Your market, or distribution channels are how you get your product to market. These could include channels from the local grain elevator to the farmer’s market and everything in between. Module 2: Market Analysis of Planning for On-Farm Success offers a thorough list of the pros and cons of pursuing various direct and intermediary marketing channels. For information on commodity channels in your region, contact your local MSU Extension office or USDA Service Center for local tips and information.
Iowa State University has put together a series of videos that provides an overview of corn and soybean marketing. Although not specific to Montana crops, the information it provides on supply and demand, season price trends, market signals, options, futures, and cost of storage, may be beneficial information to you even if you’re producing other commodity products.
It may be a bit more challenging to track down information on markets for direct-to-consumer products than for commodity products. While we generally assume that published prices indicate the market’s supply and demand for commodity items, direct-to-consumer markets can be quite a bit trickier to analyze. A few resources in Montana for producers interested in potential direct-to-consumer markets include:
Abundant Montana is a great place to list your farm, ranch, agritourism opportunity, or other local food connection. It is a map of all direct-marketing and agritourism opportunities in the state, managed by the Alternative Energy Resources Organization.
The Western Montana Growers Cooperative (WMGC) is an organization of growers in western Montana who have partnered to cooperatively aggregate, distribute, and market their products. This allows them to reach larger markets and access more people with their products. WMGC can be a great asset in trying to understand the direct-to-consumer market, including supply and demand, in western Montana. Because they ship their products across Montana and into northern Idaho and eastern Washington, they can also be a helpful resource if you’re farming in other areas of the state.
Root Cellar is a business in Belgrade that processes local produce for sale to a variety of businesses, schools, grocery stores, and other buyers around the region. Like WMGC, they may be able to offer insight into market size, capacity, and supply and demand.
Mission Mountain (MMFEC) operates similarly to Root Cellar Foods, although it is part of the larger Lake County Community Development Corporation in Ronan. MMFEC and other Food and Agriculture Development Centers are also covered in our Business Planning Resources page.
Charlie’s Produce and Quality Foods Distributing are other businesses that distribute food products across Montana. They may be able to assist with evaluating market demand and answering distribution questions.
For another comprehensive list of direct marketing channels and their benefits and challenges, check out this list from the Alberta Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
Your local markets, including grocery stores, farmers’ markets, restaurants, and other direct-to-consumer opportunities may also be able to provide you with beneficial market information. Consider looking for businesses that offer local foods and seek out their buyers to glean additional info.