In Summertime, Local Food Choices Abound
High summer has arrived, and the outpouring of fresh, locally-grown produce and food products is nearing its peak. Whether it’s a farmers’ market, a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program, roadside produce stands or the growing number of supermarkets that feature locally raised and produced food products, it’s easier than ever to find great things to eat that come from close to home.
Thanks to the growth of the trend toward eating local, we all get to enjoy fresher, healthier, better tasting food. We also know more about how that food was raised and produced, and it didn’t have to travel as far to get to us. And the buy local movement has created all kinds of new markets for farmers, who can now deal directly with consumers, local retailers, or institutional food services like school lunch programs.
As the author of the Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin program, I’ve been a big advocate of the local food movement for a long time. A great guide for locavores in this part of the state is the 2015 Farm Fresh Atlas of Central Wisconsin: A Year-Round Local Food Guide, published by Central Rivers Farmshed. It contains up-to-date listings for 150 sources of fresh local food and food products, including CSAs and other local farms, restaurants that specialize in farm-to-table cuisine, community gardens, and 38 farmers’ markets from Sparta in the west to Amherst in the east.
The Atlas also contains other useful information, including the seasonal availability of 43 fruits, vegetables, and herbs, a calendar of events and workshops throughout the region, and contact information for organizations that support and promote local food producers. It’s the second year that Farmshed has published the Atlas, and it’s fast becoming the go-to reference for anyone in our area looking for great local food sources.
To be included in the Atlas, farms must be family or cooperatively owned, use sustainable farming practices, and provide safe and fair working conditions for their workers. Organizations and businesses likewise are family owned, cooperatives, or non-profit organizations, and pledge to promote a sustainable regional food system and to protect and sustain the region’s land and water resources.
The Atlas is just one part of the mission of Farmshed, a non-profit organization based out of The Greenhouse Project, a comprehensive revitalization of the former Sorenson’s Garden Center in downtown Stevens Point. Farmshed takes a holistic approach to expanding the connection between local consumers and food producers, addressing all aspects of the food system. The organization helps farmers and producers grow and market their products, teaches consumers how to prepare them, and brings them all together to build the local food economy.
The Atlas is available for free at The Greenhouse Project, local libraries, and area businesses that support the local food economy. I also proudly display it in my office in the State Capitol. If you’d like to distribute the Atlas, learn how your farm or business can be listed in next year’s edition, or support the project, email Farmshed at email@example.com or call (715) 544-6154. Atlases are also available for other regions of Wisconsin; you can learn about them at www.farmfreshatlas.org.