Dale L. Folkvord
Dale Folkvord, 72, passed away at University of Utah Medical Center in Salt Lake City on June 27. He died in comfort with the notion that he’d be going back to Three Forks to see his farm one last time.
The Folkvord family’s long obsession with agriculture began when Haakon Folkvord arrived in Sidney from Norway and became a sheepherder. Once he became familiar with the area he began a lifelong quest of growing crops and animals. He married Lillian Lamotte, and Dale was born in 1938 at Fort Peck, while he helped construct the Fort Peck Dam. They leased a farm in Herron, moved near the Portland shipyards during WWII, then bought their first farm at Trout Creek after the war. When Haakon became a partner in a dryland farm near Toston, they welded a frame around the tractor seat so young Dale could drive without the danger of falling off. With a 12-foot, one-way plow, they could make two rounds around the summer fallow per day. Haakon eventually bought the Iverson Place at Canyon Ferry Lake, then the Hurney Place in the Helena Valley. They eventually owned a small dairy north of Helena. Dale knew he was going to pursue a life in agriculture long before he quit school as a high school freshman.
When he married Frances Novak, they bought the 200-acre Novak family farm near Spokane Creek. Both Dale and Frances worked other jobs and put as much as possible into their farm. Eventually he bought more acres. For the first 15 years his interests were mostly in cattle, but when the Helfert Farm came up for sale, the focus turned to wheat.
The farm had suffered drought for seven years, but the first year under Dale’s ownership it yielded its biggest crop in history. That same year the famed Russian Wheat Deal of 1974 forced wheat prices to over $6 per bushel. He paid for that farm with one crop and the dream of owning a big wheat farm became an obsession. In 1978 the family moved onto the Kamp Place – a 4,000-acre spread near Three Forks. Dean and Hope joined Dale and Fran in 1982, and they leveraged their collective energy to expand the farm, implement no-till, improve the land and grow better wheat. In 1986 they grew one of the first fields of Hard White Spring Wheat in the U.S. This interest in growing specialty grains led to the purchase of a small bakery in Bozeman. By 1993 the Wheat Montana Bakery was built at Three Forks, just 5 miles from the farm. As the bakery and specialty grains business grew, so did the farm.
Today, 14,000 acres collectively make up Wheat Montana Farms. Crops from this and other contracted farms are distributed as grains and flour nationwide. Grain used to make bread in the company bakery is distributed daily across nine states.
Ironically, Darrel Folkvord acquired and owned the original Helena farm for 10 years after his father sold it to another party. Also the original Toston farm that Dale helped farm at age eight is currently part of Wheat Montana’s holdings.
Dale made every effort possible to improve each piece of farmland, whether it was owned or leased. He felt it was his personal responsibility to leave the land better than it was when he took over.
He was especially proud of his three grandchildren – Cody, Hillary and Haylee. While his first priority was getting his work done, he attended as many of their events as he could. He was always interested in the outcome. He made a special project out of seeing to it that Cody knew about the farm, and was able to run all of the equipment. All three kids ate a lot of lunches with their grandpa in the tractor or combine.
His best days were going on a tour of the fields or watching the crop come in day after day in the cab of a combine. Dale continued to farm until his health would not allow it.
Few people pursue their dreams as intensely as he did. With only an eighth-grade education, he continued to push himself to read, learn and understand how to get more done. He was successful and could have lived anywhere. Rather than travel or recreate, he spent nearly every day on that farm or near it. He was comfortable when he died and content with what he’d accomplished in his lifetime. His farm will always stand as a monument to what he did. He put together a “big place” and “he covered a lot of acres.”
He is preceded in death by his parents, Haakon and Lillian Folkvord; a sister, Shirley Folkvord; and brother, Harry Smick. He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Frances Folkvord; sons, Darrel (Robin) and Dean (Hope); grandchildren, Cody Folkvord, Hillary Folkvord and Haylee Folkvord.
The following are honorary pallbearers, as these men all helped out on the farm at one time or another, and Dale had a high level of respect for each of them: Waid Jenks, Tom Simpson, Jerry Smith, Sam Obrecht, Jeff Fjelstad, Harry Folkvord, Ray Choriki, Ben McMaster, Tor Folkvord, Bob Hildebrandt, Jack Reisselman, Wayne Fuller, Matt Tempel and Ben Peterson, who has worked for him for 22 years.
In lieu of flowers or gifts, please make a contribution to the Three Forks High School Booster Club. P.O. Box 589, Three Forks, MT 59752.
A memorial service was held at the farm on July 2.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the June 19, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News