Agriculture and Food

Family-based sustainable farming and ranching are good for Montana’s economy, our environment, and our rural communities. Montana is a better place when family farms and ranches are thriving.

By ruin of farmers and rural communities, by erosion, pollution, and various kinds of industrial and urban development, we have ominously degraded and reduced the long-term food-producing capacity of our country.
– Wendell Berry, Citizenship Papers


Our History Tells Us…

Montana ranch families initially built Northern Plains into the conservation group it is today, with deep roots in family farming and ranching. Watch to learn what “Our History Tells Us” about saving the family farm during the Farm Crisis of the 1980s and how that legacy continues today:

Our Vision for Montana’s Food System

We are caretakers of Montana’s interconnected food chain. We are farmers, ranchers, gardeners. We are cooks, chefs, butchers, and grocers. We appreciate the connection that food creates among friends, families, and neighbors. We are intentional about the food we grow, raise, buy, and eat because our decisions affect the communities our children and grandchildren will inherit.

We believe that when food is properly valued, everyone flourishes. For our food chain to thrive, we need strong rural communities. When people living on the land have agency to make decisions about the policies and practices that protect our water, air, and soil, we create prosperity for all. We know that informed, regenerative agriculture must be part of the climate solution, and we see how caring for land and animals thoughtfully can restore balance to the earth’s ecosystems.  

We are creating a world where healthy, local food is available and affordable to all, where animals are treated humanely, and where informed consumers support strong local food systems. We are working toward a future where fair prices are paid and all labor is valued so that workers can thrive alongside family agriculture. The Montana food system we are building inspires the next generation to get involved in local agriculture, continuing the stewardship of our working landscapes.

We must advance this work with urgency as we are losing grasslands, wildlife, water, and family farms and ranches. The pandemic laid bare the vulnerability of a food system in conflict with nature and built for corporations instead of communities. If we act now, with bold reforms and inspired cooperation, we can repair Montana’s damaged food chain and ensure sustained, prosperous, and healthful agriculture for generations to come.


We strongly believe that restoring mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) would be a big win for ranchers and consumers alike.

Currently, due to a loophole created by the USDA in 2005, any product that has been slightly altered in the United States (re-boxed or re-packaged) can be labeled “Product of the USA.” Not only is this deceitful, but it also defeats the purpose of COOL. This practice betrays American ranchers and rural communities. Consumers deserve the right to choose USA beef and pork and ranchers deserve the right to an honest market.

Northern Plains members have been working to restore Country-of-Origin Labeling for decades. However, the fight to restore Country-of-Origin Labeling is far from over. Thanks to Northern Plains members, the dialogue around COOL is louder and more robust than ever. Join our fight today! Email to learn how.

Read the Country-of-Origin Labeling Fact Sheet

Local Food

Local food is better for our health, our climate, and our communities. It’s important to know where our food comes from! We believe in building stronger, healthier communities and diverse economies through our local food system, rather than supporting corporations who are trying to extract our local health, wealth, and connection.

Here are some of the things we’re doing to stimulate the local food economy and to lessen the distance between our farms and forks.

  • Montana Local Food Challenge: This month-long event challenges folks to eat more food from Montana farms, ranches, and gardens, and to support local businesses that carry Montana-raised foods. It’s a fun, energetic way to support local agriculture and eat healthy! Download the “Why Local” Fact Sheet to learn how buying local food leads to healthier, more prosperous communities.
  • Farm to School: Did you know that out of 143,000 students in Montana, only 9,000 have access to Montana foods in the lunchroom? All kids have a right to the healthy, nutritious foods that we grow in Montana. That’s why we’re working diligently to help schools across Montana set up Harvest of the Month and other Farm to School programs. Download the Fact Sheet to learn more!

Yellowstone Valley Food Hub

After years of research, community outreach, and fundraising, Northern Plains and the Yellowstone Valley Citizen’s Council successfully launched the Yellowstone Valley Food Hub in 2018.

The Yellowstone Valley Food Hub is a co-operative of producers who share a passion for local agriculture. You can buy local meat, produce, eggs, bread, and more on their online grocery store (link) and pick it up in Yellowstone, Carbon, or Stillwater County every Thursday. They are bolstering our local economy by keeping dollars in our communities, and they are maintaining a dependable food supply in our region. Ultimately, Food Hub producers hope to establish partnerships with institutions like hospitals, restaurants, and schools to offer local food options beyond individual consumers.

Questions about the Yellowstone Valley Food Hub? Contact General Manager Michele Schaczenski at


While we believe that trade is critical to our successful Ag economy, Northern Plains believes that trade deals with foreign governments should:

  • Restore local and national sovereignty over farm and food policy
  • Stop corporate giveaways in trade agreements
  • Ensure economic viability and resilience in local communities through wage protections, environmental protections, human rights

Northern Plains continues reaching out to our Congressional delegation to let them know that with international trade we can also stand up for Montana families, Montana lands, and Montana communities.