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Montana Ag Network: Big Sandy Organics gets a grant to upgrade

Posted at 10:35 PM, Mar 31, 2024

In the video above, Ryan Gamboa visits Big Sandy Organics, which recently received a grant to upgrade and expand their processing their food processing line for organic grains and pulses. Click here to visit the Big Sandy Organics website.

The COVID pandemic was tough on small businesses across the nation. Big Sandy Organics started with the dream of Dr. Bob Quinn, reviving an ancient grain from Egypt. The Dilworth family acquired the business four years ago and its been a struggle to remain afloat.

"I honestly don’t know how much longer we would’ve been able to keep our doors open," Heather Dilworth explained.

Big Sandy Organics is home to a true Montana original product, Kracklin' Kamut.

When Heather and her husband Thomas acquired the business four years ago, they employed 11 warehouse employees. That number has since shrunk to three. With help from original business partners and friends, they've been able to remain open.

"For the amount of volume we’re doing now, it’s pretty incredible to do with three employees," said Dilworth. Kracklin' Kamut is a product comparable to Corn Nuts, made in three steps - fry it, season it, and package it.

"We can produce anywhere from 750 pounds of product, to just a thousand if we put in a couple extra hours a day," said Adam McDougle, Warehouse Manager. "With the new automated systems we’re getting, we’ll be able to push 1000 pounds of product per system per hour."

McDougle has worked in the Big Sandy Organics facility for almost a year. He's seen firsthand the facility not meet production standards. Last fall, the Dilworth's applied for a USDA Organic Market Development Grant. It awards $75 million to businesses that meet its organic requirements — $3 million of the federal dollars has been award to Big Sandy Organics.

"For the last year and a half, we have barely made it," explained Dilworth. "This grant was just a miracle."

Young Living Essential Oils and Farver Farmsare utilizing the facility to package and distribute Lentil and Einkorn products — two other healthy snack options. Big Sandy Organics has aspirations of its own to expand its product line. Unreleased, but in the works, is a new Salt and Vinegar flavored Kracklin' Kamut. Dilworth said, expanding a flavor line isn't as easy as it sounds. Demand for new flavors is pouring in but the $5,000 capital to purchase the seasoning, packaging, and distribution of the product was not.

The $3 million in USDA grant funding will offer the business a chance to grow. More importantly, Big Sandy Organics can keep its mission alive to promote healthier snacking in school districts and across the nation.