Thursday, December 3, 2009

Local Food Event at Open Book Cafe

December 3rd, seven panelists representing a variety of perspectives on local food systems came together at an event organized by Lara Peschke at College Library.

Panelist Larry Johnson manages the Dane County Farmer's Market, which is held in winter at Monona Terrace and the Madison Senior Center. The market, one among 12-15 others in the immediate areas, provides space for local vendors to promote their products and connect with the community.

Erin Schneider of Hilltop Community Farm described some of her roles as farmer, ecopreneur, and land manager. Hilltop provides CSA boxes to May-October, providing consumers with a way to be partners in the peaks and valleys of the growing season. Schneider also works with MACSAC and the Wisconsin Local Food network.

Rosa Kozeb of FH King Students for Sustainable Agriculture talked about their two acre farm at Eagle Heights. They also run a small, 20-share CSA for the Eagle Heights Community.

Maria Davis of REAP Food Group mentioned REAP's farm-to-school, farm fresh atlas, and Food for Festival initiatives. Davis manages REAP's "Buy Fresh, Buy Local" program, which consults with restaurants to change menus to more local foods.

Lynn Olson, Director of Cooperative services at Willy Street Cooperative, discussed the Coop's services to their 17,000 owner-members. The Coop contracts with farmers early in the growing season for their product. They sponsor the East Side Farmers' Market, which is moving to the Wil Mar Community Center.

Tory Miller of Cafe Soleil and L'Etoile became chef in 2003 and bought the restaurant in 2005. The restaurant works with 212 vendors. Miller works with MMSD on bringing local food to the schools and teaches at Sherman Middle School and Shabazz.

Tony Renger owns Willow Creek Farm with his wife. Willow Creek, recognized for humane practices for raising pork, sells to L'Etoile and Willy Street. They will open their Charcuterie in Prairie Du Sac, which will do all of own processing.

The panelists were asked about the Farm to School Program. Miller went to the school board with a group to find out how to make a change. Anne Cooper, who has led local food initiatives in school districts including Berkeley and Boulder, will come to Madison in Jaruary to do a feasibility study.

The panelists also discussed the issue of producing food in the wintertime. Johnson talked about growing in hoop houses, which are unheated greenhouses, which is one way of trying to produce food year-round in this area. The Dane County Farmers' market has 160-170 vendors in summer, 50-70 at Monona Terrace, and 25 in their Senior Center location. They host a full local product breakfast each Saturday and many volunteers help in the kitchen as a way to connect with growers and chefs. Others promote year-round growing as well: FH King will have a cold-frame demonstration and the garden in courtyard of Sherman MS has a cold frame.

Thanks to Lara Peschke and all the panelists for putting on this event! If would like to host an event or book discussion, contact

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