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Fresh fare

Local food available at markets, stores throughout the valley

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Local food — it just makes sense. Radishes, carrots and corn picked the same day they are sold and eaten. Eggs, meat and milk from ranches and farms in the Mission Valley are all processed locally and available from the source via farmers markets and grocery stores. 

With Farmer’s market season approaching, Tonya Truman, who organizes the Polson Farmer’s Market, said the market would begin May 4 and promises fresh leafy greens. The market is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. down Third Avenue W. Fridays in Polson on the block between The Cove Deli and Pizza and First Citizen’s Bank from May until October. 

New this year is a Tuesday evening strictly food market.

“It’s more towards the agriculture side,” Truman explained. 

Starting July 10, the Tuesday evening market will be open from 4:30 to 7 p.m. on Third Avenue E., between the J. C. Penney/Hallmark store and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal building.

Increased demand for local food has made them more available in area grocery stores. 

Mission Mart manager Mike Noyes said his store stocks a variety of local food, especially vegetables and fruit, including corn, McIntosh apples and Flathead Lake cherries, “which are huge,” Noyes said. 

Greg Hertz, president and chief executive officer of Moody’s Market, Inc., said Super 1 Foods, Harvest Foods in Ronan, and Blacktail Grocery in Lakeside carry Gluten Free Mama products, Mission Mountain Eggs and Country Pasta as just a few examples of local products.

They’ve also begun selling low-cholesterol, low-fat beef from a local ranch. Blacktail Mountain Ranch raises HighMont beef, a cross between Piedmontese with Scottish Highland cattle. According to Blacktail Mountain Ranch owners Connie Roberts and Ed Jonas, both cattle breeds are known for low fat and low cholesterol, but the combination produces flavorful and tender meat that’s 94 percent fat-free.

The HighMont steers are even processed in the Mission Valley, at White’s Meats in Ronan.

Hertz wants to work with farmers throughout the area to stock more local foods. According to Hertz, local farmers and ranchers don’t have an efficient system of their getting their goods to stores. Additionally, regularly delivering produce to stores with today’s high fuel costs is expensive.

To deal with the problem, the Western Montana Growers’ Cooperative will be partnering with Charlie’s Produce of Spokane for distribution. The co-op, comprised of local farmers and ranchers, has a full line of fresh food — dairy products, eggs, cheese, grains, fresh fruit and vegetables.

Charlie’s delivers fresh produce to restaurants, grocery stores, institutions and wholesalers in the Spokane area, much of western Washington, northern Idaho and Montana. 

Dave Prather, Western Montana Growers’ Cooperative, said Charlie’s “cares about our business,” and doesn’t treat the co-op’s “very fresh, very good food” as just another package to be shipped.

In the Mission Valley, the co-op sells to Mission Mountain Natural Foods, Rod’s Harvest Foods, Super 1 and Safeway.

In Arlee, John Carranco, manager at Wilson Family Foods, said he tries to stock local food. They currently sell Dixon melons and Flathead Lake cherries. Carranco commented that they’d like to get more local produce. 

The Jocko Valley Farmers Market, open Wednesday evenings from 4 to 7 p.m., opens for the season June 6. The market offers fresh produce, honey, flowers, jams, crafts and more.

To find fresh local food, keep an eye on farmers market dates and check local grocery stores, too.   


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