Our Family Story

  

Our Family Story


All the world is a wheat field. At least, that’s how it has looked to Franck and Kari Groeneweg, owners of Living Sky Grains. 


Before arriving in Three Forks, Montana, the Groenewegs were on a quest to find the farm of their dreams. Along the way, they dirtied their boots on farms in France, Canada, and across the United States. Theirs is a story of commitment to family, to regenerative agriculture, and giving back to the earth as much, or more, than the crops they harvest.


Act I: The French Countryside

In the beginning, there was a baguette and a cup of hot chocolate. That was the snack Franck Groeneweg’s mother gave him after school. Their family grew wheat and potatoes on a farm located 100 miles outside of Paris, France. The baguette was a fixture on their dinner table, baked with flour milled from wheat grown in their region. Franck can still smell the aroma of the bread as he would pluck out the soft center and dip it into the hot chocolate.


The family took their products each week to the farmer’s market. Franck’s Saturday job was to manage the market and advise customers as to what type of potatoes would be best for their family meal.  “It gave people a taste of our terroir – that’s a French term for the overall effect a farm’s ecosystem has on the food it grows.”


But in a story as old as agriculture itself, the Groeneweg family farm was too small to support the incomes of multiple generations. At the age of 19, Franck set out for America. First, he joined a custom harvesting crew that followed the wheat harvest from the southern to the northern United States. Then he settled in Iowa where he ran a tractor parts business. 


The course of Franck’s life changed on the day he met Kari, an undergraduate at Dordt University in northwest Iowa.  She was an Alberta farm girl, who happened to be of Dutch heritage, just like Franck. And Kari's love for farming was rooted in her childhood memories of waving wheat, billowing clouds, and the spires of the Alberta Rockies in the distance.  


Kari and Franck were like two grains from the same ear of wheat. They married and vowed to build a family farm of their own.


Act II: The Prairies of Saskatchewan

There’s no secret that it’s hard to build a family farm without the benefit of inherited land. Iowa may be America’s breadbasket, but land prices were too high for the Groenewegs. But Kari knew of affordable farmland in Saskatchewan. 


In 2003, the Groenewegs got their start on a piece of neighbor-financed ground near Regina, Saskatchewan. With each year’s harvest, the farm grew. As the years passed, so too did their family, with the arrivals of Luke, Julia, Emma and Solange.


Franck’s knowledge of regenerative agriculture grew and soon their land was producing commodity wheat at a rate that earned them recognition as Saskatchewan’s 2011 Outstanding Young Farmers. Business was good, and yet, the Groenewegs felt something lacking. Saskatchewan is a long, flat carpet of prairie that is sparsely populated. Kari longed for a mountain horizon. And Franck missed the close relationships he had with customers as a kid at the French farmer’s markets. The Groenewegs’ dream wasn’t yet leavened.


Act III: The Big Montana Sky

As the Groenewegs were wrapping up their 18th harvest season in Saskatchewan, another farming family in Montana decided it was time to sell their farm. Dean and Hope Folkvord, founders of the Wheat Montana brand, had already sold their outlet stores. That was simply a commercial transaction, going to the highest bidder. But their 15,000 acres of farmland was a different matter. They wanted it to continue as a family-owned and operated farm.


In 2019, they met their ideal candidates in Franck and Kari Groeneweg. When the farmers visited from Saskatchewan, their kids took one look around at the rolling wheat fields backdropped by the Rocky Mountains, and said:


“This is it. No need to look anywhere else.”


The Folkvords had put the farmland in a conservation easement, meaning commercial or residential development was out of the question. The Groenewegs’ challenge was simple: the farm could only succeed through agriculture. Thanks to a lifetime of experience in regenerative agriculture, as well as some old-school know-how from the Old World, the Groenewegs set out to improve the farm and create a line of super-nutritious grain products they can sell directly to consumers. It was the only way to build on the razor-thin profits of the farm’s commodity wheat business model.


The new approach warranted a new name. To the Groenewegs, best-practices farming had always been bigger than political boundaries. After all, ignore international boundaries and all the earth’s cropland shares much in common. Montana’s “big sky” doesn’t just stop at the Canadian border. The earth is a living whole. That’s when Kari noticed the Saskatchewan license plate on their truck, with the provincial logo “The Land of Living Skies.” 


The land is alive. 


The sky is alive. 


Together, they grow Living Sky Grains.