In 1974, AERO formed with the intention of helping build a sustainable Montana for all. In the early decades this meant promoting and aiding the development of renewable, non-polluting energy through research, education and legislation, and helping launch Montana’s sustainable agriculture movement through farm clubs, producer conventions, and organic certification. Now the mantle of AERO’s groundbreaking work has been taken on and developed by other, talented organizations, enterprises and institutions across the state, and Montana can proudly claim a strong foundation in renewable energy and sustainable agriculture. We invite you to listen to the story of AERO’s 45+ years of impact in this collection of interviews by the members and founders who helped create that impact.
Today, “helping build a more sustainable Montana for all” means two things for AERO:
We believe – the key to a sustainable Montana for all in this millennium is robust, resilient, community-based food systems and webs, which require engagement by all members of a community. Agricultural endeavors have some of the largest impacts on Montana economies, resources, landscapes, and energy use. Therefore, every AERO program and project helps Montanans achieve robust, healthy, energy efficient and climate smart community-based food systems/webs. Forty five years of building trust and relationships with producers & communities have uniquely prepared us for this task.
We believe – that the best solutions are rooted in meaningful relationships. Therefore, every AERO program and project achieves its goals through a mechanism of community building. We convene communities to facilitate changemaking. Our gatherings provide space for Montanans to identify common values and challenges, and empower them to take action in their communities with the purpose of nurturing and promoting robust and resilient community-based food systems development across the state.
We believe – the power of demonstration influences and inspires people to take action. Therefore, every AERO program and project showcases examples of successful improvements to Montana’s community-based food systems and shares them widely so others may learn and be inspired to make their own changes. One of the largest challenges to building resilient community food systems is getting buy-in from all participants: producers, consumers, processors, distributors, and recyclers. AERO expands community buy-in by documenting and sharing the processes by which change occurs. Through compelling storytelling and direct access to examples, we connect participants with resources, tools, and knowledge.
While there are a number of academic and layman models outlining components of a food system, the figure below captures the way AERO summarizes the complex elements of a community food system. Inherently values-based, community food systems are defined contextually by the communities we work with, to determine the appropriate scales for their projects. However, regardless of differences, communities are participating in a collaborative network that integrates sustainable food production, processing, distribution, consumption, and resource recovery in order to enhance the environmental, economic, and social health of a community. This emphasis on environmental, economic, and social health runs counter to the dominant model of industrial food production and seeks to mitigate negative impacts inherent to that model.
A project, program, or event is an AERO opportunity if it fulfills the following criteria: