Started in 2010 as a pilot project in southeast Wyoming, WyoFresh (wyofresh.com) found its legs as an online food co-op in 2012. The co-op enables producers to bring farm-fresh products raised or made in Wyoming to families throughout its vast marketing territory of 11,345 square miles – no easy feat given the distances and limited growing opportunities involved. And if that vast territory is not enough, WyoFresh is now at work on expanding into central Wyoming.
This type of online market provides producers with significantly more markets without added travel expense (a tremendous benefit given the distances involved), and gives consumers the chance to purchase more locally produced foods, which can be challenging in a state with a short growing season and a relative absence of fruit and vegetable production. Consumer pick-up locations are in southeast Wyoming, western Nebraska, and northern Colorado.
WyoFresh producers are committed to selling quality, locally-made items. Each producer is required to sign a standards agreement that assures member producers may only sell products they themselves have grown or processed. No member can buy wholesale from any other source and sell that item through WyoFresh with the exception of when they are buying ingredients for value-added or processed foods.
Value must be added by the producer. Simply repackaging ingredients from another source is not adding value. For example, producers can sell tomatoes that they grow, but not tomatoes grown by another producer. They can, however, buy tomatoes from another producer to make salsa in a certified kitchen to sell through the co-op. Another example is that member producers can’t buy an animal from another to butcher and sell through the co-op as though it was their own product. All of this is to assure customers they are shopping through a cooperative that values integrity.
The territory is vast, the markets relatively few and far between, the producers scattered about – yet the WyoFresh online food co-op’s future, while not guaranteed, looks promising thanks to the determination of its member producers to be creative in expanding their markets and selling the virtues of local.