On August 27th, members of AERO’s Ag Task Force convened in Power, Montana to discuss current challenges for small scale producers in Montana and opportunities for AERO to support and grow the local food movement in Montana.
Participants were given a tour of the newest online version of Abundant MT, AERO’s directory to sustainably produced food in Montana. After being given an overview of the new features and how the site works, task force participants gave feedback on how to promote the new directory. Ideas included posting signs or having a booth at Farmers Markets, providing materials that can be handed out by farmers and local food businesses to their customers, and urging listing-holders to cross-post and generally utilize their Abundant listings as well as the Abundant homepage.
Other topics of discussion were food safety and the possibility of surveying producers about their experiences with state and local food safety regulations, how to continue to change the public narrative surrounding local and sustainably produced food to that of real necessity, and the role that Farmers Markets play in either supporting and hindering those participating in truly local food commerce.
A next chapter for AERO’s Farm Improvement Clubs was discussed and brainstormed. Ideas for Farm Improvement Clubs, dependant upon geography, and general areas for AERO to expand included co-operative models and the feasibility of a co-op in Central Montana, fostering and reaching educated consumers, meeting demand in existing markets, expansion into new markets and institutional markets, value-added processing and processing facilities, efficient distribution and supporting distributors, and providing and offsetting health care through healthy food and farming practices.
Many thanks to Courtney and Jacob Cowgill for hosting the meeting and giving us a tour of the new Prairie Heritage Farm!
If you’re interested in voicing your thoughts and concerns for making Montana’s local food system stronger, look out for information on other Ag Task Force meetings in the coming weeks.