HELENA — It’s no secret that there are a number of Montanans who prefer eating locally raised meat and produce when possible.
Abundant Montana is helping connect producers across the state with potential buyers and has been a benefit for many organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 paramedic has had a huge impact on agriculture producers across the nation. Last March saw supply lines crippled and national buyers not making the same levels of purchases they had been.
“COVID-19 really made a lot of consumers realize the value of connecting with their local food system,” said Lindsay Ganong with AERO/Abundant Montana. “Abundant Montana is really the go-to place to find local food, learn tips and tricks about using local food, and staying connected with the growing local food scene.”
Abundant Montana currently has more than 400 producers listed on their directory. People are able to search by product type, location and sales methods. Prospective buyers can even refine their searches down to the methods on how farms and ranches raise their animals or grow their produce.
During the pandemic Abundant Montana helped solve local problems and the needs of buyers. When grocery aisles were missing things like beef and flour, the store could connect with a local supplier and get that needed food back on the shelves.
“Farm 51 actually sold goats at cost to AERO who paid for the processing and the animals who then went to Soft Landings which is an organization in Missoula that serves refugee families,” said Ganong.”There have been really incredible ways that folks on the ground through Abundant Montana had access to farmers and ranchers.”
Many farmers and ranchers were forced to pivot their business model during the pandemic.
“It was also a place local farmers had a channel to connect directly with the consumer,” Ganong said. “local food sources were made available to communities at the end of the distribution line that were not being served.”
Marketing agriculture products can be a difficult and expensive endeavor for any farm and ranch no matter their size. Abundant Montana doesn’t cost users a dime. Because the food is local, it can also help reduce costs to local buyers because shipping simply isn’t as much of an issue.
Big Sky Hospitality Group runs Oddfellow Inn and Farm and Maison who use Abundant Montana.
Chief Operations Officer Micah Eller says she’s had nothing but a positive experience with the service, noting that Abundant Montana spent an hour on the phone with them to help them through the process. Being a part of Abundant Montana not only helps them get their products out to more people but also connects them with other local suppliers for their needs.
“I think it’s just really great to have the network of other producers in Montana in general because Montana is a really large state and there’s not a lot of people here. The producers have operated kind of in their own bubble so it’s really nice to have these different ways we can reach across counties and towns and utilize each other's products,” said Eller.
Eller said the one thing she would change about Abundant Montana is to get more local producers signed up on in the directory.