Bozeman businesses show how ag grants help


BOZEMAN, Mont. - Bozeman-area businesses showed state lawmakers and representatives from the Montana Department of Agriculture how grant money is helping diversify the state agriculture industry.

Council members learned how a small grant made a big impact on a local farm.

Dean Williamson owns Three Hearts Farm and grows 150 types of plants including fresh produce.

His operation is a small nine-acre farm, but he says they got help to grow after receiving a Growth Through Agriculture grant of $7,500, that they used to buy a walk-in cooler.

"Oh, it was gigantic," said Williamson.

It's a piece of equipment, he said, that allows him to store twice as much produce, which then goes out to local restaurants and grocery stores.

"I wouldn't be able to do nearly what I am doing, without the cooler, without being able to hold food for longer than an hour or two. Once lettuce is out of the ground, for instance, it is good for about 45 minutes if it is not refrigerated," said Williamson.

On Tuesday, Williamson got to tell his story to state lawmakers as they toured agricultural businesses in the Gallatin Valley to learn how grant money from the GTA program is making an impact.

State Director of Agriculture Ron de Yong says the ag industry is growing, especially when it comes to smaller operations like Three Hearts Farm.

"This will effect everyone locally," said de Yong.

De Yong said the GTA grants are geared toward helping these local businesses be successful.

State Representative JP Pomnichowski told NBC Montana that getting a behind-the-scenes look gave her a good idea of how the grants not only impact the farm, but also the community.

"When you come to the farm and then see the washing operation and see the food packaged and then go to the salad bar at the Food Co-op, it's locally grown, locally produced, and it helps the local businesses," said Pomnichowski.

The state gave out more than $650,000 in GTA grants over the last fiscal year. Other businesses in the Bozeman area that received the grants include the Root Cellar and the Montana Fish Company.