April E-news:

Covid-19 Resources
Upcoming Events

Here’s what’s new
in April

Image: Photo by Nikola Jovanovic 

A Word From AERO…

We Are Alone TogetherWe are living through a time that will indefinitely shape the way we behave as individuals, communities, and as a society. It is a time that has upended the world we knew, creating a common experience of isolation and uncertainty. Importantly, the impacts of COVID-19 have deepened socioeconomic and racial disparities. Triggered by uncertainty some spin out in fear, withdraw into despair, or lash out in anger or denial, driving us to rely on a false hope in rugged individualism and self preservation. These are common reactions when faced with the loss of control. But we can choose to recreate a society that cares for its most vulnerable, and come out of this experience with a new definition of who “we” are, who “we” care for, and who is the “we” that benefits from Montana’s values-based community food system.

Our community is only as strong as our most vulnerable person. We must reconnect with what it means to care for our community to cope with COVID-19 and to practice working together in times of stress to prepare for the disruptions that will continue to accompany climate change. We can start with collective food security, community decision making, holistic thinking, and ensuring that we are advocating for folks with compromised immune systems and those most isolated by virtue of their socio-economic and/or racial status. Right now, community care might look like donating to our a local food pantry, preparing meals, masks, or caring for a loved one. For some it might mean showing up to continue their work on the front lines of our healthcare system or planting a home garden for the first time in a few years. But for all of us, community care means practicing social distancing, protecting our faces, washing our hands, and staying in our homes. For it is these actions that all of us must take to defend the strength and health of our communities, especially the elders, folks with immune diseases, and healthcare workers who make our communities thrive.

As an AERO member, we know you understand this; your belief in the power of community created AERO 46 years ago. Simply put: AERO exists because you believe taking action on solutions that build sustainable community food systems is the best future for humans and creates the world we all want to live in. Please continue reading to learn about participating in the 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge or to support the Montana Food Providers Project. Thank you for joining AERO in social distancing. We remain #AloneTogether as we continue to work towards values-based community food systems right where you live.


Growth Through Agriculture Offers Mini Grants
Applications Due April 13th, 2020 at 2:00pm
The Growth Through Agriculture (GTA) Mini Grant Program is a part of the Montana Growth Through Agriculture Program established by the Montana Legislature to encourage economic and agricultural development through educational, promotional, marketing, travel and other business activities.
All projects will need to demonstrate how they expand Montana agriculture, but given the current public health situation with COVID-19, special attention will be paid to projects that strengthen and expand local food offerings, distribution, and infrastructure.
  • Maximum $2,500 grant for educational, promotional, marketing, travel
  • Maximum $5,000 for other business activities

Review the Mini-Grant background document for details on applying.

AERO Office Hours Change
Kate McLean, Office Manager New Helena Office Hours:
Monday and Wednesday 9:00 am – 3:00 pm

Farmers Markets Granted Essential Classification

Through inquiries from Grow Montana Food Policy Council, Montana’s 74 farmers markets were granted “essential” classification, exempting them from the ban on social gatherings and the Governor’s Shelter in Place order. This decision will ensure Montanans the opportunity to purchase locally grown food as well as safeguarding this fundamental outlet for our farmers. Grow Montana will also be working alongside state officials to provide a “Best Practice Guidelines” for market managers and farmers to ensure the safety to the producers, their work, and their patrons.

Montana Food Providers Project 
MOA & AERO Coming Together to Support Montana’s Food System
Together, Montana Organic Association (MOA) and AERO are spearheading a partnership to raise funds, supplies, and awareness to address two needs:

– Many people in Montana need food now, which Montana producers across our state could provide
– We need to accelerate efforts for building resilient, values-based regional food systems NOW.

The MONTANA FOOD PROVIDERS PROJECT set a specific short-term distribution goal to address the immediate crisis by getting Montana food products in the hands of the MontanaFood Bank Network (MFBN) for distribution across the state. Past the crisis, we intend to build long-term infrastructure and means for thoroughly engaging communities to build resilient regional food systems across our state.


Join AERO in the 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge
March 30-April 19, 2020
On March 30th, our team at AERO joined Food Solutions New England, alongside countless other organizations and individuals, in kicking off this year’s 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge.

The challenge is a self-guided opportunity to examine the history and impacts of racism and inequities and how they are connected to our food system. As an organization, we are committed to understanding and undoing racism in our food system. It is precisely because of the current crisis we face with covid-19 that it is as important as ever for us to begin to understand racial disparities that exist within our food system. The Challenge will inspire us and provide resources and tools to build racial equity in our work and lives.

If you find yourself inclined to explore the challenge prompts, either daily or at your leisure, you can still register here until April 19th.

You can share your experiences on social media using the hashtag #FSNEEquityChallenge

475 Supporters purchased or renewed AERO license plates in Montana in 2019

License plate supported $6500 income in 2019. Keep AERO in mind as you renew your license plates this year. Your contributions support AERO’s work directly and raises awareness of AERO statewide.

Covid-19 Resources

Support & Resources For Farmers and Food Businesses
1) For Farmers, Ranchers, Consumers, and Farmers Market Managers:
ATTRA-has an amazing Covid-19 page that thoroughly covers resources for farmers: https://attra.ncat.org/covid/

Check out a MT-based guide from Western MT Growers Coop linked here.
WMGC will be updating their “COVID-19 Mitigation Procedure” regularly. You can keep up to date here: https://www.wmgcoop.com/csa

2) For Farmers & Ranchers:
New Entry Sustainable Farming Project created a real-time resource document and shared the recording and chat from a webinar that can be found at this page: https://www.nesfp.org/updates/2020/3/17/farm-and-food-resources-covid-19-pandemic

3) For Farmers, Ranchers, and Food Hub Managers:

Beginning Farms is offering a FREE course on Selling Farm Products Online: https://www.beginningfarmers.org/selling-farm-products-online-free-course/
MOSES (Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service) is providing a FREE workshop: “Attract Local Customers Online”
Click here: https://mosesorganic.net/?product=attract-local-customers-online to go to the MOSES online store to download the free MP3 file.
4) For Farmers Market Managers:
Register your market on the Abundant Montana Directory & Map by completing this short questionnaire: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSe5vHVt48qUMIIlfRpXkDXCemlB1kU5oQ0ZgRg0vwcjsfVRoA/viewform. ALL markets should register, whether they have registered in the past or not. A new Abundant Map will be launched soon, and information will follow for market managers to opt in to manage their own listing.5) For AERO supporters Caring for an Isolated Friend or Loved One:
University of Minnesota Extension RSDP and Family Development have worked with community partners to develop guidance on 14-day meal kits that can be deployed from rural grocery stores to community members who need to isolate themselves: https://z.umn.edu/14DayRuralGroceryKitStay informed and fight the dangerous spread of misinformation about traditional medicine during the COVID-19 crisis https://www.hcn.org/articles/covid19-misrepresenting-traditional-knowledge-during-covid-19-is-dangerous6) For Donors, Farmers & Ranchers:
American Farmland Trust launched a Farmer Relief Fund last week: https://farmland.org/farmer-relief-fund/ “All 100% of the donations will be distributed in $1,000 checks to small and mid-size producers that market directly to consumers (e.g., sell at farmers markets and/or have direct sales to restaurants, caterers, schools, and stores) that have been financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
In just one week’s time, $80,000 in donations have been raised and 1,400 applications from farmers have been received! Note that applications are available in English and in Spanish.”

Upcoming Events

Seeking Presenters for MT Farm to School Summit September 23-24
Deadline: May 7th

Proposals are now being accepted for workshop sessions Montana Farm to School Summit: Digging Deeper to be held on September 23-24, 2020 at the Best Western Great Northern in Helena. The intent of the conference is to bring together farm to school stakeholders across Montana to learn and gain inspiration from each other while strengthening and building relationships. Proposals must be submitted online by May 7, 2020.
For more information or to submit a proposal visit http://www.montana.edu/mtfarmtoschool/summit.html or contact: Aubree Roth, Montana Farm to School Coordinator at aubree.roth@montana.edu or (406) 994-5996.

Thank You!
Thank you all for being our inspiration.
We look forward to a 2020 working with you and your friends and neighbors across Montana, building resilient, community-powered local food systems  – if you eat, you’re in! 

Keep Building a Sustainable Montana

Alternative Energy Resources Organization

Mailing address: PO Box 1558, Helena MT 59624-1558

Physical address: 32 S Ewing St #314, Helena MT 59601