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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Welcome to the 4th Annual Healthy Lunchtime Challenge!

Do you have a child between the ages of 8-12? Can you imagine his or her recipe being featured in a cookbook? Or the two of you representing your home state at a Kids’ “State Dinner” at the White House this summer?

If so, First Lady Michelle Obama, WGBH Boston, the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture invite you and your child to enter the 4th annual Healthy Lunchtime Challenge & Kids’ “State Dinner.”

In order to be eligible, lunch recipe submissions need to be created by a child between the ages of 8-12 and should follow the MyPlate nutrition guidelines: Fruits and vegetables should make up about half of the recipe or dish, and it should also include whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy. Submissions must include information about how and why they were created and be:

One recipe from each of the 50 states and territories will be chosen. And, the prize is priceless! As healthy food ambassadors for each state and U.S. territory, the winning chefs and a parent or guardian will be flown to Washington D.C. where they will have the opportunity to attend the Kids’ “State Dinner,” hosted by Mrs. Obama at the White House!

A parent or legal guardian is required to fill out the entry form on his or her child’s behalf.

Good luck. We can’t wait to see (and taste) what kids across the country cook up!

Contest, March 31st to April 30th, 2015. Winners, Announced June 2015. White House Kids’ State Dinner, July 2015

Hungry for more University-community partnership seeks healthy food for all

Spring/Summer 2014 | By Meghan Lepisto

livable cities food accessThe majority of food consumed in American cities is transported from at least 1,500 miles away.

And yet, in urban areas like Detroit, more than half of the population is out of reach of fresh food, shopping for meals at the corner liquor store or convenience mart.

As you digest such numbers, it quickly becomes clear: in meeting the nation’s food needs, our performance is wanting, with implications for nutrition and health, community stability, and local economies.

An interdisciplinary team of UW-Madison scientists is working toward solutions, supported by a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They’ve teamed with UW-Extension, the nonprofit organization Growing Power, Wayne State University, Michael Fields Agricultural Institute and a range of community-based organizations to study ways to boost the availability and consumption of healthy food in urban communities.
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National Program Continues to Increase Local Foods in Schools and Provide New Economic Opportunities for Farmers and Ranchers

March 16, 2015

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the release of a request for applications for the USDA’s Fiscal Year 2016 round of Farm to School grants. Designed to increase the availability of local foods in eligible schools, these grants help new farm to school programs get started or expand existing efforts, facilitating stronger connections between local and regional producers and school cafeterias.

“When schools buy food from nearby producers, their purchasing power helps create local jobs and economic benefits, particularly in rural agricultural communities,” Vilsack said. “These Farm to School grants will help schools respond to the growing demand for local foods and increase market opportunities for many types of food producers.”

Four different kinds of grants are available. Planning grants are for schools or school districts just getting started on farm to school activities; they’re designed to help them organize and structure their efforts for maximum impact by incorporating best practices into early planning considerations. Implementation grants are available for schools or school districts seeking to augment or expand existing farm to school efforts. Support service grants are intended for non-profit entities, Indian tribal organizations, state and local agencies, and agriculture producers or groups of producers to evolve farm to school initiatives.

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Local Food Co-op Awards Nearly $15,000 in Micro-loans

March 18, 2015

ASHLAND, WI – Four local farms will receive micro-loans totaling close to $15,000 from the Chequamegon Food Co-op to help with farm-related projects this spring. The Co-op’s micro-loan program began in 2008 as a way for the cooperative grocery store to invest its profits in the local food system and to potentially provide more local foods for the Co-op’s shelves. These small, no interest loans are capped at $5,000 and have a 3-year payback period. Micro-loan recipients were as follows:

  • Owner Gilbert Schwartz of Seasonally Sourced in Ashland, Wis. will purchase foraging gear, storage containers, and processing equipment.
  • Owners Rob Hartman and Ashley Smith of Twisting Twig Farm in Bayfield, Wis. will upgrade their photovoltaic system and purchase a back-up generator.
  • Owners Kelsey and Todd Rothe of River Road Farm in Marengo, Wis. will construct a walk-in-cooler inside their barn.
  • Owner Theresa Depies of Springbrook Dairy in Springbrook, Wis. will improve the cheese curds and quark cheese packaging.

Of the nearly $15,000 awarded in this loan cycle, $10,800 came from the Co-op’s CHIP for Change program. CHIP for Change is a contribution program where money given by customers at the Co-op’s registers helps fund the micro-loan program.

Chequamegon Food Co-op offers micro-loans in the spring and fall. The next micro-loan application deadline is Tuesday, September 1, 2015. To learn more about the micro-loan program, please contact Harold Vanselow, general manager, at (715) 682-8251 or

The Chequamegon Food Co-operative is a member-owned natural foods store that specializes in local products within 100 miles of Ashland, Wisconsin.

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.”

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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.