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Montana restaurants feeling supply chain constraints, farm-to-table less impacted

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Posted at 7:05 PM, Jan 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-11 21:05:32-05

HELENA — At the Windbag Saloon in downtown Helena, Manager Jenna Coburn says they’ve never quite seen the number of shortages of late until the last 2 years.

“We've been running into it since the spring of last year now, and it seems like consistently, fisheries, for example. We can't get fish in and we're changing our menu and just taking fish off. It's because you can no longer get cod; you can't get tuna,” says Coburn.

The pandemic's impact has been far-reaching, impacting more than just people’s health.

Things that you wouldn’t think about, like rubber gloves, have increased from $40 a case to $200. Thus, forcing businesses like the Windbag Saloon to slightly increase their prices.

The lack of readily available items like liquor, wine, and fish has made business harder to conduct and left customers with fewer options.

Just up the road at Benny’s Bistro off East 6th Ave., server Katie Hill says they’ve hardly felt the impact of the nationwide supply shortages. Benny’s Bistro is a farm-to-table restaurant and deals directly with Montana ranchers and farmers.

“We’re part of the Montana, Western Montana Growers Co-op out of Missoula and we're able to work with all sorts of small farms and providers and are able to get Montana made products onto tables here at Benny’s without a whole lot of problem,” says Hill.

By sourcing local product, Benny’s Bistro has managed to avoid the hard-hitting impacts of shortages.

It is a strategy the Windbag is adopting. Coburn says they‘ve begun working with local producers. One example is they now get their bison from Townsend.

“And now we're going to smaller companies because they're able to keep up with us because they're not waiting from places from overseas and things,” says Coburn.

Farm-to-table was a growing practice before the pandemic, but now it’s become a better option for some to keep products on the table. It’s also a way for Montanans to raise up other Montanans and keep the state self-sustainable despite the nationwide shortages.

“It's Montanans taking care of Montanans and we're able to, you know, that's what Montana is about; taking care of each other with what we have and making sure that everyone can thrive,” says Hill.

Across the country, omicron shows no sign of slowing down. That means as the pandemic continues, supply chain disruptions for many industries likely will, as well.