What is Processing?

Processing is the transformation of raw foods into food products. It’s how humans have been making food digestible and preserving food for millennia. Baking, grinding, chopping, cooking, pasteurizing, curing, fermenting, dehydrating, freezing– the methods are countless and the products limited only by our imagination.

From the beginning, AERO and its membership have passionately and persistently promoted Montana processing, because local processing and value-added products are integral to both community and farmer sustainability. Value-added products diversify producers’ income streams, making a farm or ranch more resilient.

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Processing Examples

Where producers have expressed a need, AERO has endeavored to fill the gap: offering training resources from mobile meat processing to Montana’s first agritourism manual. In 1998, AERO developed the Abundant Montana Directory, the only state-wide directory connecting consumers with Montana processors.

In 2015, Montana enacted a ‘Cottage Food Law,’ which significantly expanded economic opportunities for home-based food businesses and entrepreneurs. AERO developed resources and trainings across the state, to help value-added producers and small food businesses to comply with the new regulations. Current AERO trainings include collaboration with registered sanitarians harmonize cottage food rule enforcement across counties,  consensus on environmentally-friendly packaging options, and developing food safety processes for frontline food personnel and consumers.

Featured Abundant Montana Directory Processors and Value-Added Producers

Sunflower Bakery

Helena, MT

We are a home-based cottage food bakery specializing in naturally leavened breads and baked goods for the Helena Farmers Market, the Capitol Square Farmers Market, and direct-to-consumer in our bread CSB.

Bear Paw Meats

Chinook, MT

At Bear Paw Meats we provide all Northern bred, raised, fed and processed Montana meats. Straight from Montana ranches, the product goes to Bear Paw Livestock. After purchased at a competitive market, the product is backgrounded and finished at our local feed lot where only local grain, hay and silage are fed. From Bear Paw Livestock the product goes directly to Bear Paw Meats, LLC. Here the product is harvested, processed, packaged and ready for sale at the retail store in Havre.


Bozeman, MT

STELLA Bakery specializes in naturally fermented sourdough breads made from local organic flour. You can find our European style breads at the Bozeman Farmers Markets or order them online for local delivery through our bread share program. We do not have a store front.

Tongue River Winery

Miles City, MT

Tongue River Winery specializes in only making wines that represent the region, sourcing all fruit from Montana or an immediately adjacent state. They make bone dry to semi-sweet red and white and rose’ grape wines and a host of fruit wines to tease and tantalize any palate. Free tastings and tours are available at almost any time except Sunday morning.

Root Cellar Foods

Bozeman, MT

Root Cellar Foods converts locally grown vegetables into value-added, processed products for sale in the state of Montana. The demand for delicious, fresh foods is accompanied by a commitment to reducing the distance between farm and fork. That’s where we come in. Root Cellar Foods turns locally grown vegetables into ingredients that large-scale consumers from grocery stores to restaurants can use to prepare meals for customers. Farmers do the planting, growing and harvesting. We do the chopping, shredding, and slicing. Our processed, packaged foods allow consumers to enjoy Montana-grown vegetables not only during the growing season, but all year long.

The Oil Barn

Big Sandy, Montana

The Oil Barn is a farmer-owned operation that specializes in the production of cold-pressed, organic, high-oleic safflower oil. At The Oil Barn we believe that organic and natural is better. We never use any chemical solvents in our extraction process. Our oil is all natural, low temperature, expeller crushed from hi-oleic safflower grown on our farm.

Learn More About Processing

Check out Montana’s Agritourism Manual and Growing Food Business 2018 Success Stories.

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Check out MSU’s Food Product Development Lab whose focus is to create sustainable Montana food

Alternative Energy Resources Organization

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

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