agriculture

Feeding Laramie Valley

For the second year in a row, the Higher Ground Fair is set to celebrate the Rocky Mountain region’s unique lifestyle. Organizer Gayle Woodsum said this year’s events will be even bigger than last year’s with music and dance on three stages both days of the fair, including the Patti Fiasco, Whiskey Slaps, The Hazel Miller Band, and J Shogren Shanghai’d.

There will also be more than 70 vendors and presentations, including one by the Black American West Museum about African American history in the West.

courtesy of Randy Haas

A summer hike up to a 13,000-foot alpine meadow can be exhilarating. But what if you decided to stay up there for the rest of your life? The lack of oxygen, frigid temperatures, and sparse vegetation would make it tough. Archaeologists know hunter-gatherers traversed highland areas thousands of years ago, but presumed they also had to spend time in lowland areas in order to survive.

That idea is now being challenged by a team of researchers at the University of Wyoming who have made a rare discovery.

Bright Agrotech; https://pixabay.com/en/vertical-farm-green-wall-bok-choy-916337/

Seven years after getting its start in a storage unit in Laramie, the company Bright Agrotech is merging with a San Francisco firm.

Bright’s founders developed a technology that allows people to grow food vertically, on indoor towers or exterior walls. Their hydroponic systems nourish plants using nutrient solutions instead of soil. They provide education and equipment to farmers around the world who are interested in this kind of production.

Melodie Edwards

The Wyoming legislature passed two bills this session to expand the Food Freedom Act. The act was first passed in 2015 to allow local food producers to more easily sell otherwise home grown foods, like raw milk and poultry, directly to consumers.

The act is a unique piece of legislation in the U.S., and Sundance Representative Tyler Lindholm said many states have started to model bills after it.

Photo by Hannah Dunn

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.

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The Cheyenne City Council has been debating a proposed ordinance that would allow those living in certain residential zones in Cheyenne to raise chickens in their backyard. Right now, it is illegal to so do.

What has come to be known as the “chicken ordinance” would allow up to five chickens in a backyard within certain residential zones in Cheyenne. This week the ordinance was tweaked during second reading discussion.

YouTube

Sugar beet farmers in Wyoming are celebrating another record-breaking increase in production. In 2015, 13% more sugar beets were harvested in Wyoming for a total of 940,000 tons. It’s the seventh year in the last eight to break records. That’s according to Wyoming State Statistician Rhonda Brandt who says Wyoming has been growing sugar beets to process into sugar since at least the early 1900’s, but in the last decade, conditions have improved for farmers.

It isn’t easy for farmers in Wyoming’s arid climate to make a healthy profit on their crops, but at a conference next week in Cheyenne, farmers can learn how organic methods could help their bottom line.

University of Wyoming soil science professor Jay Norton is one of the organizers. He says the conference will offer a full schedule of talks focused on irrigated and dryland food production, among other topics.

North Dakotans Reel From Low Oil And Ag Prices

Feb 5, 2016
EMILY GUERIN / INSIDE ENERGY

On the surface, North Dakota doesn’t seem like a state full of risk-takers. It’s conservative, faith and family-oriented. Yet many people here are constantly making big bets on how much money they’re going to make next year, or whether they’re going to have a job in a  few months.

Stereogab / Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0

Harvest data is rolling in from around the state, and so far, it appears to have been a bountiful year. A wet summer and dry September were especially helpful for beans, corn and livestock pastures in Wyoming, according to Rhonda Brandt with the National Agriculture Statistics Service.

Wyoming business Bright AgroTech will be in full bloom at the Milan World Fair this year—literally.

One whole wall of the American exhibit will showcase the company’s vertical gardening design. Long tubes with plants growing out of them move wave-like along the length of the wall. CEO Nate Storey says he convinced the American’s architect James Biber to use his design with the argument that the future of agriculture is in vertical farming.

Storey says the theme of this year’s World Fair is “energy and food.”

A conference in Torrington on Wednesday will explore the economic benefits of organic farming in arid climates like Wyoming and Nebraska.

Speakers at the conference will offer advice on a wide range of subjects including how to get certified as an organic farm, composting and growing potatoes for organic starch. Event organizer and soil fertility specialist Jay Norton says the event is not meant to stir debate of the merits of organic versus conventional farming. 

Wikimedia Commons

The Wyoming Farm Bureau is looking to the January legislative session as an entry-point to address issues surrounding trespassing, liability, and transportation.

Dan Brecht

Wyoming farmer’s markets aren’t just good for community spirit--they’re also making the state money. That’s according to a new survey by the Wyoming Business Council. 

Agribusiness Manager Cindy Garretson-Weibel says the number of farmers markets has been increasing for several years with 49 now in Wyoming. Weibel says some of them are held twice a week, adding up to significant income.

Courtesy Sheridan College

Sheridan College announced Tuesday that it has received the largest gift in the history of the school—a $25.3 million commitment from educational foundation Whitney Benefits.

The college says $16 million of the donation will be used to renovate and expand the fine and performing arts wing of Sheridan’s Whitney Academic Center. The funds will also help improve parking and renovate the Technical Education Center.

Whitney Benefits President Tom Kinnison says the updates at Sheridan College are much-needed and have been on the school’s to-do list for decades.

Jacdupree via Flickr Creative Commons

Sheridan College has received a $4 million dollar donation to help build a new agriculture center on campus.

The donation, announced Friday, is from longtime benefactor Forrest Mars, Jr. of Big Horn. The new center will cost $8 million, and $2.7 million has already been allocated by the state.

College President Paul Young says the 15,000-sqaure foot building will bring a much-needed impact to the school’s agriculture programs.

ncrsresearch.blogspot.com

In the next half century, scientists are predicting more extreme weather for Wyoming with bigger winter storms and hotter, dryer summers.  That’s according to the latest National Climate Assessment out this month. Wyoming’s farmers and ranchers are skeptical about climate change, but some of them have been forced to adjust their methods of production. 

The Wyoming Beef Council is launching an online campaign in an effort to improve beef’s image with the millennial generation.  That’s anyone born between 1980 and the early 2000’s.  The campaign will feature recipes on social media sites popular with millennials. 

Russell Harrison

Wyatt and Bridger Feuz and Hudson Hill didn’t plan to write about trees when they visited an abandoned arbor in Cheyenne, but that’s just what happened. The Horticultural field station hadn’t pruned any of its trees since the 1950s, and the educators were surprised to see many thriving. So they wrote “Scrappy Trees: Raw and Exposed.”

University of Wyoming researchers have found that Wyoming sugar beet producers would stand to lose about 12 percent of profits if they were no longer able to grow genetically modified beets.

Agricultural economics research scientist Brian Lee was the primary investigator for the study.

“There’s research out there that suggests that Roundup Ready Sugar Beets can produce anywhere from five to 15 percent higher yields than conventional beets. So, we kind of used that as a basis for our analysis and changed that to a dollar figure.”

Sen. Enzi answers questions on immigration reform

May 10, 2013

US Senator from Wyoming, Mike Enzi, addressed his constituents online about their concerns over immigration reform. In a video chat he releases bi-monthly, Enzi says that for Wyoming, guest worker programs are important, because ranchers rely on them for workers like sheep herders. He says that for him, the immigration reform bill that the Senate will soon consider needs to have a true E-verify component -- a program that lets employers check their employees’ eligibility to work in the United States.

As the average male farmer or rancher gets older and retires, many women are taking over.  

To support women who are taking on the new management roles, the University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension is offering a series of classes under the Annie’s Project program.

Organizer Cole Ehmke says the class is meant to answer participants’ questions, and to help them establish connections with presenters and their peers, other women in agriculture.

University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension is working to educate ag producers about how to set up their own Community Supported Agriculture operations, or CSAs.

The farm bill that has been in place for the last five years will be extended at least another nine months as part of a last minute provision under congress’s fiscal cliff package. Instead of a new five-year bill, certain aspects of the old bill will continue until September, like direct subsidies and the food assistance program, SNAP. The extension also offers assistance, including retroactively to last September, for certain programs many Wyomingites hold dear.

The Wyoming Business Council found that farmers markets contributed more than a million dollars to Wyoming’s economy last year.

The Business Council’s Cindy Garretson-Weibel says that includes direct sales from the markets, plus additional money people spend in communities when attending farmers markets.

She says farmers markets give producers marketing opportunities, and that meeting consumers face-to-face can be good for business.

Rebecca Martinez

A researcher at the University of Wyoming predicts that the state has a bright future in the sheep industry.

Assistant Professor Brenda Alexander says demand for lamb and wool declined for decades as tastes in the U.S. changed, and sheep numbers dropped with them. But growing ethnic populations and newfound popularity of wool blends have caused an up-tick in the U.S. sheep industry.

“Wyoming is really geared to be a part of that, because in Wyoming we don’t have a lot of producers, but our producers have the most number of sheep than any other place in the nation.”