Business

Food With a Story

Local farmers opened The Farmers’ Stand in early June in Whitefish, partnering with regional producers in western Montana

By Maggie Dresser
Carrots on display at The Farmers’ Stand organic grocery store in Whitefish June 11, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

In response to a high demand for local, organic food and limited options for easy accessibility, farmers at Two Bear Farm and Wicked Good Farm have teamed up to open The Farmers’ Stand in Whitefish, a market selling local products and grab-and-go items from partners across western Montana.

Todd and Rebecca Ulizio of Two Bear Farm along with Brooke Bohannon and Sean Hard of Wicked Good Farm and Wicked Good Produce opened the store in early June in the former Little Caesars in Whitefish Mountain Mall. In addition to selling produce from their own farms, they also source products from elsewhere across the valley and beyond, including Western Montana Growers Cooperative, Native Fish Keepers and more.

The market also has a kitchen for the grab-and-go menu, which includes soups, sandwiches, salads and baked goods and created by head chef Johnny Alamilla, who most recently ran the kitchen at Uptown Hearth, and three other chefs who have worked all over the valley.

With a resume that includes the Iron Horse Golf Club and owning restaurants in San Francisco, Alamilla was drawn to working with high-quality, local food at The Farmers’ Stand.

Carrie Garrett, right, and Melissa Mangold work in the kitchen of The Farmers’ Stand organic grocery store in Whitefish June 11, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

“I really wanted to get involved with them because of their mission,” Alamilla said. “I’ve worked all over the United States and I was so driven by what they are doing and making delicious stuff with delicious products.”

Menu items include a Chicks Dig Grass egg salad sandwich made with organic eggs from SweetRoot Farm in the Bitterroot Valley, the 4H sandwich made with local ham, a French bread pizza and more, all made fresh daily with organic ingredients.

One of Alamilla’s most popular items, the Whitefish Sandwich, is made with local whitefish caught in Flathead Lake and sourced through Native Fish Keepers from Polson. He also uses lake trout, an invasive species, with bread from the Wich Haus in Whitefish.

“At the end of the day, you’re not just getting a delicious sandwich, you’re actually supporting native trout recovery and conservation,” Todd Ulizio from Two Bear Farm said. “It’s a win-win.”

Ulizio says scenarios like this reflect the new venture’s mission.

“Our tagline is, ‘Your food has a story,’” Ulizio said. “We want you to ask questions; we want you to start thinking about where the food comes from. We think consumers play a huge role.”

The Farmers’ Stand’s name has a double meaning, as Ulizio says its founders are also taking a stand as farmers to further support local agriculture with short supply chains instead of industrial food systems.

“Out of frustration, we need to take a stand for better food,” Ulizio said. “We need to provide consumers with better food.”

The produce section at The Farmers’ Stand organic grocery store in Whitefish June 11, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The market is also used as a platform to educate the public about nutrition, the declining quality of food and its impact on human health.

Storyboards with QR codes are displayed next to products that describe a particular item’s origins, which Ulizio describes as the next best thing to standing face to face with the farmer.

“It’s a little market, but it’s a huge vision,” Ulizio said. “There’s so many things we’re trying to get at with consumer education, human health, vibrant communities, supporting the local food economy and keeping small farms on the landscape.”

The Farmers’ Stand is located at 6475 U.S. Highway 93, Suite 10 in Whitefish.

For more information, visit www.thefarmersstand.com.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.