Western SARE From the Field Profile
Successful Launching of Wyoming Reservation Farmers Market
Because of high obesity and diabetes rates and a lack of locally-grown foods on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Washakie, Wyoming, Justine Russell launched her PDP-funded project with the goal of increasing awareness of the potential for a farmers market on the Reservation. In less than two years, she and her partners accomplished so much more than increasing awareness. The farmers market has been established and funds found to support it for the next five years.
Since the project Wind River Indian Reservation Farmers Market Preparations began in 2010, a Wind River Reservation Farmers Market was held weekly during the summers at three locations. Each market day had an average of eight to ten vendors. Wide varieties of products were sold, including locally grown fruits and vegetables, jams and jellies, baked goods and Native American crafts. In addition to vendor booths, the Extension office also set up a table where free samples and recipes of snacks made from the market’s produce were handed out to encourage community members to think of creative ways to use the products that they were buying, such as making salsa, coleslaw and grilled zucchini slices. Community participation grew over time, and both vendors and customers returned weekly. The market increased awareness on the importance of eating local produce to promote a healthy lifestyle and more vibrant economy.
Farmers must travel long distances on the Reservation to distribute their goods, impacting healthy lifestyles and the consumption of local foods. The Reservation itself is around two million acres, and most communities are at least a thirty to forty minute drive to larger urban centers and community farmers markets. Russell supposed that a Reservation market could increase farmer profitability, and therefore sustainability of farm operations on the Wind River Reservation by providing a nearby market source. Her hope was that the presence of a local farmers market would provide an incentive for farmers to produce nutritious food to be sold in the market and for community members to purchase such food.
The objective of increasing farmer profitability has begun to be realized. Three area farmers, two craft vendors and two baked goods vendors have reported successfully supplementing their incomes with farmers market sales.
In an effort to increase awareness of the market and to encourage greater community participation, two workshops related to gardening, horticulture, food preservation, farmers market sales and healthy eating were offered to the public through the Extension office in collaboration with the University of Wyoming Cent$ible Nutrition Program and the UW Nutrition & Food Safety Initiative Team. Both workshops reached a total of 27 people.
To ensure long-term stability of the market, a farmers market committee was formed from local Reservation communities at the beginning of the project. Four out of the five committee members were able to participate in a farmers market manager training in March 2010 with Western SARE funds. This training gave the advisory group and the Extension office crucial information on how to develop and support a successful market. Four farmers market committee members became certified farmers market managers through the Wyoming Farmers Market Conference, which has enabled them to better manage the farmers market, and two farmers market managers were hired for the 2011 market season.
Russell leveraged the PDP funds by securing a “Food Sovereignty” grant from the Blue Mountain Associates, Inc., a local non-profit health education program, which will provide funding for the farmers market for the next five years. There has also been more discussion recently related to local foods on the Reservation, especially in the schools. The Wyoming Department of Education recently held an educational conference that had a strong focus on local food production and consumption in schools. The farmers market was reference several times during the conference as a good example of what can be accomplished with local foods in Wyoming.
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