Saturday, December 05, 2009

Locavore and localart and even localit

I did my Christmas shopping in Chugwater.

Actually, Chugwater came to Cheyenne in the form of Sage Hill Fiber Arts and Baker Farms On-Farm Bakery. They were just two of the vendors at the Winter Farmers Market at the Historic Depot in downtown Cheyenne.

My first purchase was a loaf of homemade rye bread from Baker Farms. The farm grows winter red wheat up on the bluffs east of Chugwater, about 40 miles north of Cheyenne on I-25. Some of their crop is organic, which goes into their breads and pastries. I tried a sample of their Granola pie, which is a flat granola bar the siez of a monster cookie. Very tasty. Then I tasted their onion bread. Finally settled on a big round loaf of the rye.

The couple that owns Baker Farms (sorry -- didn't get their first names) said that the wheat crop got hammered with hail over the summer. But they did harvest some, and made some bread which I took home and had a few slices until my daughter and her friends came home and ate their way through the groceries like a locust swarm. They were gone almost as quickly as they had arrived.

The bread was good while it lasted. And I have a standing invitation to go up to Chugwater and take a ride on one of the two Baker Farms' combines which, the couple said, "are really old." Who can pass up a ride on an historic combine? They could tell I was a city boy. They don't have a web site yet, but you can e-mail them for more info at

I bought a Christmas present for a loved one who shall remain nameless at the Sage Hill Fiber Arts booth. Carol Eckhardt, shepherd and spinner and fiction writer (two of her books were for sale next to the fiber arts), and her daughter run the company. Carol weaves beautiful scarves and hats and shawls from the wool of her own sheep. Most of her items are natural colors instead of dyes, the whites and tans and browns and blacks courtesy of sheep like Ebony. Carol wove Ebony's wool into a multiple-patterned bed jacket. I knew that my wife Chris would love this particular item as she sat up and read in bed or watched "The Office" on a frigid night in which she reminded me that she required such an item to get her through the winter.

However, the item was a bit pricey for my budget. Although I could see it on a future shopping list.

Therein lies the difficulty with "buying locally." We are used to paying bargain basement prices at retailers. Often we are buying goods made far from home. China or the Dominican Republic, for instance. These goods are cheaply made and they travel long distances before they're stocked on the Wal-Mart shelves. Prices dictate longevity. Your scarf made by cut-rate labor in China may survive one winter. But probably not.

I don't have enough time or energy or knowledge to talk here about the politics of shopping. But when you buy locally, you support your neighbors. When you buy at Wal-Mart, you support Wal-Mart.

But it is difficult for most of us to afford $100 scarves and $75 baskets. Our money goes elsewhere: mortgage payments, utility bills, car payments, food for the little ones and, yes, shopping for necessities at big-box stores. Our society is now structured around low prices. Since all our other costs are going up, we have less to spend for sturdy, handmade items.

I spent several hours prowling the indoor market. Linda Behrens of Cheyenne makes beautiful baskets from willows. As we spoke, she was weaving Christmas ornaments. Her baskets are remarkable. She has to work with the willow when it's green so it's malleable. This is especially important because she leaves the bark on. E-mail Linda at

I have to keep in mind that the artists and artisans in this building today spend many hours on each artifact. There were many craft fairs going on around Cheyenne on this December Saturday. The YMCA hosted one, as did Alta Vista and Miller Schools, among many others. It shows the importance of handmade arts and foods.

Meadow Maid Foods in Yoder, owned by Mike and Cindy Ridenhour, offers grass-fed beef, homemade jerky, vegetables and flowers, and vegetable CSA shares. Other farms in the vicinity that offer CSA shares are Wolf Moon Farms in Ft. Collins, Colo., and Grant Farms in Wellington, Colo. Sara Burlingame, one-time owner of Sara's Breads, now is the Cheyenne contact for Wolf Moon Farms CSA drop-offs. You can get more info about signing up for the 2010 growing season by e-mailing Karen at

WindHarvest Farms in located in Morrill, Nebraska, about 11 miles east of Torrington and about 90 miles from Cheyenne. Diane and Jeff Edwards run the farm. Jeff is also works in the agricultural extension office for Goshen County, Wyo. Not only does he advise Wyoming farmers and harvest his own organic veggies. He's also received a grant to run workshops on building high tunnels for year-round growing in high wide and lonesome Wyoming.

Jeff says that these workshops will take place over the next couple years. He'll build a high tunnel on someone's property, providing hands-on experience for those who sign up. That means getting your hands dirty putting up the 16-feet-by-32-feet structures. Some are already up and providing shelter to tomatoes and berries around southeastern Wyoming and western Nebraska. Jee says that interest in high tunnels is booming.

I could have spent my entire Christmas budget at the market. I gathered info and will save up for later. I did drop by the Rock, Paper Scissors Gallery down the street from the Depot. The gallery offers working space for local artists and exhibits work of artists from the region. Potter Paulette Rasmussen was minding the store. I persued the works on exhibit, and pledged to come back. I bought Chris a hippo etching by Abby Paytoe Gbayee at the gallery when it opened during the summer. More to come...

1 comment:

Bri said...

I love this post! I am practically obsessed with buying food locally! Two wonderful books on the subject are Barbara Kingsolver's book "Animal Vegetable Miracle" and Michael Pollan's "Omnivore's Dilemma". A great way to find local food is at

Local products are always wonderful too and I was pleasantly shocked by how many artists showed up for the NicFest ( in Casper this year. Linda Behrens was there and I am now the proud owner of one of her baskets.

If you look for it there are some amazingly talented people across the state. It is becoming more and more possible to truly keep it local in Wyoming!