Last winter, a group of farmers, educators and economic development professionals gathered on the Casper College campus to discuss what it would take to develop a self-sustaining food network in Wyoming and begin to solve food security issues that have long plagued small communities around the state.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Wyoming — one of the few states in the country without a food council at the time — saw food insecurity rates in the double digits and, despite its agrarian reputation, offered few opportunities for farmers to either reach new markets or even begin selling their wares.
“We need more producers; we need to get people interested in this,” said Adam Bunker, a member of the coalition’s executive committee and proprietor of Papa Joe’s Produce, a Sheridan-based greenhouse. “But we also need to provide programs that help support people who are starting out small, so that they can get their foot in the door and they can get established and then start to grow from there.”
“We’re not looking to help the person who has, you know, $3 million to go buy a new ranch and start a new operation,” he added. “There are a lot of programs out there for people who are looking to do that. We want to help the people who are genuinely interested in starting a small backyard garden and starting to take produce to their market, or the person who wants to just start a greenhouse and become a medium-sized producer. That’s what we’re really looking to work with. And we think that by working with those people, we can have the biggest impact on food availability in Wyoming.”