Getting to the Roots of the Old Salt Co-op
A brand built on creating lasting relationships while providing its customers a way to connect with the land. That is the philosophy of Old Salt Co-op founder Cole Mannix. And what better way to cultivate these relationships than by bringing people together in an amazingly beautiful setting?
The Old Salt Festival will take center stage on the Mannix Ranch, a co-op founding ranch, at the Hoodoo mountains’ base. On June 23rd, 24th, and 25th, enjoy locally grown Old Salt Co-op meat prepared by renowned chefs, listen to live entertainment by a host of musicians and poets, browse hand-crafted artisan booths, and engage in great conversations.
But to fully understand the festival’s vision, you must first understand the history and mission of the Old Salt Co-op.
Where It All Started
The name, Old Salt, came from a butcher shop and restaurant combination in Portland that had closed its doors. Cole saw the name and immediately made the connection. “Humans have the power to degrade the land. But we also have the power to enhance it.” Hence, Salt of the Earth – an individual or a group of people who perform good works – in this case, stewards of the land.
“Together, we can enhance Montana’s soil, water, and wildlife just as a pinch of salt enhances a recipe.”
Cole worked for a big co-op in Colorado that could not scale the demand for grass-fed beef fast enough, forcing to close its doors after only six years. From this experience, he realized that to be sustainable, they had to focus on growing Old Salt locally and nurturing those relationships on a grassroots level.
Cole recruited Cooper Hibbard from Sieben Live Stock, Andrew and Hillary Anderson from the J Bar L Ranch, and his family, the Mannix Ranch, to form the co-op. All these ranches had the same shared values and looked at the land and all it had to offer as an opportunity to do better.
“It’s not ours; it’s just our turn.”
But he also understood that they could not do it on their own. He found team members who could bridge the gaps between the production and the end-user. The co-op needed a culinary butcher, processing experts, chefs, and so much more to be successful. And they all needed to be vested in the co-op.
Today, Old Salt Co-op is a multi-stakeholder organization with staff and ranches as members. It has a great team of creative and hard-working people who share the same values and goals as the ranches they work with and the people they serve.
A Lasting Bond
As Cole Mannix’s brainchild, the Old Salt Co-op was first and foremost a vision of creating a lasting bond between the consumer and producer. A bond where those consumers have the opportunity to really know the landscapes on which their meat is raised and meet the people who raised them.
“We have more faith in our ability to communicate at this level with our customers than we do with a certification that has a lot of fine print that nobody will ever read.”
Their story is one of sustainability and regeneratively grown meats. But nowhere will you find these industry buzzwords in their marketing. In fact, Cole believes that the Old Salt Co-op is a marketing company first who just so happens to be selling meaningful, healthy, and tasty products.
The team talks a lot about the role of livestock, integrating livestock into farming, trying to decrease their use of synthetics, increasing fertility over time, and capturing more water.
These attributes set them apart. It all goes back to people understanding and truly knowing where their meat comes from.
“We all love the landscapes, but we have to reinvest in them, use them, and make them better.”
One of the Old Salt Co-op’s goals is to serve 10,000 families in Montana with locally grown meat products that are raised with integrity on landscapes these families know and care about.
As well as selling to individuals, the co-op has ventured into the restaurant business, opening The Old Salt Outpost in the Gold Bar in downtown Helena. Just this fall, they opened the Old Salt Custom processing plant in Winston, Montana. This plant offers USDA-inspected, Exempt, and wild game processing. This addition gives the co-op more control over its butchering schedule and meat quality while providing local ranchers with another processing option.
“What if we could create more in-person touches rather than relying on digital?”
The team believes building relationships and getting exposure can be achieved through the restaurant and processing plant. Still, to fully nurture these relationships, events like the Old Salt Festival will remain a large part of their marketing efforts. And who’s going to complain about that!
To learn more or to register for the event, visit their website at oldsaltco-op.com