By KRISTEN LEE-CHARLSON
The Heirloom Winter Farmers’ Market is back for the second season and in full swing! We have switched things up a bit this year by holding the market on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month, January through April.
Our vendors represent a wide-range of local artisans, from gluten-free doughnuts to steam-punk jewelry, and everything in-between. Farm-fresh eggs, honey, locally-made sausage, and produce when available. But even with these wonderfully grown, raised and produced items, there is still a large gap to be filled in order to fully realize the potential of a strong local food system and dynamic soil-based economy.
However, current state regulations in Montana make bringing certain foods to market quite challenging. Some of the existing policies require burdensome licensing and procedures, while other policies are interpreted differently within each county, creating confusion. One of the foodstuffs with the most difficult roadblocks to get to market is locally-raised meat – from poultry to beef to lamb and pork. We have an amazing profile of sustainably-raised animals in Montana, however to sell the meat requires a plethora of hoops to jump through, not to mention our limited number of processing facilities statewide. This forces farmers and ranchers to send their animals out of state for processing or to be finished, and potentially shipped back here to be sold as cuts – losing dollars both coming and going.
During the recent 2013 legislative session I requested that a bill be drafted to address these issues and assist us in creating a “cottage food” industry within Montana. Over 40 other states have a “cottage food law” in place. The goal would be to support the production of sustainable local food in the community; meaning, a law to establish a legal arrangement for low-risk food production to be prepared in a home residence. This type of allowance would bring opportunity for small businesses to start up and bring much-needed revenue into our communities.
The second goal of the bill was/is to help streamline existing regulations between the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services (where county sanitarians, who oversee farmers’ markets and food-type businesses etc., are housed).
Ultimately the bill was turned into a “study” bill, requiring public meetings across the State to gather comments from the citizens and present the findings to the Legislature, and help inform how to move forward. See the language of the bill here.
There was a public meeting held in Missoula on January 9, 2014 to collect input. Comments can be made through the first week of February and can be emailed to email@example.com
Here is a podcast that we created just after the public meeting.
If you care at all about a vibrant local food system or a strong and viable state economy, let your voice be heard! And in the meantime, come visit us at the Missoula Fairgrounds, every second and fourth Saturdays of each month, January through April from 10am-2pm!
Kristen Lee-Charlson is recognized for her food consulting knowledge, exceptional menus and passion for the local food system. She has hosted a variety of modern homemaking classes from cheesemaking to butchery. Recently she founded the Heirloom Principles a consulting agency for chefs, institutions and individuals for the sourcing of locally-produced and sustainably-raised products. She is an accomplished chef, caterer and home-cook. As a mother of four, she is dedicated to educating and empowering others about traditional food preparation and the joy and economy of eating local. Kristen is a strong advocate for a more localized and resilient food system. Daily she creates and consumes real food for her family including sauerkraut stomped by her children’s bare feet and eggs from her backyard hens. As an urban renaissance woman her ambition is to eat more local pastured pork.