Western Sustainability Exchange
Can you really enjoy fine dining and preserve the incredible legacy of this region at the same time? You can, according to Western Sustainability Exchange, if you eat at one of the restaurants belonging to their Montana Farm to Restaurant Connection.
In a five-city celebration of local food, Western Sustainability Exchange announced in July the restaurants, caterers, schools, hospitals and grocery markets that have pledged to use local food in 2011. A coordinated launch event took place in Missoula, Bozeman, Livingston, Billings, and Red Lodge.
WSE staff was on hand at each location to explain how supporting businesses that support local, sustainably raised food can help preserve much of what is so important to Montanans, from wildlife habitat to local economies.
“While there is no single solution to the lack of Montana, sustainably grown food available, the restaurant, caterer and institution industries have the buying power to increase demand on a much larger scale than individuals. Their buying just ups the ante for more growers, more processing, more food,” reports Annie Conley, Market Connection Program Director for WSE.
These events also showcased the latest way WSE is rewarding restaurants and other food businesses that go the extra effort to source and serve local food. The all new “Certificate of Sustainability” was awarded to businesses that have been using local food and sustainable business practices for one year or longer. Businesses must provide verification.
“I’ll take receipts, spreadsheets; whatever will prove that purchases were made. I have restaurants sending in pictures of their recycling centers and energy star appliances,” said Conley. “Previously, restaurants took a pledge and committed to certain practices for the coming year. This is an opportunity for the businesses to be recognized for their successes.”
The first recipients of the new Certificate of Sustainability were:
Missoula: University Dining Services, University of Montana.
Bozeman: The Nova Café, Montana Aleworks.
Livingston: Livingston Health Care Cafeteria, Paradise Valley Grill, Chico Hot Springs and Second Street Bistro.
Billings: Good Earth Market Deli.
Red Lodge: Bridge Creek Backcountry Kitchen & Wine Bar, Café Regis.
Restaurants that renewed a pledge or signed on for the first time included Colombo’s Pizza & Pasta and Montana Fish Co. in Bozeman, the Copper Colander in Billings and Red Lodge’s Pub at the Pollard.
In 2010, 29 restaurants and other food businesses across the state took the “pledge” and became members of WSE’s Montana Farm to Restaurant Connection.
Through this program, WSE connects participating establishments to sustainably certified local producers of beef, lamb, pork, poultry, vegetables, fruits and locally processed food products such as salsa, barbeque sauce and jerky. WSE also trains chefs and grocers on ways to source and use local foods and then promotes these efforts to consumers.
These businesses pledge their commitment to their local economy and to increasing support of local farmers and ranchers. 2010 reported data verifies that participating businesses purchased over $770,000 in food from local farmers, ranchers and food businesses using sustainable practices. A list of restaurants is available at westernsustainabilityexchange.org.
The Montana Farm to Restaurant Connection is just one of the programs Western Sustainability Exchange has organized and operated in an effort to bolster local economies and preserve rural communities, open space, wildlife habitat and farm and ranchlands for this and future generations.