At a city council meeting tonight in Laramie, a nonprofit group will request a lease on 115 acres of city-owned land to grow food for the hungry.
Albany County has some of the highest rates of food insecurity in the state, according to University of Wyoming Public Health Professor Christine Porter.
“Unfortunately, as many as one in eight children nationally are hungry and the proportion in Albany County is a bit worse,” she says. “Largely because students are generally poor and can struggle to have enough to eat, especially if they have families. Yeah, our food insecurity rates in Albany County are worse than many other parts of the state.”
The group seeking the Laramie lease is called 'Feeding Laramie Valley' and Porter has partnered with them in the past to study the health benefits of gardening. The nonprofit currently grows food in people’s yards and on small plots and donates the crops to soup kitchens and other charitable organizations, but it wants to expand production.
“How cool would it be to essentially incubate small business out there. And growing food or growing flowers or growing really small livestock?” she says. “And also to teach people to grow their own food so we can become more self-reliant. And also so Feeding Laramie Valley could grow food to share with the community as they do now, but they could do it at a much larger scale with that kind of land access.”
Porter says, the group is proposing to lease about one percent of the 11,817 acre ranch, which has been used for grazing livestock since the 1980's. The city owns the property to protect the municipal water supply. If the city approves the lease, Porter says the project could become a model nationally for how to use public lands for small-scale food production.