Glacier Processing Co-op Offers Incentive for Producers to Join

by Colter Brown

A cooperative focused on expanding meat processing capacity in the Flathead Valley is currently offering an incentive to producers who join by Sept. 30, with an informational membership meeting and barbecue planned for September 14 in Kalispell.

Interested producers can learn more about the co-op’s progress to purchase and assume operations of the current Vandevanter Meats, as well as have an opportunity to ask questions during the Sept. 14 meeting.

The meeting includes a barbecue picnic and begins at 6 p.m. at the Fritz Corn Maze, 173 Birch Grove Road in Kalispell.

Co-op shares became available July 31, and already producers are joining.

Three hundred producer memberships are available at $7,000 each. Investment in the cooperative also can be made by purchasing non-voting preferred stock shares at $1,000 each. As an added incentive, from July 31 to Sept. 30, producers who buy a membership will receive one preferred stock share for free.

The GPC board also plans to offer a lower processing price to members than non-members and priority for scheduling processing dates.

While $7,000 is a sizeable sum, producers gain value in having meat processing availability in an area that often is 18 months out on slots.

“It’s clear to all the producers here in the valley that we have to have a meat processing facility. We’ve got limited space as it is now,” said Lisa Wade Mayorga, a rancher who serves on the co-op’s steering committee.

“What’s driving the board itself is really wanting to help their neighbors and other producers to keep this avenue open to have this ability to direct market livestock – to direct market and feed people here in the valley,” said Mark Siderius, a farmer and rancher near Kalispell who has spearheaded the project along with his wife Heather.

Glacier Processing Cooperative was born from a need to maintain meat processing capacity when the owner of Vandevanter Meats decided to retire. Since conversations started about forming a cooperative, the response has been positive.

“And people want to know how to help and how to be a part of it,” Siderius said. “Well, if you want to support your community, this is the best way,” he added.

The cooperative is a straight-forward solution to a straight-forward issue. The consumer base has grown, and producers need infrastructure to meet that demand with their local product, Wade Mayorga said.

For Wade Mayorga, the cooperative offers a way to expand her direct-to-consumer sales from her Montana Better Beef Ranch.

She and her family have explored doubling the number of grassfed, certified organic animals they provide to consumers each year, but skyrocketing land prices and limited processing capacity have stymied their efforts. They even considered purchasing their own processing facility, but found the prospect too expensive.

“We can’t increase at all, never mind double, because there just isn’t processing capacity here locally for us to be able to do that,” Wade Mayorga said.

Forming the cooperative and purchasing Vandevanter Meats maintains the current meat processing capacity in the valley at a time when slaughter schedules are up to 18 months out.

“The excitement out of the project is that people are looking at this, and they’re feeling that they have stability at this point in time because they know that if they’re a member then they have a share in that, they have a voice in that, that have a vote,” Siderius said.

The goal is to take over operations on Jan. 1 of next year, with the current equipment and staff.

“We basically will have no disruption, just a shifting of the name to start,” Siderius said.

The cooperative will keep meat processing capacity open, improve its efficiency and plans to more than double the facility’s current capacity of 1,100 head per year. Glacier Processing’s purchase of the property also comes with 20 acres for future expansion and other possibilities.

Her producer membership comes with a member vote on the facility’s direction and gives her an avenue to expand her business as well, making the upfront investment well-worth it, Wade Mayorga said.

“I still get a processing facility but all of a sudden it’s doable,” she added.

To learn more about joining Glacier Processing Cooperative, go to


Montana Farmers Union

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