Farmers and gardeners will gather in Cheyenne this weekend for a new local food gathering called the Farm to Market Conference, where they will learn how to grow, sell, and process their produce.
Wyoming Department of Agriculture grants manager Ted Craig is helping organize the event. In recent years, he has noticed increasing demand, but also increasing options for selling local food in Wyoming. Craig gives credit to the widespread use of hoop houses, which help producers push the season into the early winter.
“If you go back 15 years ago there were maybe 12 farmer's markets around the state. Now there's 50,” Craig said. “So there's been a lot more interest. You now see things at markets longer, because of season extension techniques like the hoop houses. You're seeing a wider variety of stuff being grown. And people are wanting to be able to know where their food is coming from.”
The event is geared toward producers of specialty crops like fruits, vegetables, tree nuts and flowers. Attendees will learn strategies for making the most of Wyoming’s growing season. Some presenters will focus on preserving foods and meeting health regulations.
Last year, Wyoming’s Food Freedom Act made it easier to sell homemade and home-grown products like milk, eggs, or condiments. Conference organizer Ted Craig says that the workshops can help people launch a business, or give them the training they need to legally market their products on a larger scale. One course in particular will help certify people to expand their sales of acidified goods – or, foods that have been pickled.
“What that does is that if somebody wants to go, say, from being a cottage industry person, to selling wholesale, to selling across state lines, by taking that course they've now satisfied what USDA requires of them,” Craig said.
Conference attendees will also learn how to build their own hoop houses, save seeds, and advertise their products.