions with the low-sulfur biodiesel. Less well known is Earl Fisher's success producing large quantities of biodiesel and the relationship it has developed during the course of the project with Ezzie's Wholesale. In March of 2012, Ezzie's unveiled the first commercial biodiesel pump using Montana-made biodiesel processed by Earl Fisher Biofuels!
The project held a community celebration on March 6, 2012, at Ezzie’s Cenex station in downtown Havre, where the pump is located. Those gathered included Lary Poulton, owner of Ezzie’s Wholesale Inc., members of the National Biodiesel Board, and the owners and founders of Earl Fisher Biofuels of Chester, Brett Earl and Logan Fisher. The celebration culminated in participants watching the North Central Montana Transit buses fill their tanks with the biodiesel blend.
In an interview with the local newspaper, Paul Tuss, executive director of Bear Paw Development Corp., said that the local sale takes the project beyond the research stage.
"It’s gone beyond theoretical to a success story," Tuss said.