Held at the Montana ExpoPark in Great Falls, the annual Montana State Fair celebrated its 85th anniversary in 2016. It also hosted the first ever Grown in Montana retail store. The fair, which welcomes more than 150,000 people each year, was the perfect occasion to launch the latest offshoot of the Montana Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) Grown in Montana marketing program.
“We grow a lot of things, but it’s hard to find them sometimes; local foods are not often in the mainstream grocery stores and places where there is a lot of foot traffic,” says Bureau Chief Christy Clark of MDA’s Agricultural Marketing and Development Bureau. “The idea of putting it at the state fair where there is a ton of foot traffic just made sense. Fairgoers are usually in a leisurely frame of mind, and they don’t mind stopping and sampling and checking things out.”
The store showcased ag and food products – ranging from jams to beef jerky – that are grown and processed by agribusinesses across the state. Some 20 companies made their products available to sell, including the Kracklin’ Kamut snack made from khorasan wheat, commercially known as kamut.
“We sampled Kracklin’ Kamut in the Grown in Montana store and sold a ton of it there,” Clark says. “But it’s also sold in bulk at 2Js Fresh Market in Great Falls, and when we told people where they could find it, 2Js sold out of it within days of us showcasing it at the fair. The manufacturer had to spend extra days making more to keep up with the demand.”
She adds, “The response we heard over and over was ‘I had no idea this was grown in Montana.’ For us, it was a way to provide outreach for producers that might not be able to market themselves.”
The success of the Grown in Montana store has led MDA to explore new marketing opportunities, including a Grown in Montana Food Show tentatively scheduled for 2018.
“We want to showcase some of these products and market them to wholesalers and the general public,” Clark says.