Montana Berry Growers Association

Jun 6, 2023 | Grow & Tell - Stories

Apart from its connection to huckleberries, Montana is not known for being a berry-producing state. The Montana Berry Growers Association (MTBGA) is changing that.

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.

“We envision that the association will grow into a collaboration zone where growers can join together to buy into cold storage, harvesters, and processing as local hubs throughout the state. And, to offer some opportunities to pool together purchasing power on plants, equipment, supplies.

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:

  • Aspiring Grower: A first-time member who may not yet be a grower or producer. This level of membership allows for connections to educational opportunities and resources for new orchardists. $50 annually.
  • Grower: a current berry producer or orchardist. $75 annually.
  • Partner: a related agribusiness person, support staff and professional representatives, or research/ educational institution members. $75 annually.

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.

“Our aspirations,” says Patrick, “are to build a recognizable brand and industry for Montana berries, [to] encourage engagement on the part of consumers in buying fresh and local Montana grown fruits, and to support growers as best we can in entering into and thriving in the industry.”

Learn more about Montana Berry Growers Association by visiting their website, and don’t forget to search their map to find a berry grower near you!

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