“It’s not food waste–it’s food that will be wasted,” said Vanessa Walsten of Farmented’s business model. Walsten and Farmented co-owner Vanessa Williamson met in the fall of 2016 in a farm-to-market class at Montana State University. Combining their efforts of Walsten’s sustainable foods and bioenergy major with Williamson’s business marketing major, the pair looked to address a common problem local farmers face of selling excess and “ugly” vegetables by creating a line of fermented food products. A year later, Farmented sold their first jars of product at the Bozeman Winter Farmers Market. In November 2020, Farmented moved into its own designated facility in Kalispell, Montana.
Following the advice of several people, Walsten and Williamson contacted Prospera’s Montana Women’s Business Center (WBC) to apply for a Women’s Business Impact (WBI) grant to purchase two time-saving labeling machines. Farmented was awarded the grant. “Labeling happens to be one of the more time-intensive areas of our business, so to get that money to purchase a couple of different machines was a huge benefit to our company,” said Williamson. Speaking of their experience of presenting for the WBI grant, Williamson said, “The community of people who went to the presentation and lifted every person up was just so amazing. Even though everyone couldn’t win, I think everyone was really happy for one another and just loved getting to learn about other women-owned businesses.”
Prospera also connected Farmented with the Food and Ag Cluster through the Montana Food and Agricultural Development Center, which offers support for businesses that produce and commercialize food. Prospera is a resource “we can reach out to and they can help point us in the right direction or connect us with someone who may have experience in what we are dealing with,” said Williamson.