Founded in 2019, the grower and member led organization is committed to developing the emerging Montana berry industry. Although still in its infancy, the industry demand is greater than the supply, so the potential for its growth is significant.
“As a state that is not known for its fruit production, growers can fulfill a niche in supplying fresh, high quality fruits, grown locally, directly to Montana consumers and to value-added processors,” says board member Patrick Mangan.
A cooperative effort from the start, the MTBGA’s goal is to create a network of berry growers, value-added processors, and other customers who can work together to continue developing the berry industry in Montana.
To achieve this, they not only support current and aspiring growers through enterprise and training resources, but also offer educational opportunities to consumers and potential customers about lesser known types of berries and their health benefits.
Berry-growing in Montana is tricky because the climate is not hospitable to all berry varieties. So, growers must rely on either native species, such as honeyberries, serviceberries, elderberries, and currants, or turn to cold-hardy cultivars developed specifically for production, size, or taste. And since the season for berries in Montana is short, growers must be creative and intentional with their product marketing, offering not only fresh fruit, but also value-added products and agritourism opportunities.
Because MTBGA is all about partnership, you may be wondering how you can join. They offer three levels of annual membership:
Members receive a number of benefits, including community support, marketing assistance, and training opportunities. They also have the option of being listed on MTBGA’s berry grower map and AMT’s Find Food and Farms Map. With each member that joins the network, the berry farming sector is strengthened, creating more economic stability and a larger market for these fruits.
Emilee Wood is a Communications Coordinator for Abundant Montana, based out of Belgrade, MT. You can find her covered in dirt from her garden, chasing her ducks, or exploring in the mountains. Give her seed suggestions for next year’s garden at [email protected].