Ag woman strives to provide quality food
Laramie – Since BJ Bender was a little girl, she knew she wanted to be involved in the agriculture industry. By the age of 11, BJ raised all kinds of livestock – from rabbits to beef cattle. In 2012, she relocated to Wyoming to attend the University of Wyoming. Today, she continues to have a passion for providing local, ethical food good for its consumers, the environment and the community through her business Taste of the Wind.
BJ notes she had dietary issues and was constantly frustrated and in pain every time she ate. She decided to take matters into her own hands and make a difference in the ag community and industry.
Her business raises a combination of Mangalitsa and Berkshire hogs, Icelandic sheep, Red Ranger broilers and laying hens, in addition to working with two local cattle producers for beef products.
“We’ve had an upward trajectory since we started roughly four to five years ago,” she shares. “Now, we are at about 20 hogs a year, 20 lambs, roughly 30 head of beef and 150 meat chickens.”
BJ and her husband Christopher raise pastured pork, grass-fed lambs and pastured chickens for consumption and work with the Balzan Family in Wheatland, and the Rardin family in Laramie to source their grass finished beef.
“My long-time focus has been on high-quality food, multi-species regenerative agriculture and in keeping supply chains local,” shares BJ. “I think the most sustainable way to consume food is by sourcing it from local farms and ranches and small family businesses – there’s not a whole lot available as far as lamb, pork and chicken in this area, so that’s what we decided to produce – to fill this gap and provide high-quality products raised in a way we can stand behind.”
According to Taste of the Wind’s website, their goal is to produce healthy and tasty food, eliminate local waste and hunger, and improve the environment with an ethical and transparent process. Their goal is to not make it a solely profit-based operation, but to keep team members and customers happy and healthy.
Food waste and
In addition to providing quality, nutritious food products with great taste, Taste of the Wind also focuses on reducing food waste in the community to create better tasting and healthier products, and to prevent the waste from entering into the local landfill.
Currently, the business collects an average of 1,500 pounds of food waste every week. They collect different waste from 12 waste streams: two local restaurants – The Trading Post and Albany Lodge; three local grocery stores; one local bread-supply chain; Bonds Brewing Company; one organic food research facility; the Laramie Soup Kitchen; and Laramie Interfaith.
“We work with our local soup kitchen to provide food products for families in need, and we help them achieve grants for their programs because they are minimizing their waste by giving us any products no longer fit for human consumption that have not come into contact with meat,” says BJ. “They give us produce, bread and dairy – we can use these products to feed our animals.”
“We seek out local food production companies which have a decent amount of food waste not suitable for human consumption and recycle it using our animals,” she adds.
“We also do a lot of collaboration with other producers because we have a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share we run year-round – a CSA share is a way to invest in our farm and as a thank you for investing, our customers get a monthly share of what the farm is producing,” she explains. “We put together monthly boxes with meat, eggs and milk, and we work with other local producers to source products we don’t produce ourselves. We do all of the order fulfillment, customer service and marketing.”
She notes she is always talking to other producers because there are a lot of people trying to do similar things and it’s great when they can work together.
Women in ag
Being a woman in ag has been empowering for BJ, she notes. She gets excited when she can network with other women in agriculture.
“Women have always been foundational in agriculture because being in the home and being the most intimate with what the family is eating is the foundation of agriculture,” BJ explains. “If we don’t have good people cooking good meals to nourish our families, we wouldn’t have agriculture – women really have been the basis of agriculture for a really long time.”
“Even though women may not have been seen as the face of agriculture because part of their main responsibility was their family, women in Wyoming really have been the foundation of ag,” she notes.
“There have always been women involved in many different aspects of agriculture in Wyoming and I’m glad more are getting involved. It’s awesome to work with women in this field because they understand the varied spectrum of why agriculture is important, from that family-home-base, to operations out in the field. As women, we have different assets and strengths that we can contribute to the industry,” she says.
Producers interested in collaborating or communicating with BJ and Taste of the Wind can visit tasteofthewind.com, e-mail email@example.com or reach out via Facebook and Instagram @TasteoftheWind307.
Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.