Claire Thompson at Grist: Big Sky’s the limit: How to make local food lucrative in Montana

But even with that kind of green cred, there’s room for improvement. Despite its longstanding commitment to sourcing locally, the co-op still managed to double the amount of local food it purchased in 2012, and saw sales rise accordingly — joining the growing ranks of institutions around the country getting serious about connecting people with local farms and food.

The Community Food Co-op has two locations, both of which sell deli food that’s prepared at a large central kitchen in a separate building. Though the stores’ produce departments offer some local fare, until recently, the central kitchen relied mostly on a large out-of-state distributor to provide the ingredients for its soups, sandwiches, and hot meals (things like stir-fried veggies, mac ‘n’ cheese, sweet-and-sour tofu, and fried rice). The alternative — working directly with growers — is much more labor-intensive, not to mention risky. As central kitchen manager Christina Waller puts it, “It’s hard to know when you’re going to get a hailstorm.”

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