August 2020 Programs Update

August 30, 2020

Montana Food Economy Initiative (MFEI)

The MFEI Advisory Board is working diligently to develop projects for launch this fall to enhance your community food system. Communities will create diverse cross-sector food system teams of farmers, ranchers, consumers, distributors, processors, food providers and choose a project. Then the advisory board will mentor and support teams to complete a 5-month project that promotes your community food system’s self-sufficiency, access to local foods, and supports our farmers and ranchers. Project topics include:

  • Develop a food sovereignty coalition to exercise your community’s right to grow, sell, and eat food that is fresh, nutritious, affordable, culturally appropriate, and grown locally with care for the well-being of the land, workers, and animals.
  • Begin a community food system assessment to identify who, what, where, when, how and, especially, why your community can develop a stronger community-based food system
  • Measure baseline farm or ranch health with a new rangeland monitoring system developed by the advisory board
  • Develop a shared farmer, processor, retailer, restaurant donation model for local foods to get from your community farms and ranches to folks who need support to access local foods 
  • Partner with MFEI advisory board members to provide technical assistance to expand value-added food product offerings (produce, beef, grain, berries, etc)
  • Create a group purchasing organization for early childcare education or day care sites to regularly purchase local foods, especially Montana Harvest of the Month foods
  • Create a system to add fertility or renewable energy inputs to your community garden, farm or ranch such as composting system, biochar kiln, or solar pump.



AERO thanks the incredible advisory board for their time, experiences, thoughtfulness, and energy to develop projects to support more sustainable, equitable, and healthy Montana food and water systems.

Learn more at:, 406-994-4785

This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2019-38640-29880 through the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program under project number WRGR20-009. USDA is an equal opportunity employer and service provider. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

 Abundant Montana Map & Directory

Join or update your Abundant MT listing here.  Now’s the time! The Directory is free to vendors and if you are listed we’ll contact you for feedback as we improve the site

Cottage Food Support

AERO is working with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services to improve cottage food law understanding for producers and registered sanitarians. We want to hear your experiences setting up or running a cottage food business. 

Please complete this 5-minute survey 

Your responses will inform a proposal to revise the internal rule for cottage food enforcement and an educational workshop this winter, with opportunities for follow up small group technical assistance to support cottage food operators.


MT Food System Story Project

The Storytelling Initiative is well underway. Check out this selection of food system stories by and about your fellow Montanans!

  1. FOOD CRUNCH PODCAST: Bob Quinn of KAMUT International, speaks clearly and eloquently about the high cost of our “cheap food” system and its impact on farmers, ranchers, soil health, human health, and the decline of rural farming communities.
    – Food Crunch, founded in 2009, is an online hub “for the changemakers flipping the challenges facing our food and agriculture system into opportunities”. Its team includes Katrina Stanislaw, Adjunct Professor, Sustainable Food Systems, Montana State University and Josh Poole, MSU student, Sustainable Food and Bioenergy Systems Program. 
  1. HOMEGROWN: Part 1. Exploring the challenges and opportunities of small-scale food production in MT. Montana Free Press. By Emily Stifler Wolfe
  2. HOMEGROWN: Part 2. A look at some MT communities that are building sustainability out of collaboration. Montana Free Press. By Emily Stifler Wolfe

AERO, in collaborative partnership with MOA, Lake County Community Development Corporation, NRDC, CFAC, NCAT, Sho Campbell, and Open & Local’s Kate Wright, among others, is committed to shifting the food system narrative in MT through storytelling. To implement the envisioned inclusive, equitable and sustainable food system elements we all believe in, the predominant narrative that accepts a commodity-based, industrialized and centralized “cheap food” system as good enough for Montanans has to change. In its place we need a new narrative – embraced by every Montanan who eats, of a food system built on values that enhance the environmental, economic, social AND nutritional health of a community – a food system that nourishes.  The Initiative’s goal is to gather and curate stories in a virtual story library for easy access and dissemination by others, and also to “amplify” the stories by bringing them in front of strategic audiences, including legislators and stakeholders involved in MT food system policy priorities. 

Got a story? Tell us about it here: Want to participate with the team? Contact Robin at  There’s lots of ways to assist!

Montana Food Providers Project (MFPP)

MFPP is committed to compensating MT farmers, ranchers and value-added processors for their quality products. Short term, it relieves the impact of COVID-related market channel disruptions to these providers. Long-term, strengthening partnerships for statewide distribution of Montana products to Montanans is central to building thriving and sustainable Montana food systems.

Some of our summer success stories:

Soft Landing Missoula
100 lbs. Timeless Seeds lentils, 100 lbs Lifeline Farms grass-fed beef, and 50 lbs MT Milling flour packaged by Great Harvest Bread were delivered to Soft Landing Missoula which serves 45 refugee families from Syria, Iraq, and Eritrea. (Top right photo: Jamie Ryan Lockman of MOA delivering to Soft Landing)

Montana Bread For All
1,750 lbs of flour were delivered to bakers for bread baking and distribution to food insecure communities around the state. Sunflower Bakery in Helena received 200 lbs and has been making deliveries to Helena Food Share, God’s Love, and the Helena YMCA.  Blue Truck Bread outside of Power, MT received 750 lbs and has been delivering bread (100+ loaves and counting!) to the Great Falls Food Bank (lower left photo). Farmhands Nourish received 700 lbs and made flour deliveries to the FAST Blackfeet Pantry in Browning, Food Rx families in Columbia Falls, and the North Valley Food Bank in Whitefish.

Fresh Produce
For two summer months, Terrapin Farm has been providing 65 organic produce bags each week to North Valley Food Bank, who delivers them to seniors and shut-ins in the Flathead Valley.

Helping Hands
River Valley Farmers Market closed early this summer. Helping Hands Food Bank in Hardin, MT now can purchase 1,000 lbs of food from local farmers for its Big Horn County residents’ emergency food and senior food boxes.

Pop-Up CSA/Solo Farmers Market
Delpine Farms in Martinsdale, MT is partially sponsoring 8 CSA’s and also offering quality MT-made foods in the pop-up CSA/solo Farmers Market it offers weekly in both Martinsdale and Harlowtown. 

If you are or know of a farmer, rancher or processor that needs an alternative market due to CV-19, reach out with the Supplier Form.

If you know of a community whose food supply has been disrupted by CV-19, contact Robin at to suggest our next MFPP project.

You can donate to the MFPP fund at MOA’s website, our Facebook page, or AERO’s donation page. All donations support Montana food procurement, packing, and distribution.


Alternative Energy Resources Organization

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

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