As the founder and CEO of a fundraising software company, Scot Chisholm was exposed to a variety of nonprofit organizations before he left his position a year ago. After a decade in the business, he moved on to start his own nonprofit to pair with a dispensary and retail shop in Whitefish.
Chisholm and his business partner Craig McViney officially opened Haskill Creek Farms on Voerman Road just outside of Whitefish, which operates as a dispensary and retail shop on 35 acres. The mural on the east side of the building that displays “Save Farmland” in giant letters illustrates the separate aspect of Haskill Creek – a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving agriculture.
“We knew we wanted Haskill Creek to support something and donate a portion of the proceeds to,” Chisholm said. “People in the valley said they were worried about the rapid development and the loss of agriculture and farm life.”
Chisholm launched Save Farmland, which was recently established as a 501c3, and will be model after the Nature Conservancy, where farmland is purchased while providing agricultural education on the property.
On the 40 acres to the north of the Haskill Creek property across Voerman Road, Chisholm donated the parcel of land to the Save Farmland nonprofit where about half of it will be utilized as a community garden with a market and demonstration area. The other half will be used as a “Farm Hub” and will be divided into half-acre to 1-acre parcels.
“The general plan is to turn that into an incubator farm where we create plots for young farmers,” Chisholm said. “We would have shared equipment, and educational classes to help them on the salary front all so they could have some onboarding into the valley and not be deterred by land prices or equipment prices.”
A farm incubator operates on a similar model as a business incubator, which helps individuals develop skills and establishes a “feeder system.” Young farmers will start on smaller plots, where they will be for at least three years, before moving up to 5- to 10-acre plots.
Chisholm plans to continue buying more property with Save Farmland throughout the valley to conserve land while converting it back into agriculture.
“This is farmland that was productive and active at one point, and we came in to save working farmland for the community,” Chisholm said. “Our goal isn’t to buy every single piece of farmland, but to look at plots close to community centers that might be out of reach for people and create the fundraising pathway.”
In addition to providing land and equipment, Chisholm is also partnering with local farmers and agriculture professionals from Flathead Valley Community College to educate young farmers about regenerative and organic farming.
While Haskill Creek Farms is separate from Save Farmland, they are both centered around Chisholm’s and McViney’s philosophy on sustainable farming. On 5 acres, McViney manages the cannabis grow operation for the dispensary where they utilize alpaca fertilizer and regenerative farming while focusing on enhancing biodiversity.
Inside the retail shop, the Cannabis Counter in the back of Haskill Creek Farms offers 10 to 15 marijuana strains, edibles and hemp products. Eventually, the shop will wholesale products to other dispensaries, and it also has plans in the works to open a location in downtown Whitefish.
In addition to cannabis, the shop has partnered with other farms to sell 200 different herbs, which include herbal blends, medicinal and culinary products. Other aspects of the store include self-care and lifestyle products, which include everything from home décor to farming literature.
“Our main goal was to make our own supply chain,” Chisholm said. “We researched heavily and collaborated with farmers across the country, and we rely on our philosophies of regenerative and organic farming.”
Haskill Creek Farms will host a grand opening event on June 4 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., featuring live music from 20 Grand, food trucks and refreshments from Bonsai Brewing Project.
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