When people think of Wyoming, they conjure scenes of cowboys, cattle and the open range. Most of that “open range” is a semi-arid, high altitude landscape. The people that live here, all 577,737 of us (Wyoming is the least populous and second most sparsely populated state), need affordable, nutritious food: fruits, vegetables and meat. And, some Wyoming folks want to produce that food for their local markets. They report challenges with climate, inability to access arable land, and a lack of business skills. This aligns with the findings of the State of Wyoming’s 20-year strategic initiative, ENDOW (Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming): ag economic growth is challenged by the lack of skilled workforce and value-added ag businesses.
The farmers and ranchers of Wyoming are aided by the State of Wyoming’s 2015 Food Freedom Act that allows direct-to-consumer sales of locally grown and value-added foods without inspection nor licensure. But, the 2017 USDA Ag Census reported that only 5% of Wyoming farms participated in direct-to-consumer sales. According to the 50-State Food System Scorecard, Wyoming ranks lowest among US states in food investments that support regional food systems, and 43rd for farm investments. This is unfortunate. For resilient communities, both for sustenance and economics, we must bolster our local food economy.
Capacity Building within local food system support organizations and agencies.
Aggregation and Distribution Infrastructure, e.g. cold storage and co-packing.
Producer Education, e.g. market opportunities & value-added food products.
Land Access for beginning farmers & ranchers.
Local Food Promotion, i.e. state-wide action guide and campaign.