Montana Feeding Montana


What would it take for 33% of the food Montanans eat to be grown or raised in Montana by 2033?

By Erin Austin

This is the guiding question for a collection of food system stakeholders in Montana who are motivated to increase resilience and reliability of our state’s food system. 

Inspired by the New England Feeding New England reports published in the summer of 2023, AERO invited over 100 food system stakeholders to an initial gathering at Expo this past October to explore how Montana could increase its ability to feed itself. 

The call to action is rooted in concerning statistics that demonstrate the vulnerability of Montana’s current food supply chain. In 1950, 70% of the food Montanans ate was grown in Montana. Today, it is down to 3%.  AERO and partner organizations are working to reverse this downward trend. 

To date, AERO has organized two open invite sessions where attendees discussed the value of pursuing a shared goal together; how to define and measure progress toward accomplishing the goal; and initial ideas for how different food system sectors and industries can work together in pursuit of the shared goal. 

In October, 32 individuals from 22 organizations convened in Helena, followed by 37 participants from 30 organizations in Great Falls in December. Stakeholders have included representatives from diverse sectors, including the Montana Department of Agriculture, Montana Office of Public Instruction, nonprofits, food banks and pantries, trade organizations, farmers and ranchers, economic development centers, state research organizations, Tribal and state-run colleges and universities, and Montana Farm to School. Already, 39 organizations have signed on to the “33 x 33” collaborative campaign.

Stakeholders acknowledge it will require significant systems change to accomplish this goal of getting 33% Montana-grown food on all Montana plates by 2033. Meeting the 33% target means increasing consumer demand and building MT markets for MT food producers. It also means increasing family and community food production by backyard growers and community farmers, as well our knowledge and ability to forage wild foods. Community farming, foraging, and hunting are particularly critical in hyper-rural and Tribal communities where access to grocers selling Montana-grown food is extremely challenging. Other levers include increasing institutional procurement of Montana grown and raised foods, including from K-12 schools; working with more wholesale food buyers, like grocery stores and restaurants, to increase their purchase of Montana-grown foods; and resolving food processing and food distribution bottlenecks.

Though achieving 33% food self-reliance by 2033 may feel like a stretch goal for many, all participants have been overwhelmingly supportive of and excited by the target and its ability to increase collaboration, decrease hunger, and increase nutrition security.  

 Envision a resilient and reliable Montana food system

where all Montanans can access and enjoy health-giving, Montana-grown, culturally relevant foods.

To stay in the loop about future progress and how you can contribute individually, sign up for AERO/Abundant Montana’s email newsletter here. If you are interested in being a part of future gatherings, please email Erin Austin at to be added to the current mailing list. 


Erin Austin

Director of Community Partners and Sales


Alternative Energy Resources Organization

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

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