Food and ag development center opens in Dillon

The Headwaters Resource, Conservation and Development Area is opening the Southwestern Montana Food and Agricultural Development Center in Dillon in an effort to help network with agriculture related businesses and producers around this part of the state.

The goal of the center will be to help develop markets for local producers and connect them to local businesses looking to offer products from southwest Montana, said Katie Weaver, economic development planner for Headwaters RC&D.

For an example of how this could work, Weaver refers to a Butte Bakery that wants to use more Montana grains in their products as well as offer more Montana poultry to their deli customers.

The bakery received a grant through Headwaters RC&D to expand their cold storage so they could purchase more turkeys and chickens, which helps reduce their costs and also brings more stability to local poultry producers.

A future project in southwest Montana might be working with local producers or an entrepreneur to build a commercial kill facility to butcher and market local beef, Weaver said.

Initially, Weavers sees the Southwestern Montana Food and Agricultural Development Center as a networking up connecting producers and local businesses and helping producers find ways to add value to their products.

The center in Dillon will be one of several around the state.

“The network of centers was created in 2009 by the Montana Legislature to support Montanans’ pursuit of opportunities created by strong trends in local and regional food business and market development, as well as agriculture-based renewable energy,” according to a news release announcing the Dillon center

The three other centers are located in Havre, Joiliet and Ronan.

“I think there’s a great need just around networking,” Weaver said. “Anything and everything around rebuilding a local food infrastructure.”

The center in Dillon will be staffed on Wednesdays, she said.

An open house at the Beaverhead Chamber of Commerce will be held Thursday in Dillon from 2:30 to 4 p.m. The open house is sponsored by the Beaverhead Development Corporation.

For more information about Headwaters RC&D or the Montana Food and Agricultural Development Network visit www.headwatersrcd.org or agr.mt.gov/foodandag or call 533-6782.

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