If you purchase food on the Montana State University campus in Bozeman, chances are you’re consuming something that includes at least one ingredient that was grown or raised in the state.
That’s because the MSU Culinary Services team is committed to sourcing local foods as often as possible. That’s been the case since 2005 when the university launched its Farm to Campus initiative, formerly known as Montana Made.
MSU currently purchases meat, vegetables, fruits and other ingredients from more than 100 Montana producers – via distributors as well as directly from vendors – and the school spends approximately $2 million annually on Montana-sourced goods, which is about a quarter of MSU’s total food purchases.
“We’re dedicated to going the extra mile to work with various distributors and producers across the state to source fresh, local ingredients because we see the value in it for our university’s students, staff members and visitors,” says Kara Landolfi, MSU’s Farm to Campus coordinator in the Culinary Services Division. “Integrating local products into our dining halls, on-campus retailers, concessions and catering operations is also a way in which we can enhance Montana’s agricultural economy, and that’s important to us.”
To date, the MSU Culinary Services team – winner of the Silver Award for Sustainability for Procurement Practices in 2018, an honor given at the National Association of College and University Food Services convention – has sourced ingredients such as safflower oil from The Oil Barn in Big Sandy, kale from Strike Farms certified organic farm in Bozeman and lentils from Timeless Natural Food in Ulm.
MSU has made a point to source its meat locally, too, with all of the lamb served in the dining halls purchased from Montana Highland Lamb near Whitehall and MSU’s 13,750-acre Red Bluff Research Ranch near Norris. The ranch comprises about 900 head of sheep and 170 head of cattle and offers animal science students hands-on experience.
The university also serves pork, including bacon, from 4-H hogs bought at county fair livestock auctions. Additionally, the MSU Culinary Services team partners with the school’s College of Agriculture to purchase student-raised beef through the MSU Steer-A-Year program. The program’s approximately 30 steers – all donated by ranchers from across the state – are kept on MSU’s Bozeman Agricultural Research and Teaching (BART) Farm, located about half a mile west of campus, and students take turns caring for the cattle daily.
“At MSU, we are proud to serve healthy, nutritious meals using high-quality goods from across Montana,” Landolfi says. “We’re investing in our state’s producers while also supporting the next generation of growers and farmers – MSU College of Agriculture students – and that’s pretty special. We’re excited to continue furthering Montana’s local food system and make it even more successful and resilient going forward.”