Similar to challenges around processing, the challenges with distribution mainly revolve around a lack of opportunity. As you might expect, a well-tuned food system has a distinct need for spaces and businesses oriented around aggregating products, storing them as needed in facilities with appropriate temperatures, and then distributing those products throughout the region.
Currently, Western Montana is served by three food aggregator/distributors. Quality Foods Distibuting, based out of Bozeman, distributes natural, organic, and local products around the Northern Rockies. Charlie's Produce is based in Spokane and distributes fresh products throughout the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Finally, the Western Montana Growers Cooperative provides aggregation, distribution, and marketing services for small and mid-size farmers in Western Montana. WMGC distributes across Montana.
While these three businesses are doing a good job of working with our current supply, growing supply and demand are demonstrating a need for more services in this sector.
Through the Montana Food Economy Initiative, we are working to expand and strengthen these key pieces of the supply chain through better formalized agreements, more market demand from retail stores, restaurants, and institutions, and encouraging small business growth in this sector. If you're interested in getting involved, consider joining our Food Systems Committee, which looks at this and many other key elements of our food system!