AERO has partnered with the Montana Department of Agriculture on a food system mapping project titled Developing Montana’s Direct Farm Market Supply Chains: Mapping their Progress and Setting a New Course. This project is the first step in a longer effort to chart the progress made in the development of Montana’s local and regional food value chains. We will produce an interactive database and maps that show market information relating to local food. This information includes the names, locations, and service areas of direct marketing farmers, businesses storing, processing, and distributing local foods, farmers markets, and restaurants, institutions, and grocery stores that serve local. Through a map-based format, we will identify where the existing opportunities and gaps are, and where we need to prioritize our efforts for improvements.
Why is AERO working on this?
This project is following up on the 2007 Governors Summit on Food & Agriculture in which 280 participants were charged with identifying ways to redevelop Montana’s capacity to produce food locally. They affirmed that Montana lacks sufficient infrastructure needed by our agricultural producers to grow, process and distribute the food products increasingly demanded by
Montana’s markets. In recent years many regional collaborative efforts and individual community-based efforts have focused on rebuilding this capacity, but we still lack a statewide perspective that clearly charts how we can use existing resources, or where to create new resources, that will address opportunities in developing our local food system infrastructure.
What phase of the project are we in now?
We began by collecting data…lots of data. These sources include vast databases from state agencies listing every business with a food manufacturers or food retailer’s license, which we are in the process of sorting through to code those businesses that are participating in local commerce for our maps. We have also worked with other organizations to gather lists of farmers and other businesses that are involved in the local food value chain. Right now we are focused on populating and organizing the database with relevant businesses.
Once we get our database full of only the businesses we are interested in, we will be printing maps and taking them to community meetings around the state in order to ask local people to look them over for accuracy, and to add any farms, stores, distributors, processors, or foodservices that we missed. These meetings will also be an opportunity for community members to help us analyze the maps.
Finally, we will take the feedback from these community meetings and in collaboration with other project partners, develop a new set of local and statewide priorities for increasing the connections among Montana’s direct market supply chain businesses, as well as for developing missing components.
Who else is involved?
The Montana Department of Agriculture is leading this project, and is working closely with AERO, the Grow Montana coalition, the Montana Farmers Union, Lake County Community Development, and Montana State University’s Sustainable Food & Bio-energy Program and Department of Health and Human Development.
How can you be involved?
We need you to share your knowledge about the local food businesses in your part of the state! This spring and summer we will invite you to community meetings to help add-to and analyze the first set of maps – keep your eyes out for those announcements.
But we can use your help now with our current database by sorting through the records in your area and looking for:
- Local food farms and businesses that are missing,
- Local food businesses that you know of that are listed with the wrong spelling or address or as duplicates, and
- Local food businesses that are listed in the correct data categories.
It might only take a few minutes to review the business listings in your area, and your knowledge is essential to creating accurate and comprehensive maps! Please contact us if you are interested in learning more about this volunteer opportunity, or if you would like to get started. Contact: (406) 443-7272 or email [email protected].