By Mark DeLap
WYOMING – The Wyoming Food Coalition hosted its second annual conference Dec. 10-11 via a Zoom format and had record numbers of participants and contributors for the two day event.
The conference which has been in the works for the past few months has been organized by the Wyoming Food Coalition which has gained great ground since last year at this time, now becoming a recognized nonprofit organization and also soon to have their 501 ©3.
The Wyoming Food Coalition is a grassroots effort to unite, enable and empower the small and medium range AG producers in Wyoming is in its infancy stages but has picked up a lot of steam with the inclusion of two AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers.
It is called the ‘Wyoming Food Coalition: WY Food Matters,’ and has a vision to help establish “sustainable local food economies in Wyoming that are diverse, thriving an equitable.”
Clayton Jons who works for the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture office in Wheatland said that working groups were formed within the corporation that include: Vibrant Farms and Thriving Local Economies, Strong Communities, Healthy People, Sustainable Ecosystems, Infrastructure-Distribution-Promotion, Fairness & Justice and Policy Strategic Communications & Outreach.
The coalition mission is to strengthen local food systems by connecting stakeholders and simplifying their voices so that Wyoming producers, eaters and environments thrive.
“I felt we had a very successful conference with some great discussion and some goals and projects to work on for 2021,” said LeRoy Jons of the Wyoming Food Coalition. “The planning committee will be putting together some notes from the conference this coming week and Adam (Bunker) will be working with folks to put together a conference summery. Emily (Fender) will be getting numbers which I will share but I think on Thursday we had over 50 throughout the day and even today with the breakout sessions there was 30 or more in the two groups I set in on. The soil health session and the nutrition/food security session were both well attended. IT was a great successful conference.”
The agenda for Dec. 10 included topics such as the Wyoming Food Freedom Act, meat packing and processing, infrastructure, soil health initiative and food security/nutrition policy. Dec. 11 featured a WFFA policy workshop, a healthy soils workshop, a meat workshop and a nutrition/food security workshop.
The conference was free to the public and there were question and answer sessions for those wanting to participate.
Adam Bunker who is the president of the board for the food coalition is also a producer and helped to overseeing the conference this week.
“I am a producer up in Sheridan County,” Bunker said. “My father-in-law and I have a couple of greenhouses that we grow lettuce all year around hydroponically. We do about 600 heads of lettuce per week. We also do some other leafy greens and herbs in there.”
Bunker is excited as to the progress the Wyoming Food Coalition has made in the past year and says that the conference was not only put forth to make the coalition more visible, but in each area, there is going to be an assessment as to what more is needed in each area for the coming year to make the organization more effective.
The organization held the conference in a Zoom format and had more than twice what was seen as far as participation in last year’s conference. The ease of not traveling and being able to access from their homes has made organizers wonder if this should be the format going forward.
“I was amazed by the turnout as well as by the enthusiasm and engagement of the participants,” said Mike Selmer from Wyoming Climate Activists. “Given how most of us have been on Zoom for what seems like eight months straight, this was a surprisingly enjoyable experience. A lot of very important work was accomplished in terms of organizing to advance a variety of initiatives. I believe both the Sustainable Ecosystems working group and the WFC overall gained a good number of new, active members. The Soil Health Initiative workshop attracted about 30 people and will provide a good springboard for moving this effort forward in 2021.”
One of the most visited sessions was dealing with the Wyoming Food Freedom Act. Panelists, Tyler Lindholm, Justin Latham, and Stephanie Styvar clarified the existing policies and answering participants questions.
Wyoming Food Freedom Act In 2015, the Wyoming Legislature passed HB0056, creating the Wyoming Food Freedom Act, W.S. 11-49-101 through 11-49-103, which became effective March 3, 2015, amended July 1, 2017. The general purpose of the Wyoming Food Freedom Act(WFFA) is to allow for the sale and consumption of homemade foods. 1. Q. Where can the producer sell their food? A. A sale may take place at farmers markets, ranches, farms and producers’ homes. Sales may not occur within commercial food establishments as defined in W.S. 35-7-110(a)(xxxi).2. Q. What is an “informed end consumer?” A. An “informed end consumer” is a person who is the last to purchase any product, who does not resell the product, and who has been informed that the product is not licensed, regulated, or inspected.3. Q. What is a “farmers market?” A. A “farmers market” is a common facility or area where several vendors may gather on a regular, recurring basis to sell a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, locally grown farm products and other items directly to consumers.4. Q. Are farmers markets subject to inspection for compliance with federal, state or local food safety regulations? A. Yes.5. Q. Is one vendor a farmers market? A. No.6. Q. Are roadside stands allowed under the Food Freedom Act? A. The Food Freedom Act does not specifically prohibit roadside stands.7.Q. What is “homemade” food? A. “Homemade” means food is food that is prepared or processed in a private home kitchen that is not licensed, inspected or regulated. 8. Q. What types of homemade foods may be sold under the WFFA?A. Produce and home-processed foods that are processed without meat or wild game. Except as provided by the act. 9. Q. Can poultry and poultry products be sold under this act? A. Yes, so long as poultry producers maintain compliance with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Poultry Products Inspection Act. A producer must slaughter less than 1,000 poultry during a calendar year; not engage in buying or selling poultry products other than those produced from poultry of his own raising; and only sell such poultry and poultry products within the State of Wyoming. The poultry is not adulterated or misbranded.
To get more information on the conference, please email the coalition at: [email protected] and you can also follow them at Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for conference updates: @wyfoodcoalition