Locally, sustainably, and seasonally grown food is easy to find here in Montana. It is as close as your local grocery store and farmers’ market and it is available year-round.
“Locally-grown” is a term that covers a lot of ground, from food grown within 100 miles of where you live to food produced within your watershed—such as the Clark Fork or Yellowstone River watersheds. Here locally-grown refers to food that is grown or raised in Montana. “Sustainable agriculture” means good stewardship of soil, plants, animals and the environment. It promotes economic prosperity and strong, healthy communities. “Eating seasonally” means eating food when it comes into season where you live. It gives you an appreciation for time and place and a connection to your environment.
Locally, sustainably, and seasonally grown food is better for you all the way around. It tastes better because it is bred for flavor rather than ease of shipment and because it is picked when it is ripe. It is fresher and more nutritious since it takes a short time to get to market. It is healthier because sustainable farming and ranching practices do not include spraying fruits and vegetables with pesticides or feeding cattle antibiotics along with their corn.
Purchasing locally-grown and produced food keeps your dollars circulating locally, supporting, and strengthening your community. Supporting local farms and ranches offsets the economic pressures on farmers and ranchers to grow houses instead of food. Supporting the local economy reduces the amount of oil used and emissions produced by long-distance trucks and planes, and reduces the amount of packaging that goes into landfills.
What Is Available and When?
In addition to vegetables and fruits that ripen from late spring to early fall, beef, lamb and pork as well as chicken, turkey and fish are found throughout the year. Millk, butter, eggs, cheese and grains also are available all year long.
Montana farms and ranches raise a variety of beef from Highland cattle to Black Angus cattle to Piedmontese cattle. Grass and alfalfa-fed beef has a strong flavor and texture. Some claim it is more nutritious than corn and antibiotic-fed, mass-produced beef. Fresh, pastured lamb is far more flavorful than lamb from 6000 miles away. A few of Montana’s producers are listed below. For a more complete list, go to www.aeromt.org/home/resources and look for their guide “Abundant Montana”.
• Thirteen Mile Lamb and Wool Company (www.lambandwool.com or 406.388.4945) raises lamb near Belgrade. Buy from them directly or at the Bozeman Food Coop.
• Big Sky Natural Beef, Inc. (406.276.3626) raises Highland Beef in Dell and Forsyth. Buy their beef at the Good Food Store and the Clark Fork Farmers’ Market in Missoula or from them directly.
• Half Circle Ranch (www.organicpiedmontesebeef.com or 406.388.0563) raises lamb and Piedmontese beef in Belgrade and sell at the Community Food Coop in Bozeman, Billings, and Helena as well as online.
• Lifeline Farm (www.lifelinefarm.com or 406.642.3873) in Victor offer their beef and pork in Missoula, Kalispell, Helena, and Bozeman at a number of grocery stores and farmers’ markets as well as Albertsons, Safeway, and IGA.
• Grapevine Ranch (www.grapevineranch.com or 406.690.4643) near Billings raises predominantly Black Angus cattle and sell their beef at the Good Earth Market in Billings.
• Farm to Market Pork (406.755.5326) near Kalispell raises pork and sell their roasts, chops, ribs and sausage at the farm store and at the farmers’ market in Kalispell and the Clark Fork River Market in Missoula.
• Daniel’s Lamb ([email protected] or 406.542.6673) raises lamb in Grant Creek valley near Missoula and offers their product at the Clark Fork Farmers’ Market in Missoula.
Free-range chickens taste the way they should taste—with texture and flavor. Eggs from chickens that move around eating bugs and grass have deep golden plump yolks with a distinct egg flavor.
• New Rockport Colony (406.466.2112) near Choteau sells their products throughout the state as well as turkeys in November and December.
• Seder Ridge Turkey Farms (406.656.2701) near Ballantine sell their turkeys at the IGA and Good Earth Market in Billings.
• Good Eggs from the Moiese Valley (406.644.3022) sell their eggs at the Good Food Store in Missoula.
Mountain Lake Fisheries (www.whitefishcaviar.com or 888.809.0926) of Columbia Falls provides locally caught whitefish and walleye. They employ mostly-retired folks who catch whitefish and walleye that are processed and frozen. They sell at markets in Missoula, Hamilton, Kalispell, and Helena and online. Their whitefish caviar is available online.
Fresh milk, butter and cheese from local cows and goats have the flavor of the mountains and high plains.
• Lifeline Farm’s herd of Brown Swiss cows produce all of their milk, butter and several cheeses such as Chedder, Jack, Brie and Feta. Their products are sold at a number of grocery stores in Montana.
• Two hundred and eighty goats supply the milk for the Chevre, Feta and Ricotta cheeses produced at Amaltheia Dairy (www.amaltheiadairy.com or 406.388.5950) near Belgrade. These cheeses can be found at Albertsons and Safeway and online.
Montana is famous for its grain, especially its high-protein winter wheat, and produces other grains and legumes as well. If you can’t grow your own, the following products are available.
• Wheat Montana Farms and Bakery (www.wheatmontana.com or 406.632.4804) near Three Forks sells a variety of breads, grains, flours, and mixes at Albertsons, Safeway, IGA and many other stores.
• Cream of the West (www.creamofthewest.com or 406.632.4804) near Harlowtown provides three cereals and a pancake mix made from Montana grains. They are found at Albertsons and Rosauers Supermarkets.
• Timeless Seeds (www.timelessfood.com or 406.278.5722) based in Conrad and Ulm, produces barley, flax, lentils, chickpeas, and split peas. They are available at the Community Food Coop in Bozeman, Good Earth Market in Billings, Good Food Store in Missoula, Real Food Market in Helena, and Third Street Market in Whitefish as well as other stores in Montana.
For a list of more Montana products, go to www.madeinmontanausa.com and select the food/beverage category.
In addition to the food that is readily available all year long, during the growing season fresh fruits and vegetables can be found at local farmers’ markets and some independent grocery stores. The food is ripe, at the peak of its flavor and picked 48 hours or less before it arrives at the market. Some folks can or freeze the summer produce as it ripens and comes to market. Most fall fruits and vegetables will keep over winter in a cool garage.
Community Food Co-op
908 West Main St., Bozeman
Good Earth Market
3024 Second Avenue North, Billings
Good Food Store
1600 S. 3rd St. West, Missoula
Huckleberrys Natural Market
Rosauers Supermarkets Inc.
3255 Technology Blvd. W, Bozeman
2150 U.S. Hwy 93 S, Kalispell
2350 Reserve, Missoula
Mountain Valley Foods
25 Commons Way, Kalispell
Rainbow’s End Natural Foods
910 North First Street, Hamilton
Real Food Market and Deli
1096 Helena Ave., Helena
Third Street Market
244 Spokane Ave.#B, Whitefish
Town and Country Foods
1219 North 19th Street, Bozeman
~ Dorothy Greene Crocker lives in Missoula with her husband and dog and enjoys exploring all aspects of life in Montana. She is working on a book dealing with seasonal, locally produced food.