(Riverton, WY) If you’ve taken a stroll downtown, you might have been one of the many who have stood outside peering through the windows, waiting for the opening of the Fremont Local Market…and if you’re one of the many who have enjoyed the Riverton Wednesday Farmers’ Markets, patrons will be excited to know that the store’s Grand Opening is slated for Saturday, October 1.
“The Farmers Market is a wonderful event for farmers to get to know customers, to make those connections,” said Sherry Shelley, one of the founders of Fremont County Foods, “but it’s not a convenient way to sell food. You eat every day, but you get together only once a week when the weather’s okay.”
The popular Wednesday Farmer’s Market began in 2012, starting out with 22 garden, food and handicraft vendors, and expanded through the years with a variety of projects–partnering with local restaurants for an annual food tasting event that featured guest speakers and presented unusual foods and hors d’oeuvres, participated in the Garden Expo in Lander, hosted a film series and other events at the Riverton Library and CWC, and offered an after-school cooking program for kids. They also had a mobile chicken processing unit, so that local chicken farmers could learn how to process their chickens for free.
With all of these things happening, Steve Doyle of Doyle Farms said it was the Wyoming Food Freedom Act that was the catalyst that spurred their group into becoming a non-profit organization, Fremont Local Foods, LLC, and that it “gives us a lot of leeway,” he said.
“We’re not the first brick-and-mortar farmers’ market in the state,” Doyle continued. “Big Hollow (Laramie) has been running theirs for 18 years as a co-op, which is a whole different structure. Sheridan and Green River also have brick and mortar stores.”
The Wyoming Food Freedom Act (WFFA), under the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, went into effect on March 3, 2015 and was amended July 1, 2017, allowing for the sale and consumption of homemade foods.
“Our model is about building the local food economy,” Doyle said. “The idea here–the goal here–is to make it more convenient, both for the grower and the consumer. So we’ll be open for 40 hours per week, not just for two, and the Wyoming Food Freedom Act gives us the ability to use a trusted agent and store manager. The big thing about this is that the farmer does not have to sit around and watch his produce. We have a Marketing Manager that can do that, then the farmer or the baker can go back to work. That’s a huge deal.”
“It’s a big time commitment to load up everything up from the farm for the markets,” Shelley added. “Sometimes it’s heavy stuff, at then at the end of the market, you have to break it all down and haul it away. Just for two hours.”
“Then you get erratic weather–one of those deluges of wind coming out at 40-50 miles an hour–and then suddenly everyone’s gone,” Doyle said.
Finding an affordable location and renovations were a couple of the challenges. “One of the things we have is support–a handful of us, middle-sized producers are really behind this project, said Marketing Manager Jessica Lee Fritz. “Having to find a space that would work, that we could afford…finding things at a discount. We had the help and the volunteers to put it all together.”
Fritz is in charge of the Grand Opening event in “reaching out to people and getting as many producers together and getting products on the store shelves,” she said. “No matter how much product we have, there will be fun things for everybody to do for the [opening] day.”
Fritz said that besides locally grown fresh vegetables and various types of meat (beef, lamb, bison, goat, chicken, duck, and even yak meat), the store would also be selling dairy products, fresh baked goods, food or kitchen-related items such as seasonings, sauces, hot sauces, pickles, jams and jellies, as well as local artisan handcrafted items such as soaps, lotions, candles, and other household products.
“We’re looking for all local producers that want to be in on this venture,” Fritz continued. “We have a few that are just now wanting to start their business. Our goal is to stay as close to home as possible, 100% local. We might extend out, but right now, all of the people that we have for sure are in Fremont County.”
The Grand Opening of Fremont County Foods is on Saturday, October 1 from 10 a.m to 6 p.m. located at 524 East Main Street in Riverton. More information can be found on their Facebook page. If you are interested in being a vendor, e-mail: [email protected]