Why not savor Wisconsin’s bounty?
As consumers become more aware of the perils of excessively processed food, they are looking for food grown closer to home.
There are many reasons to buy locally grown food. Produce shipped across the country loses some of its nutrient value en route. Buying from nearby farmers keeps more of your money circulating in the local economy. Whole foods are better for your health than “industrial food.”
Author Michael Pollan defines industrial food as any food whose origin is so complex or obscure that it requires expert help to ascertain. Labels on industrial food have long lists of mysterious ingredients. It is food that goes through a lot of machines before it reaches your plate.
Wisconsin is blessed with an abundance of vegetable growers and farmers who want to put the food directly on your plate. In my Senate district, there are farmers’ markets in Beloit, Janesville, Whitewater and Fort Atkinson on Saturdays, and in Edgerton on Thursdays.
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) promotes products that are locally raised, grown and made.
The SavorWisconsin.com Web site helps consumers locate farmers’ markets, restaurants, food cooperatives and specialty stores. People not only in Wisconsin but across the world can search by product name such as eggs, cranberries, buffalo meat and smoked trout.
Enter the words “sweet corn,” and you get 25 farms within a 25-mile radius of Janesville offering fresh, homegrown sweet corn.
Enter “cheese,” and nine cheese retailers within 25 miles of Whitewater are displayed. Enter “pumpkin,” and up pops 11 pumpkin patches within 25 miles of Beloit.
The site serves retailers, as well. Anyone with a locally grown product can add a listing and update it at any time.
The Something Special from Wisconsin seal is another way our state promotes its homegrown goods. The logo means at least 50 percent of the product’s ingredients, production, or processing is from Wisconsin. Like SavorWisconsin, sellers of products can enroll to become members.
“A Traveler’s Guide to America’s Dairyland” is a colorful foldout map showing cheese plants and retail shops around the state. The map lists contact information, store hours and cheese tours. To order a map, go to www.eatwisconsincheese.com.
Finally, the DATCP administers the Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin grant program to reward initiatives that increase the purchase of Wisconsin-grown or Wisconsin-produced foods. Individuals, groups, businesses and organizations involved in agriculture, agri-tourism, food retailing, processing, distribution or warehousing can apply for a grant. The deadline for the current grant cycle is Monday, Sept. 21.
With Wisconsin’s growing season in full swing, now is a great time to stock up on fresh, homegrown produce. Enjoy.
Sen. Judy Robson, D-Beloit, represents most of Rock County and the Whitewater area in the state Senate. She can be reached at 1-800-334-1468 or by e-mail at Sen.Robson@legis.wi.gov.