AERO applied for, and received, a grant from Western Extension Risk Management Education to conduct additional Food Modernization law workshops in 2018. This project, presented in collaboration with Montana Department of Public Health and Human Service’s Food and Consumer Safety Section, expands on AERO’s 2016 workshops covering what Montana Food Policy Modernization Law (MFPML) allows and requires to access markets.
The 2016 evaluations suggested more workshops held pre-growing season so more producers can attend. AERO held 6 workshops across Montana, in Havre, Glasgow, Helena, Hamilton, Joliet, and Miles City, reaching over 100 agribusiness professionals, including producers, food business entrepreneurs, and service providers.
The project continues to promote the Montana Food Economy Initiative online forum connecting workshop participants and non-participants. AERO staff worked with Lake County Community Development Center and DPHHS to conduct follow-up evaluations to ensure Montana’s agricultural economy fully benefits from the law and formalizes and shares recommendations that can improve the law in the future.
Our primary objective for these workshop series is to educate producers about the opportunities and risks associated with product and enterprise diversification from MFPML. Understanding direct market and cottage food opportunities helps Montana producers diversify farm income, which is increasingly important in uncertain markets exacerbated by climate-caused changes in growing seasons.