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Food-focused conference in Riverton set to bring Wyoming producers together to talk in February

The words "Wyoming Food Coalition," with a stylized radish as one of the O's in "Food."
Wyoming Food Coalition

TheWyoming Food Coalition is hosting its fifth annual conference from February 1-3 at the Central Wyoming College (CWC) campus in Riverton. It’s the first time the conference will be in-person since 2019 – due to the pandemic, the event has been held virtually over the last few years.

The three-day gathering is all about building and strengthening local food systems – and educating people on tools to navigate the complex world of food production. It will include workshops, talks, and discussions covering topics like local food marketing, scaling up products to wholesale production, safety regulations and risk management.

BJ Edwards is the executive director for the Wyoming Food Coalition, which is focused on promoting local food systems, policy, and equitable access. She said the conference is a great opportunity for centralizing knowledge that might otherwise not be shared across the state.

“Our organization hopes to bring these key individuals together so that we can share ideas, and work together and not be reinventing the wheel in different parts of the state. Because we're so rural, it's so easy to do that,” she said.

The first day of the conference will feature two all-day workshops: Shared-Use Kitchen 101 and USDA Farm to School Producer Training. On Feb. 2, writer and author of Farm (and Other F Words) Sarah K. Mock will give a keynote address on her experiences growing up on a farm in Wyoming and the future of agriculture in the state. The following day, First Lady Jennie Gordon will speak about the Wyoming Hunger Initiative and strategies for addressing hunger with local produce.

In addition to her work with the Wyoming Food Coalition, executive director Edwards is also a small-scale producer with her Laramie-based farm Taste of the Wind, which provides farm-to-table food directly to consumers. She said she hopes the conference can help communicate to policymakers that local agriculture is a viable industry for Wyoming.

“We tend to send off the most profitable steps of food production to other states. And if we could harness that for our economies here, keep jobs in the state and keep that dollar in the state, I think we could forward our economy with resources that we already have,” she said.

Speakers will share updates on food policies affecting Wyoming and beyond, like the Wyoming Food Freedom Act and the Farm Bill. Conference-goers can preview the Wyoming Business Council’s new online local food directory Wyoming Table, and will also have the opportunity to tour Central Wyoming College’s recently-opened Rustler Center Meat Lab.

Edwards said the event is an opportunity for the Wyoming Food Coalition to gather more information about what matters to local producers and buyers throughout the state.

“We want to know what the priorities are, what the challenges are, and what our organization needs to focus on moving forward,” she said.

The event will also include locally sourced meals and a networking dinner and panel on Friday night to connect buyers and growers throughout the state.

Different options for conference tickets are available for those wanting to attend in person or virtually. Discounts are available for members of the Wyoming Food Coalition – joining the nonprofit is free. Scholarships are also available to make sure anyone who wants to attend the conference can do so.

Hannah Habermann is the rural and tribal reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She has a degree in Environmental Studies and Non-Fiction Writing from Middlebury College and was the co-creator of the podcast Yonder Lies: Unpacking the Myths of Jackson Hole. Hannah also received the Pattie Layser Greater Yellowstone Creative Writing & Journalism Fellowship from the Wyoming Arts Council in 2021 and has taught backpacking and climbing courses throughout the West.

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