Montana Ethic Project: Many reasons to grow, eat local food


Joey and Libbie Early

Dawson County Extension Agent Bruce Smith talks about the vital importance of producing and consuming more of the food we eat in Montana.

This is the 12th chapter of the 32-part video series “The Montana Ethic Project.” This chapter features Bruce Smith, Dawson County extension agent, talking about “Montana’s Food Economy.”

You can watch the whole video below. Here is how it begins:

“Montanans spend over $3 billion a year on food. However, all of the agricultural production in the state, all of the vegetables, the grain and the livestock that we produce doesn’t add up to $3 billion. Of our food production in the 1950s, 70 percent of what Montanans ate came from in Montana. Right now it’s less than 10 percent. That is approximately $300 million; we are leaving $2.7 billion on the table.

“If you consider what the Department of Labor statistics says, that it costs about $58,000 to create a new job, we’re leaving tens of thousands of jobs in the state of Montana lying on the table.”

Here is another, edited excerpt from Smith’s presentation:

“One of the stories I used to tell about being in the food business in Eastern Montana was that the trucks would come to town full of food and that they would go back empty. Well they don’t go back empty. They go back with our money. And guess who is in the car right behind them? Our kids. Because they have to go someplace where there are jobs.

“Over the last 50 years we have lost about 50 percent of our population. In Eastern Montana our population right now is the same as it was in 1915.

“Food security is an issue that comes up a lot of times when people talk about not knowing where your next meal comes from. It is usually associated with low income or people that are down on their luck a little bit. But my contention has always been that everybody in the state of Montana is food insecure.

“We’re three days away from not having food on the shelves. One snow storm, one trucker strike, those kinds of things are a big deal here.

“We are at the end of the food chain.”

PERC_Logo_MontanaEthicPERC—the Property & Environment Research Center—is a proud sponsor of the Montana Ethic Project. To learn how PERC’s ideas can help us honor one another’s rights to land, water, and wildlife, visit


First week: Project introduction.

Second week: Richard Drake on “Terrorism and the Consolation of History.”

Third week: Mike Gear on “The Value of Athletics.”

Fourth week: Franke Wilmer on “Gender Equity.”

Fifth week: Gordon Brittan: “The Founding Fathers.”

Sixth week: Jim Posewitz: “Montana Sportsmen and the Hunter’s Ethic.”

Seventh week: The Rev. Jessica Crist: “Religion and Politics: Can They Co-exist?”

Eighth week: Chuck Tooley: “The Montana Character.”

Ninth week: Steve Bullock: “Citizens United v. Montana.”

10th week: Carol Williams: “The Imperative for Female Government Participation.”

11th week: Bob Rowe:  “Towards Technological Development.”

12th weekGeorge Metcalfe: “Economic Development in Africa and Its Relationship to Montana.”

Next week: Peggy Beltrone: “Montana Wind Energy—Business and Politics.”

Leave a Reply