Jul 28, 2011 6:42 PM by Robin O'Day (KPAX News)
MISSOULA- The Montana non-profit Western Sustainability Exchange (WSE), has recognized several restaurants and dining establishments for their continuing sustainability efforts.
The Silk Road and the Buttercup Market and Café in Missoula signed a pledge on Thursday to keep buying locally as much as they can. Meanwhile, University of Montana Dining Services was given an award for keeping things 'in house".
Montana's short growing season combined with increasing gas prices can make this a difficult business model to maintain.
WSE's Farm to Restaurant program acts as a gate-keeper between producers and restaurants. Big Timber's Sweet Grass Meats and the Buttercup Market and Café are now doing business together, thanks to the program.
"Our lamb doesn't come from New Zealand. It comes from Dell. It comes from Sweet Grass Hills. If you have really, really fresh food you don't have to do much with it," Buttercup owner Molly Galusha explained.
UM Dining services spent $612,000 within the state this year with much of the money going toward purchasing beef from eastern Montana.
"it's surprising how much is over there. We don't get word of it over here if it wasn't for organizations like Western Sustainability Exchange, because there just isn't enough cross state communication," UM Dining Services Farm to College Coordinator Ian Finch told us.
The non-profit introduces sustainable producers and distributors to restaurants, building relationships and saving everyone some time.
"It's based on market rewards basically. We would like to pass on these market premiums to the farmers and ranchers that are stewarding our landscapes and natural resources and we'd like to drive consumers to use the power of their wallet," WSE Producer and Coordinator Tyrrell Hibbard commented.
The chef and owner of Silk Road Restaurant, Abe Risho, said that diners seek out their seasonal and local dishes and that's pumping money back into the local economy, "using local stuff is going to revitalize the economy in this state, using local farmers.
Risho added that as local businesses see a kick back, the locals may see a healthier lifestyle, "eating healthier is going to create a healthier state in general. All these things are important. It's not going to go anywhere. This is a trend that's here."