Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Environmental Studies

Department or School/College

Environmental Studies Program

Committee Chair

Neva Hassanein


alternative food system, direct marketing, local food system, Montana agriculture, producer cooperative, Western Montana Growers Cooperative


University of Montana


Local food systems aiming to re-create direct links between producers and consumers are emerging in the United States and elsewhere in response to the social, economic, and environmental consequences of the globalizing food market. Despite growing consumer demand for locally produced food, small-scale producers may not have the capacity to meet the needs of wholesale food purchasers, such as restaurants, grocery stores, schools, or hospitals, thus limiting their markets to direct sales to consumers. Wholesale customers, in turn, face a number of barriers to purchasing local food. Producer cooperatives may alleviate some of the challenges faced by wholesale buyers while opening new markets for their members. Previous studies have examined the perspectives of wholesale food buyers that may or may not purchase locally. This study explores the perspectives of wholesale buyers at grocery stores and restaurants who purchase from one producer cooperative in particular, the Western Montana Growers’ Cooperative. This research investigates the extent to which the Western Montana Growers Cooperative helps its wholesale customers overcome the barriers to purchasing local food, and offers suggestions for the Western Montana Growers Cooperative to continue building a vibrant local food system.



© Copyright 2007 Beth Anne Neely