October 10, 2016

By Casey Adams
This story was originally published in the September/October issue of
Wind River Magazine by the Riverton Ranger.

“Food is the most direct and obvious connection to a place,” says Andy Eckhart, Wind River Farm to Plate board president.

The flavor of Wyoming’s Wind River Country is increasingly locally grown and raised foods—and though we do beef really well, it’s not all steaks and burgers.

From the mushroom and raspberry farms in Shoshoni to the meat processors of Dubois and Hudson, from the pumpkin patch outside Riverton to the small farms and homemade sauerkraut of Lander, from the mini-dairies to the goat dairies, Wind River Country has extensive and forward-thinking flavor.

“The farmers’ markets have a lot more abundance and a lot more diversity than one might think you’d have up here in the high lonesome of Wyoming,” said Steve Doyle, co-founder of Fremont Local Foods, adding 42 vendors have been attending Riverton’s markets this summer. In fact, because of the Wyoming Food Freedom Act, Wyoming is one of few states in which you can buy raw milk and fresh cheese made with that raw milk directly from producers.

“That’s very special,” said Doyle. “For rural America, I can tell you, we are well above average. Riverton and Lander attract people from around the state. Aside from the rock climbing, [the attraction is] the local food thing that we are building here.”

Riverton and Lander hold their farmers’ markets twice weekly well into the fall, sometimes even with live music by resident bands. Dubois hosts a weekly market, and a roving market moves throughout the Wind River Indian Reservation.

“Okra, artichokes, bok choi often surprise shoppers … Wyoming is famous for superior honey,” said Sherry Shelley of Fremont Local Foods. “Most important, shopping at a farmers’ market gives travelers an opportunity to meet Wyoming farmers and Wyoming people and get an idea about our local culture.”

Taste Indian tacos, Dutch-oven meals and native berries; take home homemade pickles, relishes, jams and syrups, Shelley recommends.

Photos by Cathy Cline
Photos by Cathy Cline

You can often find some of these same foods and souvenirs in Wind River Country’s grocery stores. Both Mr. D’s and the Wind River Mercantile in Lander and Riverton, respectively, sell local produce, honey and jams.

“Mr. D’s makes extreme efforts to support local producers as much as possible,” noted Rose Burke, event coordinator for the Lander Chamber of Commerce.

Or, you can go directly to the source. A handful of farms welcome visits from locals and travelers alike, including Raspberry deLight Farms between Shoshoni and Riverton, SonHarvest Seasons’ pumpkin patch near Riverton and Doyle Family Farms of Riverton.

Photo by Casey Adams
Photo by Casey Adams

If you prefer your “high, lonesome Wyoming” foods be prepared and served to you, the list of restaurants that meet those interests is ever growing. Lander’s Gannet Grill is renowned for its local burgers, and Cowfish restaurant next door features local produce and even uses locally grown hops in some of their beers, while The Bake Shop across the street uses produce from Lander’s Spear S Produce Company and others. Just down the street, The Middle Fork serves breakfast and lunch with a seasonally dictated and locally inspired menu, complete with hand-cured meats and Farmer Fred’s homemade sauerkraut. In Riverton, you’ll find the Trailhead and Le Complements serving up Wind River Country foods. Even Fremont County schools serve beef through a partnership with the local 4-H groups.

“I think that there’s that overall connection to the area and it’s more of almost a spiritual, energetic connection. If we as a community are more connected to this place, then anybody coming through—in any interactions—it will come through,” explained Eckhart.

Thanks to these farmers’ markets, the many restaurants that support local producers, the grocery and gift stores that sell local foods, and the Wyoming Food Freedom Act, it’s easy and exciting to get your taste of the West.

Posted in Notes From the Field