Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Torrington conference gives boost to locally-based ag economies

Sheridan's Sam Western writes for The Economist, WyoFile and an assortment of other publications on issues important to Wyoming and the high and dry West. His latest piece for WyoFile is about agriculture. Sam's not an aggie, and neither am I, but we both know that corporate large-scale ag has proven destructive to the High Plains. Not only on the landscape but on the human culture.

The "localvore" movement may have a partial solution. A recent ag summit was held in Torrington. The local Table Mountain Winery participated, as did Meadow Maid Farms out of Yoder which offers an increasingly popular CSA program.

But Sam's article tells it better in today's Wyofile story:

"Wyoming agriculture is beginning to plant new seeds, and poor counties, known for monoculture, lead the way," reports WyoFile correspondent Sam Western. Sam found himself very pleasantly surprised in late summer when a conference in Torrington featured delicious meals from local producers. He went on to examine what the local food movement, and what new ventures in agriculture might mean to the traditionally agricultural, and poor, counties in southeast Wyoming. As a small supplement to the economic changes that recent oil industry interest in the Niobrara formation may bring, that is.

The problem in modern agriculture, declared Torrington conference speaker Joel Salatin, "is creating holistic, complementary systems to create salaries for the next generation. The average age of the American farmer is 60 years old. Farmers hit retirement age and then give it to the kids. That’s too late. The time to pick up that youthful enthusiasm is when they are 16-18 years old. We need to build enough income into farms to hire ourselves and our children and next generation."

Some of these topics will be discussed at a state-sponsored conference on AgriFuture, starting tomorrow, Oct. 13, in Evanston. And meanwhile the legislature may be weighing in on issues regarding sales of home-made food from local products: a bill to exempt such sales from safety regulation got a committee endorsement in Buffalo earlier this month, despite serious objections from food safety experts.

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