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Food fair backs the local market
Kathleen O'Leary of Shoshoni demonstrated her mobile poultry processor to attendees of Saturday's Food Fair with the use of toy chickens. Photos by Wayne Nicholls

Food fair backs the local market

Mar 13, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

Organizers of Saturday's 2012 Local Food Fair at Central Wyoming College said the event was a success with more than 300 attendees browsing the products of roughly 30 vendors.

"Our stated goal is to re-establish the local food market," said Jack Schmidt.

He, Sherry Shelley and Steve Doyle organized the fair and formed the Fremont Local Foods collective to pair producers with consumers.

"The average item in your grocery store ... travels an average of 1,500 miles to get here," Schmidt said. "We're trying to make it so where people who want to buy local have a way to do it."

Among the vendors in attendance were meat producers, bakers, an environmentally-friendly chocolate-maker from Meeteetse, a potato grower and farmers with fresh produce from Lander.

"The lady from Lander had fresh spinach, bok choy, baby turnips. It was amazing in March to have fresh greens," Schmidt said. "There were a lot of relationships made for down the road when produce starts to come, these people will know. The big thing to know is to put a face on the food."

Schmidt said the event attracted the attention of a county grocer and education officials interested in incorporating more locally produced food into meal programs.

"We want to emphasize there were several school districts there looking for ways to get locally produced foods into the school lunch program," Schmidt said.

Although unconventional in today's society, producing local food used to be a way of life, he said.

"Local equates to fresh, and fresh equates to several things," he said. "Higher nutritional value, taste is a big thing, there is a lot more taste."

Having a local food source is vital if outside producers can't reach the area because of closed roads or other obstacles, Schmidt said.

"Food security is a big deal," he said. "Getting a local supply is real critical to food security."

Lower costs also help in promoting locally produced food.

For example, the potato grower at the fair sold his goods for "a third cheaper than the box store down the road," Schmidt said. "Since we don't have the fuel costs on there and the marketing costs and the middle-man costs, it's very competitive."

For those who did not make it to CWC for the fair, fear not.

"Fremont Local Foods is going on to the next step, which is forming a producer association to help them market locally grown foods," Schmidt said. "We will be looking at doing the winter farmers market. Now we think there is a market for the out-of-season farmers market."

The group has also created the website www.fremontlocalfoods.org. He said those looking for local food can use the website to view a list of area producers.

"Food is the most important thing for people, and they realize it now, and they want to source locally if they can," Schmidt said. "This was a test to see the depth, to see if it was worth pursuing, and we're very invigorated by it. It's amazing what's produced in the Wind River Basin."

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Central Wyoming College