Ronan, Mont. As a consumer, you’ve probably heard the term ‘added value’, which describes improvements to a product or service that provide the customer with more value than usual. Producers and agricultural companies have been doing this for years, making food more nutritious and convenient, and more recently, there has been an increased focus on locally grown food.
On Main Street in Ronan, Montana is the center of Mission Mountain Food Enterprise, where added, locally grown value is at the heart of its operations.
“The Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center does a lot of value-added agricultural processing, especially for Western Montana Growers Co-op, who are our primary partner. We are very unique in that we have this,” said Jan Tosek, Center Director at Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center. The amazing facility…the whole process that we can do here, in adding value to farming and working directly with the producers to do it..
Homegrown flathead cherries find an extended life of added value, thanks to the center’s equipment and expertise.
“We’re working on a cherry drying project today…Behind me, they’re collecting cherries to use in the dryer. These dried cherries are going to schools in Montana as snacks,” said Joel Carlson, the processor’s manager.
Montana schools increasingly rely on food produced in Montana.
“We worked alongside the Office of Public Instruction to start looking at food products to which we could add Montana agriculture,” Tosik said. “We were very fortunate, to have met Cherrywood Orchard the year before,… and they were so excited to be a part of this…”
“Mission Mountain has been able to process our cherries for two years. They washed our cherries, pits them, dried them, froze, and put bags in bags; The orchard and many growers, like me,” Tiffany Seibert, owner of Cherrywood, told Orchard LLC.
The center hopes that its relationships with producers will continue to grow.
“…we already have a list of other products to look forward to. We want to do a Montana breakfast bar…it’s got Montana cherries in it, and Montana oats in it, and Montana honey in it…it’s a bar that can satisfy this “grab and go,” because A lot of these kids go to school and haven’t eaten breakfast.”
“You know, as a mother, that feeding school-aged children with nutritious food was really a passion… and having this OPI project close to home was a great opportunity for us.”