Food

Cooper McKim

It’s a hot day south of Wheatland, near the small town of Chugwater. Dirt kicks up around passing cars on a long driveway as the sunbeams gold on waving fields of wheat. At the end is the Baker Farm, with old water tanks and rusted antique farm vehicles in front of the home. 

Kamila Kudelska


Wyoming’s agriculture industry is trying its hand at blockchain technology. Beefchain.io, a private company, is one of those businesses that started after Wyoming passed a number of pro-blockchain laws. The goal is to use blockchain technology to track data points about cattle and share the information with consumers: pasture to plate.

Breakdown of direct, indirect, and induced jobs per 100 new employees for wind, coal, and slaughterhouses
Patrick Manning, Matthew Halama, Wyoming Department of Workforce Services / Wyoming Department of Workforce Services

A new report outlining the status of Wyoming's economy and workforce shows slaughterhouses could create more indirect and induced jobs than wind and coal state lines employees.

Melodie Edwards


Wyomingites once grew food in their own backyards or hunted it in the mountains. These days, though, more rural people are driving distances to reach a grocer, or even just a mini-mart, for their food. It’s led to nearly 75,000 people in Wyoming struggling with hunger and access to healthy fresh foods.

But now farmers markets, food pantries and nutrition groups in the state are collaborating to start a council to address the state’s food security issues.

The Senate and House have passed two versions of the Farm Bill. The differences between the two pieces of legislation now have to be hashed out by legislators. The final bill could have a big impact on low-income residents in our region.


Bureau of Land Management

Look no further than the school cafeteria for choice cuts of locally raised meat. The School Nutrition Project, entering its second year, splits the processing costs with districts who receive donated animals from local farmers and 4-H clubs. 

USDA

Summer break means no tests and no homework, but for low-income kids, that can mean one less meal a day. Over 20 million kids in the U.S. are eligible for free or reduced-priced meals during the regular school year. 

Melodie Edwards / Wyoming Public Radio

Nearly 75,000 people in Wyoming qualify as food insecure, meaning they struggle with hunger and access to healthy foods. That’s almost 13 percent of the state and it’s even higher for children. That’s why several groups—including Centcible Nutrition, Casper’s Food For Thought, Gillette’s Sharing the Harvest and the Wind River Reservation’s Growing Resilience—met for a summit last month to discuss the need for a food policy council. Wyoming is the only state without such a council. 

Raspberry deLight Farms

Studies show that Albany County has the highest rates of food insecurity in the state. One organization hopes to fix that with the help of a $400,000 Food Project Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The nasty strain of E. coli that’s sickening people across the U.S. has turned up in Idaho and Montana, and health officials remain on alert.

Public forum participants discuss agriculture in Casper College Student Union.
Alanna Elder

About 15 people circled a giant notepad at Casper College. They had already filled several pages and stuck them to the wall, and they were still brainstorming.

The Chinese government has retaliated in what appears to be an escalating trade war. The government says it will slap tariffs on a long list of American goods including pork and fruit, a move that could put producers across the region in a bind.

China buys a lot of American pork. And while Iowa may be this country’s pig-producing colossus, tariffs would hit producers everywhere, including states in the Mountain West like Utah and Colorado.  

Cqfx at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Jennet Nedirmammedova a senior at the University of Wyoming invited me into her apartment, a couple of blocks from campus. It, is cozy – a couple of rooms with paintings on every wall. She cooks was cooking pasta, and offers me some as we sit down at a wooden table edging her kitchen and the stairway. Nedirmammedova came to Wyoming from Turkmenistan to study environmental science, and she has since added a second major in religious studies, plus two minors. She also works two jobs.

Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies

With Thanksgiving comes images of heaping piles of food, but one in eight Wyomingites struggle with hunger and uncertainty about the source of their next meal. The Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies counts more than 20,000 children and 14 percent of seniors in the state as being affected by hunger and poverty.

 

Shanna Harris, who directs the food bank, said when families are struggling to cover multiple expenses, food is often the first item to take a cut.

 

Melodie Edwards

In 2015, Wyoming passed the Food Freedom Act, giving the state the most lenient local food regulations in the country. It allows Wyoming farmers to sell things other states can’t, like raw milk, eggs and poultry direct to consumers. But many Wyoming food producers say, there’s still one road block: beef. The issue is that federal regulations make it hard to market Wyoming branded beef outside the state where all the customers are.

Alanna Elder

The oranges are a hit at Feeding Laramie Valley, where Sandy Moody serves lunch to a steady stream of eaters. By the end of the hour, it’ll add up to more than 60 people from daycares, preschools, and the local neighborhood. Moody said they’ll serve anyone – kids for free and adults for a dollar fifty. 

Gayle Woodsum is the founder of Feeding Laramie Valley, a nonprofit that grows and distributes local produce at no cost.

Melodie Edwards / Wyoming Public Radio

The city of Cody is now home to Wyoming Legacy Meat, the first USDA-inspected full-service meat processing plant in the state in over 40 years. This will allow more ranchers to market their beef as “grass fed” and “natural” and sell it out of state.

Right now, there are several state-inspected slaughter plants and processors in Wyoming, but that meat can only be sold in-state to a limited market. That’s why most cattle are sold to feedlots, sweeping Wyoming’s beef into the nation’s bulk meat supply. 

Melodie Edwards / Wyoming Public Radio

The 8th annual Laramie Local Food Gathering will offer 12 workshops on “modern homesteading.” Topics range from how to raise small animals for meat and fiber to composting and soil improvement tips, and even one workshop just for kids on edible insects.

Chris Nicholson is director of the Water Resources Data System at the University of Wyoming. He’ll be speaking at the event on how climate change could affect gardening and ranching in southeast Wyoming.

Photo by Hannah Dunn

Farmers and gardeners will gather in Cheyenne this weekend for a new local food gathering called the Farm to Market Conference, where they will learn how to grow, sell, and process their produce.

Wyoming Department of Agriculture grants manager Ted Craig is helping organize the event. In recent years, he has noticed increasing demand, but also increasing options for selling local food in Wyoming. Craig gives credit to the widespread use of hoop houses, which help producers push the season into the early winter.

Baylen J. Linnekin

In 2015, Wyoming passed the Food Freedom Act, giving the state’s farmers and ranchers the most flexible food rules in the nation...making it possible for them sell things direct to consumers that are illegal elsewhere, like unpasteurized milk, poultry, jams, and other foods. Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards talked with the author of the new book Biting the Hands That Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable, about Wyoming’s Food Freedom Act, and just how common this level of deregulation is in other states.

Phillip Breker PhotoRX

After years of working as a chef in ethnic restaurants, Sioux tribal member Sean Sherman had an “ah-ha” moment. He suddenly wondered why there were no Native American restaurants, especially since pre-European contact foods are uniquely healthy. Now, Sherman is raising money through a Kickstarter Campaign to open one and he’s calling it The Sioux Chef.

Melodie Edwards

Out under the cottonwoods in her backyard near Fort Washakie, Eastern Shoshone member Pat Bergie shows off her new raised-bed garden.

“Those are the tomatoes, strawberries,” she says, pointing at the rows of small seedlings. “Over here, I’d done some cabbage inside. I brought them out and planted them and those are what’s gone.”

Gone because birds came and gobbled them up.

“The big ones, the magpies are the ones that went out,” she says, laughing. “They’re the hoggy ones.”

Casper College's Facebook

Casper College will open a student-run kitchen this fall in order to provide meals to local residents who are food insecure. That means, they don’t always know where their next meal will come from. The college’s nutrition students plan to make healthy meals from food that would otherwise have gone to waste.

Vertical Harvest

A documentary following the first year of business for an innovative greenhouse in Jackson is one of ten finalists in a nationwide film competition.

The film, called “Hearts of Glass,” details the challenges of the Vertical Harvest greenhouse through its first year of “vertical farming,” a process that grows produce by stacking it on top of each other instead of side by side. Vertical Harvest also hires disabled people in the community to help grow the produce.

Sharon Martinson

CORRECTION: In the audio of this story, as in a previous Web version, musician Jalan Crossland suggests making a cake by using an Altoids tin and wiring it to a car battery. Crossland now says he was joking. To be clear: This should not be attempted. Short-circuiting a car battery can cause the battery to overheat and potentially explode.

For many Americans, summer means road trips. So Wyoming Public Radio’s Micah Schweizer checked in with a couple of touring musicians for some pro-tips you can use the next time you hit the open road.

Maggie Mullen

Bright Agrotech, an indoor farming technology company based in Laramie, introduced a first-of-its-kind lighting system on Thursday.

CEO Nate Storey says indoor farmers depend on artificial light in the grow houses. But where there is light, there is also heat.

CC0 Public Domain

With more people eating gluten-free diets and more countries growing their own wheat, Wyoming growers are getting stuck with more product than they can sell.

Weather conditions in the last few years have allowed Wyoming wheat producers to grow lots of wheat they used to be able sell to around the world. But Wyoming Wheat Market Commission Director Keith Kennedy says many countries, like those in Eastern Europe, are now growing their own wheat. He says the ratio of how much wheat the state has to how much can be sold is the highest it’s been since the farm crisis of the 80’s.

Vertical Harvest

After seven years, Vertical Harvest - Jackson Hole’s hydroponic greenhouse – celebrates its grand opening this week. A hydroponic greenhouse grows plants without soil, and with less water than traditional methods. Vertical Harvest raises tomatoes, basil, and greens straight up in the air, which means the plants are stacked in several stories worth of growing space.

CEO and co-founder of Vertical Harvest Nona Yehia says the operation has been selling its produce to local restaurants, schools, and the hospital for about a month now.

The Modern West 11: Eats And Drinks

May 16, 2016
Bob Beck

This month we’re putting specialty coffee, locally distilled spirits, and goat meat on the menu. Hear what’s happening in the Western kitchen. 

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