With 70 farmers markets across the state, Montana is a top spot for those looking for fresh, locally grown and raised food, as well as for the farmers who produce it. Plus, the markets provide excellent opportunities for communities to come together, creating an inclusive environment that many families look forward to each week.
“In Montana, there’s a real focus on and commitment to supporting local businesses and entrepreneurs, and that obviously includes our state’s farmers and ranchers,” says Amber Conger, communications director for Montana’s Department of Administration. “Montana’s farmers markets are also popular because they fit perfectly into the ever-growing farm-to-table movement. People want to know where their food comes from, and farmers markets give customers the chance to speak directly to the producers. It’s a perfect way for people to connect with their food and one another.”
One of the state’s newest farmers markets is the Capitol Square Farmers Market in Helena that takes place on Tuesdays from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. beginning in June and wrapping up in September. Situated in front of the Montana State Capitol, the market has an average of 15 vendors and features fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, dairy products, cut flowers, handmade goods and more, along with live entertainment, food trucks and free yoga classes.
As a result, Capital Square Farmers Market is not only a one-stop shop for home cooks in search of fresh ingredients, but it’s also a destination that many locals look forward to visiting each Tuesday.
“We have several regular shoppers who make a point to come out every week,” says Julia Gustafson, Capitol Square Farmers Market’s market manager. “People from the surrounding neighborhoods often walk to us, and we see lots of families riding their bikes to the market and making an experience out of attending, grabbing dinner at one of the food trucks and enjoying the live music after they’re finished shopping.”
Capitol Square Farmers Market serves producers well, too, helping them reach a broader customer range and grow their businesses.
Gustafson points to XX Bar Farm & Ranch, a family-owned operation in the Helena Valley that raises beef and pork using regenerative agricultural practices and that has developed a strong following at the market, as well as Sunflower Bakery that continues to attract customers with its fresh-baked bread and sweets.
“Sunflower Bakery originally sold a wide variety of items, but customers were most excited about their baked goods, so they rebranded their operation and began narrowing their focus. To say they’ve been successful is a huge understatement,” Gustafson says. “At Capitol Square Farmers Market, we are proud to play a role in helping small businesses grow, thrive and diversify.”