New Nonprofit Collective Aims to Strengthen Local Food Systems

Glacier FEAST holding kick-off celebration event at Two Bear Farm on Aug. 17

By Myers Reece
Produce at a local farmers market. Beacon File Photo

A newly formed nonprofit collective whose mission is to strengthen local food systems in the Flathead Valley is announcing its launch at a dinner event on Aug. 17.

Local growers and food advocates formed Glacier FEAST (Farmers and Eaters Advocating Sustainability Together) “with the intention of supporting the expansion of Flathead Valley’s food growing economy into a thriving community-based system that is values-based and enhances the community’s economic, nutritional, social and environmental health,” according to a press release.

“Recognizing that a fully-functioning system includes everyone (if you eat, you’re in!), Glacier FEAST, a project of FarmHands Nourish, seeks to build awareness and help connect the dots in the system by bringing folks to the table from all parts of the local food system, including: producers, processors, distributors, consumers, and recycling/recovery,” the group stated.

The collective grew out of a collaborative effort, as part of the Montana Food Economy Initiative (MFEI), to identify impediments and efficiencies in food systems across the state. Local-foods stakeholders in the valley convened to gather and compile information for this region. The MFEI is funded through a grant and primarily facilitated by Alternative Energy Resources Organization (AERO), a nonprofit organization based in Helena.

“The purpose of the original grant was to identify the state of regional food systems and develop a strategic plan for moving forward,” said Robin Kelson, who owns The Good Seed Company in Whitefish.

Once the local MFEI participants had completed their efforts, Kelson said they recognized there was a lot more work to do in analyzing and promoting local food systems, giving birth to Glacier FEAST.

“We said, ‘We want to start it now rather than wait for more funding from an organization,” Kelson said, adding that the effort is both an educational and marketing campaign on behalf of local foods with the goal of spreading “this concept that there’s a table and we’re all a part of it.”

Glacier FEAST’s steering committee comprises representatives from Lower Valley Farm, Raven Ridge Farm, Snow Country Gardens, The Wicked Good Farm, Two Bear Farm, The Good Seed Company and FarmHands Nourish The Flathead.

The Aug. 17 event will be held at Two Bear Farm, with an optional farm tour at 5 p.m. followed by appetizers, drinks and dinner at 5:45. Guest speaker Bob Quinn, an organic farming pioneer, scientist, entrepreneur and author of the book “Grain By Grain,” will share his insights into building strong community food systems based on his efforts in his hometown of Big Sandy.

Chefs Chris DiMaio of Three Forks Grille and Tony Traina of Fork in the Road will prepare the dinner using sustainably grown Montana ingredients. Glacier FEAST says the purpose of the event is to “celebrate our valley’s sustainable agriculture efforts and envision a path to expanding it.” Dinner tickets are $75 per plate and can be purchased at www.twobearfarm.com.

Kelson said “everything but the salt” at the dinner will be organically grown and manufactured in Montana — including oils, vinegars, wine, beer — a testament to how strong the local-foods movement already is in Big Sky Country.

“That’s part of the celebration,” she said. “It’s phenomenal what we’ve created in this state. It’s really great. We want to celebrate it.”

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