News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
Nov 18, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer
Locals raise their own Thanksgiving food; market set Wednesday
Dozens of Fremont County families are planning to include local food in their Thanksgiving meals this Thursday, beginning with the all-important turkey that traditionally serves as the main course.
DeeAnn Doyle of Riverton said she raised her own turkey for the first time last year, purchasing four of the birds from a hatchery and housing them in a coop with her chickens. This year, though, she ordered 14 turkeys and raised them free-range on her Bryant Road property.
"They're pretty much almost like pets, because wherever we are outside the turkeys are," Doyle said. "They're so cool."
The birds do require some management, however. Doyle recalled several turkey roundups in her neighborhood this summer, but she recommends the experience nonetheless.
"Our goal here is to be self-sufficient," Doyle said, adding that she and her husband Steve also plan to grow most of their own produce. "So far we're able to raise all of our meat."
They have turkeys, lambs, chickens, and beef and milk cows. The Doyles are in the process of building a greenhouse on their property.
"It's all possible," Doyle said. "My husband and I will sit down to a meal and count what things we've grown. ... We have two daughters, and they start rolling their eyes, but someday when they have kids they'll see how important it is to do this on their own."
Farmers market for Thanksgiving
People who have not prepared for a local Thanksgiving meal will be able to find Fremont County ingredients for sale at the first farmers market of the winter, which is scheduled for 4-6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 21, at the Fraternal Order of Eagles hall, 404 E. Fremont Ave. Organizer Sherry Shelley said she wanted the first market event of the season to occur in time for the November feast day.
"We're doing this one particularly so people can take advantage of really wonderful, fresh-baked goods for their holiday meals," Shelley said.
Breads, cakes, pies, cookies and homemade candies will be available along with fresh produce like beets, carrots, squash and herbs.
"We'll have eggs and frozen, grass-fed ground beef and lamb cuts," Shelley said. "And we're giving away a free, locally raised turkey (through) a drawing."
'Local' gains favor
Shelley said she has noticed that more people throughout the country have begun to prefer eating locally grown food in recent years.
"They really are interested in knowing where their food comes from -- actually who raised it and under what conditions," she said. "Sometimes people come at it from a healthy, no-chemicals standpoint, sometimes they come from the humane treatment of animals angle, but everybody is really aware that our big commercial food supply has had some serious breakdowns."
She talked about outbreaks of E. coli and salmonella that are uncommon in foods that come from area growers.
"When people get food locally they're much more comfortable with how it's been raised and taken care of," Shelley said, adding that the Fremont County producers she knows are "meticulous" when it comes to sanitation. "They want people to be safe and healthy -- that's their future market."
Katie Swistowicz of Lander became one of those local producers this year when she decided to raise turkeys to help pay back school loans. She said she thought of the idea last spring at a local food fair Shelley organized at Central Wyoming College.
Doyle was there, too, asking people if they were interested in any of her turkeys, and Swistowicz said another county resident had brought along a recently purchased mobile processing trailer that was available for rent.
"I'd been thinking about doing turkeys and chickens for a while, but once I saw I had a means to slaughter them without having to buy the equipment myself, my wheels started turning and I thought I could really pull it off," Swistowicz said.
She applied for a start-up loan from the Wind River Development Fund in Fort Washakie and used the money to buy more than 30 birds and other supplies.
After setting up her website, gobbleitup.biz, Swistowicz said the orders started coming in.
"All my small hens under 15 pounds are spoken for," she said this week. "I only have the 15- to 20-pound range left, or the 25-pound big boys."
Her customers pay a $50 deposit to reserve their turkeys, with the balance due at pick-up the day before Thanksgiving. Swistowicz said the birds were slaughtered Saturday, then stored in a walk-in cooler in Riverton until Wednesday.
"Everyone has been really positive," she said of her first-time buyers, some of whom appreciated the chance to avoid the "big industrial food complex companies."
"This is one way to kind of take a step back and be more in charge of what you're eating."