GREEN RIVER— The Wild Sage Market Co-Op, a grassroots effort to bring a health-focused grocery store to Green River, is not only setting their focus on a market, but is putting a plan into motion to bring a community garden to Sweetwater County.
Making a Deeper Connection with Food
Green River native, Jen Edelmayer, was brought onto the Wild Sage Market board to help bring a community garden to fruition. In college, Edelmayer worked at New Frontiers Natural Market where she learned a lot about food and sustainable living.
“What I learned there was more influential than all the college courses I attended,” Edelmayer said. “I learned that we are all connected to food, to the soil, to each other.”
Fifteen years later, Edelmayer has carried her lessons from working at that market with her throughout her life. She has been searching for land to homestead for about five years and has even been teaching her children about growing their own food.
“It really started with my kids. I wanted to teach them about growing their own food, and as a result I got really into horticulture and alternative growing methods,” Edelmayer said.
A Backyard Garden Creates Opportunities for Community Growth
Torn over whether she needed to leave the place she loves to be able to grow food, she researched and found that Wyoming is actually a place people can garden, despite the colder climate.
“During my research, I decided to make the most of my time here in Sweetwater County and practice what I was learning on a small scale in our backyard,” she said. “My children were very interested and we started a garden.”
One year after starting her backyard garden, Edelmayer’s yoga student and Wild Sage Market board member, Stacey Dolinar, invited Edelmayer to a Wild Sage Market meeting to help lead the community garden effort.
“I was so incredibly excited to hear about what they were doing and I jumped in heart first,” Edelmayer said.
Initially joining to help with the Wild Sage Gardens, Edelmayer’s experience with working at a natural foods market has allowed her to contribute to the Wild Sage Market project as well.
About the Wild Sage Gardens
The gardens will be located on private property on the West edge of Green River, on land in which Edelmayer grew up on.
“My parents own the land and they saw how important this is to me, so they agreed to use it for the Gardens,” she said.
The land is ideal because it is right off the interstate, so it has potential to attract tourists and add to Green River’s aesthetic appeal. It is also located right by the river, so untreated water is readily available.
“Since the river water is not treated with chemicals, that will make a huge difference with contamination rates,” Edelmayer said.
The Wild Sage Market Co-op hopes to expand to other locations around Green River as the interest and networking grows.
The Gardens serve as a foundation for the market. Not only will it allow the community to grow foods that can be sold at the market, but it will also increase awareness and educate the community on the purpose of the market.
The Wild Sage Market mission is to empower and educate people by supplying them with local, regional, sustainable, and organic products and food options. The Gardens will aid in spreading this mission, and help to create a health conscious mindset amongst the community.
Gardens Will Educate the Community
“A big part of the Gardens is to educate,” Edelmayer said. “We will be implementing several types of sustainable growing methods, hosting workshops, and creating a network, while also having a traditional community garden set up.”
The Gardens will be a 50/50 hybrid, with half of it being used for a traditional community garden, and half of it being used for workshops.
The community will be able to rent plots to grow their own food, but there will also be areas used for teaching the community about specific growing methods. Workshops to teach people how to grow without chemicals will be offered, as chemicals will be forbidden from the Gardens.
“I have people here, locally, as well as people willing to travel from surrounding states to teach those different growing methods,” Edelmayer said.
Edelmayer has about eight people locally, across the state, as well as from neighboring states, who have committed to helping with the Gardens. Some of the people are master gardeners at the University of Wyoming, while others serve on city boards, and others are business owners.
Inspiring the Future Farmers
Edelmayer also foresees school trips to the Gardens, lessons for girl scouts, and more.
“The average farmer is 62-years-old, so I want to inspire the next generation of farmers. We have an opportunity for massive innovation in how and where food is grown and how food makes it to our plates,” Edelmayer said.
Since the gardens will have workshops and will be educational, anyone in the community can come to the gardens, whether they have any gardening experience or not.
“The Gardens are a really neat way to get different groups of people and different generations together,” she said. “I’ve already looked at raised beds for wheelchairs, so they’ll be accessible to everyone.”
Increasing Awareness with an On-Location Sign
Since the market will not have a building until the co-op gets 600 to 800 members (the market has aobut 81 members currently), the Gardens will be crucial in setting a foundation for the market and increasing awareness.
A Wild Sage Markets and Gardens sign has been designed and built, and will be placed on the same plot of land the Gardens will be located. The sign will be visible from I-80, allowing visibility to travelers and tourists.
“It’s an on-premise sign to familiarize the community and tourists with the market and gardens,” Edelmayer said.
The Compost Crusaders
In addition to the sign, the Wild Sage board members are also organizing committees and are looking for community members to help bring the garden to fruition.
“We have started from the soil up, and our first efforts is the Compost Crusader group,” Edelmayer said.
The Compost Crusaders are a group of community members who have started to build a compost pile. The next step will be beautification, which will come when the snow clears.
“This summer, we will be doing dirt work starting with wild flowers and cover crops. We’ll set up irrigation and we’ll be looking for partners, donations, and involvement,” Edelmayer said.
She said they will come up with clever ways to get rid of weeds, including having goats graze the property. The perimeter will be surrounded in wildflowers, which are also good pollinators.
“The rest will come with the people,” Edelmayer said. “We might start on the raised beds, or maybe, if we’re having a tough time coming up with people, we’ll focus on what they want to get going.”
Seeking More Information
Edelmayer will be going to Milwaukee later this month for a co-op conference, in which she will seek out people from communities who have implemented community gardens.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to come back with more and better ideas,” she said.