The Wisconsin Local Food Network


Thank you for visiting the Wisconsin Local Food Network’s (WLFN) website.

The WLFN is a collection of individuals and organizations (hopefully you) that all share a common vision for Wisconsin: a state that offers communities and businesses a local food system that supports sustainable farms of all sizes, a strong infrastructure for those farms and supporting food business to thrive, and affordable access to healthy locally grown food for ALL Wisconsin residents. If you support this vision and are working toward such a Wisconsin – then you are a part of the Wisconsin Local Food Network.

You may be wondering, “But what does the WLFN do?” And it would be a great question.

In the fewest words possible: We help local food businesses (whether a farm, a processor, a distributor, a restaurant, a farmers market, or a grocery store) thrive!

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UW Report: Demand For Organic Produce, Meat Is Outstripping Supply In Wisconsin

Report Also Finds That Organic Market Is Increasingly Dominated By Younger Farmers

Tuesday, March 3, 2015, 10:40pm
By Maureen McCollum

A University of Wisconsin-Madison report says that the demand for organic produce and meat is outpacing the supply in Wisconsin.

It also says that organic farming continues to attract younger and newer farmers in the state, even as the average conventional farmer in Wisconsin continues to grow older.

Wisconsin is home to the second highest number of organic farms in the country. Although some producers are leading the way in organic dairy, beef, and certain vegetables, they can’t keep up with the demand from consumers. Organic grain, processed vegetables, and soybeans are still imported into Wisconsin.

UW-Madison plant pathology assistant professor Dr. Erin Silva coauthored the Organic Agriculture in Wisconsin 2015 Status Report. She says consumers will continue wanting more and more organic products.

“With the demand still strong, we don’t foresee a potential erosion of the organic premium. The projections do continue to see demand increasing over the next five years or so,” she said.

Silva said there’s plenty of room for new and transitioning farmers to jump into the organic market, where she says younger farmers are heavily represented. On Wisconsin’s conventional farms, 17 percent of producers are under the age of 45. On the state’s organic farms, nearly a third of them are.

Silva coauthored said the trend started several years ago.

“We certainly hope that with the interest of new farmers and a younger population in organic farming that that helps maintain and continues to support the overall agricultural economy,” said Silva.

The report shows that newer farmers are also more likely to be running organic farms than conventional ones.

National Survey on Cover Crops Seeks Farmer Participation

Farmers are invited to share their thoughts on cover crops – whether or not they use cover crops themselves – in a national survey, now in its third year of collecting valuable data on the increasingly popular management practice. The results, which will be released this summer, will help growers, researchers, agricultural advisors, ag retailers and policymakers more effectively address questions about cover crops and learn about best practices.

Farmers, take the online survey now.

Farmers who complete the questionnaire are eligible for a drawing for one of two $100 Visa gift cards. All answers are anonymous; respondents will be directed to another website at the end of the survey to enter the $100 Visa gift card drawing.

The survey is being conducted by the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) and is sponsored by USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) and Corn+Soybean Digest.

All farmers are invited to complete the survey, says Chad Watts, project manager for CTIC.

“It doesn’t matter if you’ve planted cover crops for 40 years or if you’ve never worked with them before,” he notes. “We want to hear from farmers with all levels of interest and experience. It’s just as important to understand what might be preventing a farmer from planting cover crops as it is to understand why another grower is so excited.”

Read more….

Local foods can boost economy

Posted: Tuesday, February 17, 2015 7:00 am

Frank Zufall, staff reporter, Sawyer County Reporter

Ariga Grigoryan, community, natural resources and economic development agent for University of Wisconsin (UW)-Extension, told the Sawyer County Economic Development and UW-Extension Committee on Monday, Feb. 9, that growing and selling local foods is one way to stimulate the local economy.

Grigoryan discussed the potential impact of local foods while reviewing the details of a $100,000 federal grant she is pursuing to expand the local farmers market.

“The purpose of the grant is to increase domestic consumption,” she said, “and access to locally produced regional agriculture products. This encourages local farmers to produce more and local products (to be) consumed locally.”

The federal grant, she said, targets areas called “food deserts” — lower income areas where consumers travel from one to 10 miles for food. That definition would include most of Sawyer County.

“We are hoping to expand our vendors at the farmers market or have startup farms,” she said. For locally produced foods, she said, consumers are willing to spend more, and that encourages producers to raise more. The key issue for buyers and providers to meet is “access,” or a market to sell the food.

“This is part of creative economy,” she said about selling local foods. “It can boost local food (production) by 15-20 percent.”

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LAST day to sign up for the FREE Wisconsin Rapids local foods tour

Today (Friday 23rd) is the last day to sign up for the FREE Wisconsin Rapids local foods tour, which will take place on Thursday Jan 29th from 1-4pm returning in time for the FREE local cheese reception sponsored by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board back at Hotel Mead from 4:30 – 6:30 Thursday evening.

Please register at:

And thanks to the UW-Extension Community Food Systems Team ( for sponsoring this event and covering all the costs!

Students create Campus Food Map and Sustainable Dining Guide

January 16, 2015, Madison

A new Campus Food Map and Sustainable Dining Guide is now available online, created by a student team as part of the Environmental Studies 600 capstone course Consumer-Driven Sustainability.

Environmental studies students Danielle Caputo, Jen Tirella and Russell Wagner created the interactive map with the goal of helping the UW-Madison campus community make more sustainable food choices. The map includes reviews of all campus eateries and their sustainable dining options.

“Our hope is to educate our community about the variety of sustainable dining options available on campus,” the students write on the Campus Food Map website. “We found it imperative to investigate our campus’ dining options and create something that can connect students to their food choices.”

The student team visited each eatery on campus and gathered information about each location’s sustainable food options, then translated their findings into a user-friendly, familiar map interface that makes information about menu items and food sustainability more accessible. Masrudy Omri, a recent geography alumnus, designed the mapping platform.

The UW-Madison Office of Sustainability supported the class with a Sustainability Innovation in Research and Education (SIRE) Educational Innovation grant and is also hosting the online map on their website.

Holly Gibbs, an assistant professor of geography and environmental studies, and Nelson Institute graduate student Tyler Lark led the course in the spring semester of 2014. View other student projects from the capstone course.

Local Food Network Connects Farmers to Consumers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                   

CONTACT:  Jane Hansen

Diahann Lohr

Local Food Network Connects Farmers to Consumers

by Diahann Lohr

When nurseryman Adrian Lee wanted to donate 150 fruit trees, for the cost of grafting materials, to a school, food pantry or some other public entity, he sent word out via the Wisconsin Local Food Network (WLFN). He immediately received an overwhelming response.

“We at the Wisconsin Local Food Network like to think of ourselves as connectors,” says Jane Hansen, coordinator for the WLFN since 2007. “Our organization cares deeply about local food system development and we’re working to connect those who produce this food with those who consume it. I was pleased to see Adrian’s offer received a large response.”

The WLFN describes itself as a collection of people from around the state that cares about sustainable, equitable and resilient food. Originally its membership consisted primarily of farmers and government agency staff who serve them, but now it has grown to include chefs, food service directors, farm market managers, hospital administrators, educators, sustainability organizations and more.

WLFN’s primary role is communication. It provides industry news via its listserv and website, and since 2007 has hosted the Annual Wisconsin Local Food Summit, an educational and networking event that draws hundreds of farmers, distributers, consumers and advocates from throughout the state.

“More and more people want to eat locally grown food—food that’s been allowed to reach its full ripeness and therefore its full nutritional value,” says Hansen. “When we become more involved with local food, it raises our awareness and at the same time nourishes our bodies. Wisconsin has a wealth of this food, yet getting it from farm to table isn’t always easy.”

Members of WLFN are continuously researching ways to make local food accessible to a diverse population, from urban areas where farmers have a better chance of selling their produce, to rural areas where there are not only fewer consumers but also fewer specialty farmers. They’re also working to increase availability to local food in spite of Wisconsin’s short growing season.

“Farm stands, markets or CSAs used to be the only way farmers could sell their produce,” says Hansen. “Now we have distributor organizations such as the Wisconsin Food Hub and Fifth Season Cooperative that help farmers get their food into stores, schools and hospitals all around the state. We’re also connecting farmers with licensed commercial kitchens, such as the Farm Market Kitchen in Algoma and Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen in Mineral Point, where they can create value-added products to expand the life of their crop. These kitchens allow farmers to test the waters before investing a lot of money.”

Currently exploring 501(c)(3) non-profit status, WLFN is funded solely by grants and solicited funds. Hansen is the organization’s only paid employee and its elected board of directors are all volunteers.

“Of course, funding tops our list of challenges,” says Hansen. “Everything we do is determined by our limited resources.”

Hansen suggests that people interested in local food check out WLFN’s website at and from there join the listserv.

“And come to the 9th Annual Wisconsin Local Food Summit!” encourages Hansen. “It’s January 30-31 in Wisconsin Rapids. It’s the best place to discover a wealth of knowledge and gather face to face with people excited about local food.”


Diahann Lohr is a local food advocate who writes and designs from Watertown, Wis.

In the Field: Wisconsin uses Collective Impact to build sustainable food systems

Wisconsin Local Food Network uses CI to build sustainable, equitable, and resilient food systems. The WLFN is a collection of individuals and organizations that all share a common vision for Wisconsin: a state that offers communities and businesses a local food system that supports sustainable farms of all sizes, a strong infrastructure for those farms and supporting food business to thrive, and affordable access to healthy locally grown food for all Wisconsin residents.

Request for Nominations for Voting Members on the Food Advisory Committee

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USDA); Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition; Office of Regulations, Policy, and Social Sciences

Notice seeking nominations to serve on the Food Advisory Committee, which provides advice on emerging food safety, food science, nutrition, and other food-related health issues that FDA considers of primary importance for its food and cosmetics programs.

Submit nominations by January 30, 2015, to

Federal Register

Karen Strambler, 240/402-2589. Email:

Let’s Fix FSMA For Good the Second Time Around!

WLFN FSMA Pic RESIZEWLFN has just released it’s latest Policy blog on the current comment period for the re-proposed rules of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

This blog post will direct you to all the resources you need to effectively comment and effect change on FSMA — comment period closes December 15th so act now!

Many of us remember that around this time last year the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was in the process of trying to finalize a myriad of rules relating to food safety under the auspices of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which became law in 2011. This represented the first time since 1938 that significant food safety reform had been undertaken in the United States.

The charge of overhauling food safety in the United States is a herculean task and one that will have significant ramifications for producers and processors in the future. This is why it is imperative that FSMA be implemented and enforced correctly with an eye towards achieving equitable results for all producers, especially small and mid-size producers who will bear the brunt of the burden with the rules as they are currently written.

The first go around of the Food Safety Modernization Act was rife with vagaries, redundancies, and inconsistencies. Two rules in particular – The Produce Rule and the Preventive Controls Rule – put an inequitable burden on small and mid-sized farms, particularly diversified operations, threatening to handicap present and future progress in developing local food systems and use of organic and other sustainable agriculture approaches. So many regulations in the first iteration of FSMA were unpalatable to the public that almost 22,000 individuals and organizations submitted feedback to the FDA – many, like the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), were laudably noted for their grassroots campaigns educating the masses on the deleterious effects those complicated regulations could potentially have on small farms.

Because of this feedback, the FDA went back to the drawing board and re-drafted these regulations. This is the current situation we all find ourselves in and once again it is time to take action. Some adverse provisions of the two rules were revised or removed completely, illustrating that the FDA listened and responded to some of the concerns of commenters. However, too many of those adverse provisions remain such as definitions of farms vs. facilities that would require many small farms to be regulated out of proportion to their operation’s food safety risk, costly water testing criteria that are not rooted in science, other costly regulatory burdens on the modest profits of small farmers, and lack of clarity about impractical impositions on small processers and farmers’ markets to name a few. If you’re interested, you can read more on what’s been fixed and what is still detrimental to small farms and local food systems in this National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition article on top FSMA fixes and fails.

NSAC staff has been hard at work pouring over the re-proposed Produce Rule and Preventive Controls Rule and has launched a one-stop website with information, resources, and sample comments to get you everything you need to fix FSMA once and for all. After this comment period, the agency will read over the comments and begin publishing final rules later this year.

It’s not hard to comment and the deadline for submitting comments to the FDA is December 15th

Learn more, comment today, and #FixFSMA!

Spread the word and visit to stand up for healthy farms and healthy food!

The post can also be found on WLFN’s ‘Policy, Outreach, and Education‘ page.