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Downtown’s new meat market?

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Threading your way through the crowd at the Farmer’s Market—which, by the way, starts up Saturday, May 7—you might think two things: Man, there are a lot of people here this year; and where can I get some meat to cook up with these veggies?

A May 2 public hearing at the weekly City Council meeting will address both those issues. The Clark Fork Coalition (CFC) is leading efforts to create a second farmer’s market where Western Montana ranchers can sell the meat and dairy they produce.

The CFC’s Heidi DeArment says the idea for the meat market grew out of discussions with area ranchers trying to find new ways to keep their livelihoods lively. Missoulians, too, are hungry for local meat, she says.

The new market—which would include vegetables and other goods in addition to meat products—would run Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon and would likely take place between the Millennium Building and Caras Park, on the east side of the Higgins Avenue bridge. If City Council approves, the new market could start up this summer.

Mel Parker, who runs the existing market at the north end of downtown, says a second market is a great idea. He’s had to turn away vendors every year because the current market is too crowded, and each year it’s harder to maneuver through the throng.

“It’s good news for us. We’re glad it’s happening,” he says. “There’s such a demand to get into our market.”

An outdoor meat market is a bit more complicated than selling fruit and vegetables, but the Health Department’s Jim Carlson says licensing and inspections will ensure the meat is as safe as any you would buy in a grocery store. DeArment says every vendor’s meat will be inspected and packaged at a Montana Department of Agriculture facility, licensed by the state and inspected by the local health department. Also, the market site has electricity for refrigeration and freezers.

“It’s not any different than buying at Safeway, except you can talk to the guy who grew it,” she says. n

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