Farm Hands happy to have ‘ants in their pants’

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The Whitefish-based Farm Hands – Nourish the Flathead organization recently received a $2,000 infusion from the Red Ants Pants Foundation.

Farm Hands is a grassroots nonprofit that connects people to local food and those who produce it through education, outreach and market support.

The Red Ants Pants Foundation’s Community Grant Program is fueled by the Red Ants Pants music festival, a one-of-kind distinctly Montana-style event staged annually in the small ranching town of White Sulfur Springs.

The foundation, and the festival, were founded by Sarah C. Calhoun, who after working at haying, on trail crews and with Outward Bound Kids, opened her Red Ants Pants business in 2006 dedicated to selling Made in the USA work wear specifically designed for women.

Calhoun started the Red Ants Pants Festival in 2011 and since then it has grown to become one of the most popular outdoor music festivals in the Northwest, drawing such talent as Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Charley Pride, Lyle Lovett and Wynonna Judd. And from there the Red Ants Pants Foundation was born — with a mission to support women in leadership, rural communities and family farms and ranches.

The Farm Hands organization sponsors several local food access programs through the Whitefish Farmers Market and, as of this year, the Columbia Falls Farmers Market.

The nonprofit established a Senior Coupon program, which distributes books of $2 coupons for seniors to use to buy fresh fruits and vegetables from local growers.

The Double SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Dollar Program gives SNAP recipients a chance to double their money. Anyone from any community, and even from out of state, is welcome to use their SNAP dollars at either the Whitefish or Columbia Falls farmers markets, says Gretchen Boyer, Farm Hands program coordinator.

“We give them $20 after they swipe their card for $10,” she said.

This spring Farm Hands also reached out to school kids, giving them Farmers Market Coins they could spend on fresh, local food. Seven-hundred coins were handed out in Whitefish on Bike to School Day in May and more were given to Columbia Falls junior high students just before school was out for the summer.

To learn more, call Boyer at 406-261-5569, email info@farmhandsnourish.org or visit www.nourishtheflathead.org. On the website you’ll find a map pinpointing the locations of local farms, farmers markets, community gardens and more. The organization is currently seeking funding to create a printable version of the map for distribution.

In addition to the programs mentioned above, the Red Ants Pants Foundation grant will also support Farm Hands’ Blackfeet Nourish Project for the Blackfeet Food Bank, serving families in Browning, Babb, Cut Bank and Heart Butte.

Proceeds from the 2016 Red Ants Pants Music Festival provided more than $19,000 in grants to 13 recipients in 2017. The foundation has given more than $85,000 in grants to date.

If you’re wondering about where the name “red ants pants” came from, according to the business’ website, “in an ant colony, the women do all the work.”

Community editor Carol Marino may be reached at 758-4440 or community@dailyinterlake.com.

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