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“The Banana Belt of Wyoming”: Thermopolis participates in state wide gardening program

Kelly Stampe
The Red Dirt Master Gardeners have five dedicated raised vegetable beds for the Grow a Little Extra program. This is a picture of beans and squash.

The Wyoming Hunger Initiative has a program to encourage Wyoming gardeners to plant extra crops for their neighbors during the summer months. Grow a Little Extra collects donations from local gardens and distributes them to families and senior centers in need.

Kelly Stampe of Red Dirt Master Gardeners said Thermopolis is part of the Bighorn Basin and is at a lower elevation compared to much of Wyoming.

“It's the banana belt of Wyoming because with our warmer temperatures and stuff like that, we, you know, can generally do a little better with gardens. And it's a little less challenging,” said Stampe.

Wyoming has a short growing season of 120 days, and this year due to cold temperatures into late spring, and hot temperatures in mid summer gardeners are seeing fewer crops.

Stampe said Thermopolis has been hit by higher prices for fresh produce, like much of Wyoming, and many families grab essentials and forgo fresh vegetables when they are too expensive.

“We're trying to make your money stretch a little further, sometimes produce is something that's going to get put on the back shelf,” she said. “You're going to focus on getting the staples for feeding your family.”

Lazy Fox Bakery in Thermopolis is where donations are accepted for the Grow a Little Extra program. Anyone in need of fresh produce can pick up beats, onions, zucchini and kale.

Kelly Stampe
Green beans from 2021 grown in Thermopolis for Grow a Little Extra program.

Last year, Red Dirt Master Gardeners received $500 for more refrigeration from the Wyoming Hunger Initiative. A program whose purpose is to fight food insecurity, headed by Wyoming's First Lady Jennie Gordon.

Taylar Dawn Stagner is a central Wyoming rural and tribal reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She has degrees in American Studies, a discipline that interrogates the history and culture of America. She was a Native American Journalist Association Fellow in 2019, and won an Edward R. Murrow Award for her Modern West podcast episode about drag queens in rural spaces in 2021. Stagner is Arapaho and Shoshone.
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