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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Borrow, Save, Share: 3 Ways Seeds Can Democratize Our Food System

Just six companies control 63 percent of the commercial seed market. But seed libraries offer us an opportunity to reclaim the seed commons and create our own community food systems.


Our food system is broken and needs to be fixed, many say. But it isn’t broken. In fact, I think it’s working exactly how it was intended. The current food system, and the legal rules that govern it, have been built by and for only the largest producers, retailers, and manufacturers. The bigger the better, the logic goes, which is why our food economy is dominated by large, increasingly consolidated, vertically integrated corporations.

An especially consolidated sector of our food system is the seed economy; for example, just six companies control 63 percent of the commercial seed market. Because most of our food starts off as seed, instead of trying to fix a system that isn’t intended to work for the vast majority of people, animals, or the planet, we should try to create our own.

 If we want more equitable access to healthy, affordable food grown locally by small farmers who steward natural resources responsibly, this is exactly what we need to do. The task is tall, but so achievable, especially if we all commit to working together in the right direction. Here are three simple steps we can take to reintroduce democracy back into our seed system and into our neighborhoods.

1. Borrow

If you haven’t been to your local library recently, you might be surprised to find a seed library there. Across the United States, there are about 400 of these community-based seed sharing initiatives, which allow neighbors to share seeds with one another. It basically works like this: You borrow seeds, grow the plant, harvest almost all of the fruit (which you eat!), and save and return some of the seeds back to the library, where others will repeat the process. Seed librarian extraordinaire Rebecca Newburn, cofounder of Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library, says it like this: “It’s like checking out a book, except that you’ve added a chapter when you return it.”

Seed libraries make seeds freely available to its members or the public, relying on reciprocity and a sense of interdependence to ensure that its stock is continually replenished. By treating seeds as a common resource to be stewarded for the public benefit, libraries create what is called the seed commons. The commons reframes our role in relationship to seeds as that of caretakers instead of owners. While owners only have a responsibility to themselves, caretakers have a responsibility to the seeds and to the community that placed them under their care. By bringing seeds into the commons, we have the power to democratize access to, and control over, one of our basic necessities: food.

2. Save

Seed saving is nothing new. If anything, it’s likely one of the oldest continuous human traditions, going back some 10,000 years. Just in the last century or so, we as a society have lost—and been removed from—our connection to seed. In this time, seeds have been transformed from a common resource into a commodity, bought and sold and owned by fewer and fewer companies.

But saving seed is not necessarily simple. That’s why libraries exist as educational resources to help us rediscover the art and skill involved with it. Re-skilling ourselves means that we will be able to provide healthy foods to ourselves and our families, build community resilience in the face of climate change, and rediscover the cultural history and significance attached to the seeds we save.

In practice, it also means growing food for ourselves and our communities. The more food we grow ourselves, the less we rely on a global food system that prioritizes profit over environmental, human, or animal welfare. It also means that we are buying and selling food locally, circulating our dollars in our communities, and generating local wealth. Seed saving is at once an act of resistance and renewal.

3. Share

The success of our new food system relies equally on our independence from the current system as it does on our interdependence on each other. What that simply means is that we should share more and share more equitably. We should share both the risk and the reward, the profits and the losses, the efforts and the outcomes. By sharing, we also begin to take part in an alternative economy, one not based on transacting money for goods or services, but on relationships, gift giving, and mutual aid. At a time when dollars in our economy are increasingly scarce and consolidated in the hands of the wealthy few, sharing gives us the means to provide for ourselves.

In particular, sharing seeds is an easy place to start, because seeds by their nature almost beg to be shared. One tomato plant might produce upwards of 500 seeds, which, in theory, could be planted in 500 different gardens the next season. Now, imagine that 100 households grow five crops each to share their seeds. It’s not difficult to picture the multiplying effect community-based seed sharing could have on the total amount of local food production!

Yet no good deed goes unpunished. Right now, seed libraries across the country are struggling to protect their ability to facilitate local sharing. In partnership with others, Sustainable Economies Law Center, where I work, has been leading a campaign to raise public awareness of this struggle and to advocate on behalf of seed sharing organizations. You can learn more about it at our Save Seed Sharing website.

Creating a true bottom-up democracy means that we need to envision democracy not just in our government but in all aspects of our lives. Civic engagement is not just about choosing who to vote for—it’s also about choosing how and where to spend a dollar. Seed libraries offer us an opportunity to become more civically engaged by reintroducing democracy into the food economy, reclaiming the seed commons, and empowering communities to begin creating their own local food systems.

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Urges USDA to Invest in Research to Support Wisconsin Farmers

Research to focus on regional crop varieties and animal breeds to improve resistance to disease, pests and extreme weather 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin led a call in support of research for local and regional crop varieties and animal breeds in an effort to strengthen American agriculture. In a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack, Senator Baldwin was joined by a group of senators to highlight the need to invest in research into new varieties of plants and animal breeds to address the unique challenges faced by farmers in Wisconsin and across the country.

“Without access to cultivars and breeds that are adapted to climates, soils, and farming systems of each region, farmers do not have the tools ideally suited for their farming needs,” the Senators wrote. “It is critical that the federal government work to reinvigorate public plant and animal breeding expertise in all regions of our country, to enhance our productive capacity nationwide while safeguarding our natural resources.”

Senator Baldwin (D-WI) was joined by U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Al Franken (D-MN), Angus King (I-VT), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in sending the letter.

In Wisconsin, farmers and agricultural groups echoed strong support for investing in local and regional crop and animal breed research.

“Farmers need access to seeds and breeds that are well adapted to their farming systems, soils and changing climates. In recent decades, access to these important tools has dwindled,” said Harriet Behar, Senior Organic Specialist with the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) based in Spring Valley, Wisconsin. “We greatly appreciate Senator Baldwin’s efforts to reverse these trends, and her leadership on issues of importance to organic and sustainable farmers.”

“Bolstering research on publically available, classically bred plant and animal varieties will be beneficial to organics and all of agriculture,” said Logan Peterman, Farm Resource Manager at Organic Valley cooperative. “Making this a priority for federal research will help develop and refine regionally adapted plant breeds for better yields, improved disease and pest resistance, and resilience to weather extremes while maintaining the public sovereignty of seed.  This is good public policy that will leverage the strengths of academia, extension and farmers to create a more productive, adaptive and sustainable agriculture open to all.”

The USDA research would benefit American agriculture by focusing on improved local and regional crop varieties and animal breeds with higher yields and improved resistance to disease, pests and extreme weather. Publicly available seeds and animal breeds would be specifically bred to be adapted to the soils, climates, and farming systems of farmers of all regions of the country.

Food For All: Collaborating to Develop and Support A Community Food System with David Lee

 WLFN is excited and pleased to announce our upcoming event,

Food For All: “Collaborating to Develop and Support a Community Food System.”

Join WLFN and community leaders in Sheboygan on Thursday, October 29 at 6:00 p.m. at the J. Michael Kohler Arts Center in welcoming David Lee. As director of Feeding Wisconsin and President of the board of directors of Outpost Natural Foods, David Lee will share his expertise in a conversation about improving local food systems and how this can be linked to improving health, nutrition, economy, accessibility, and community.  David  brings a unique public private perspective to the discussion.

Join  us for this interactive session.

Seating is limited. Admission is free. Suggested donation $5.00-$15.00 at the door ;

All proceeds go to benefit the Sheboygan County Food Bank
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Click Here to visit the Brown Paper Tickets event page.

Stoney Acres Looks to Future of Local Food

The Athens, Wisconsin organic farm finds ways to grow while remaining a local, family business.

Marshfield News-Herald
by Mitchell A. Skurzewski


Source: Stoney Acres Farm
ATHENS — Tony Schultz returned to Athens to find it much different than when he was in school. He was coaching the Athens junior varsity basketball team when something struck him.

“When I grew up and went to grade school, half the kids in my class were 50-cow, dairy-farm kids,” Schultz said. “When I came back from college (in 2004), one player from a team of 30 was from a farm like mine. I find that sad.”

Schultz, along with his wife, Kat Becker, decided to take back at least part of the countryside with Stoney Acres Farm. In 2006 they bought the 120-acre farm, which is located about eight miles northwest of Athens, and sold community-supported agriculture or CSA shares. In the farm’s second year of doing CSAs in 2008, they doubled shares from 72 customers to 145. Business has grown steadily from there.

Schultz and Becker grow more than 170 varieties of fruits and vegetables, raise 100 percent grass-fed cattle, meat and egg chickens and pastured pigs. They grow mushrooms, tap maple syrup and most recently, in 2012, added a weekly pizza night. With the growth of their farm’s business and other ventures such as Wausau’s winter farmers market, cooking classes, a pumpkin pick and barn dance, Schultz and Becker have become faces of the organic movement in central Wisconsin and one of the most well-known organic farms in Wisconsin.

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Urban Ecology Center to Host Inaugural Ferment!Milwaukee Event

MILWUAKEE In partnership with many Milwaukee-based organizations and businesses, the Urban Ecology Centerbrings you Ferment!Milwaukee, Milwaukee’s first fermentation event. Join us, October 3rd, 2015 From 11-3:00pm at the Urban Ecology Center – Riverside Park, 1500 E Park Place, Milwaukee, 53211

This event is FREE!

Humans have been fermenting food and beverages since the ancient times – it is an age-old natural process. The goal of the Ferment!Milwaukee is to introduce people to the interesting world of fermentation or help people learn even more about the culinary and health benefits of fermentation, as well as, the history of fermented beverages. We have a number of great resources in our community from business owners who make and sell delicious fermented foods including chocolate, cheese, bread, sauerkraut, kefir, and more. Additionally, health experts can help to educate people about the health benefits of consuming fermented food and beverages. And lastly, visitors can learn about how they can ferment food and beverages in their own home. At Ferment!Milwaukee people can meet local vendors who create and sell fermented food and beverages, attend workshops on the history and culinary aspects of fermentation, health benefits of fermentation, and how to ferment food and beverages at home. Everyone is welcome – meet the vendors, sample fermented foods and beverages, attend workshops and listen to the music of Gilbert Surf!

VENDORS: Rishi Tea, Slow Pokes, Simple Soyman, Zymbiotics, Indulgence Chocolate, Clock Shadow Creamery, Northern Brewer, Joyful Eats, Rocket Baby Bakery


11:30am:  Fermenting Beverages through History. Joshua Immermann Driscoll, UWM PhD candidate. Starting with the origins of fermented beverages over 9,000 years ago, we will trace its development as a nutritional food source, a method of payment, and a favorite culinary pastime from ancient China all the way to medieval monasteries.

12:00pm. The Cultures of Cheese. Bob Wills, owner, Clock Shadow Creamery/Cedar Grove Cheese. Learn the role of bacterial cheese cultures, yeasts and mold in cheese production and these create the wide variety of cheeses. Additionally, the role territory and geographic variations in cheese will be explored. Lastly, the role of pasteurization and its impact on cheese making will be discussed.

12:30pm. Growing a Culture of Health: how fermented foods and beverages boost your immune system, improve digestion and good health.  Barbara Heinen, CNC from Joyful Eats Discover their crucial role in a healthy digestive system, which is the foundation of a healthy body. Gather ideas and inspiration for incorporating them into all your meals.

1:00pm. The Art and Joy of Making Your Own Beer. James Jordan from Northern Brewer.

1:30pm. The Basics of Home Food Fermentation. Betty Holloway from Nutriphoria, LLC.


Gilbert Surf will be playing music throughout the event.

For more information,

Contact: Jamie Ferschinger, Branch Manager – Riverside Park Urban Ecology Center

(414) 964-8505 |

Local Food Co-Op Celebrates New Store Anniversary

September 25, 2015

ASHLAND, WI – The Chequamegon Food Co-op will celebrate its first anniversary in its new store on Tuesday, September 29, 2015 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The time since its move to 700 Main Street West has been filled with change as the Co-op expanded its ownership base, added staff, and increased overall sales.

Chequamegon Food Co-op is a community-owned business. Since the move, the Co-op has added nearly 600 new owners to bring its ownership up to 2,600 community members. Over 20 new employees have been added to the staff roster. Store sales have been close to meeting projections, with overall sales expected to top $4 million by year’s end.

The Co-op was incorporated in 1976, the same year the Co-op’s first storefront opened in Ashland. The store was run entirely on member labor for the first five years. After four moves and the hiring of a part-time manager, the Co-op settled at 215 Chapple Ave in 1986. The store began to show a profit in 1990.

Growing interest in the organic and natural foods market allowed two major renovations of the store: in 1994 and in 2001. In 2001 the Co-op purchased 213 Chapple Avenue and doubled in size. The Co-op moved from approximately 2,000 square feet of retail space to 6,000 square feet in its Main Street location. This extra space allowed the Co-op to stock more local products, including additional produce, fresh meat, fresh fish, value-added food products, wellness goods, and general merchandise.

Other new amenities include a grab-and-go deli, deli seating, and a cooking classroom/community room.

The anniversary celebration will include free refreshments, special sales, and a meet-and-greet with local food and wellness business owners, including Big Water Coffee of Bayfield, Wis. and Lea’s Organic Herbal Skin Care of Washburn, Wis. To learn more about the Chequamegon Food Co-op and its anniversary celebration, please contact Harold Vanselow, general manager, at (715) 682-8251 or

Farm Aid Week in Chicago: Join the Fun, Film Festival and Good Food Revolution

Chicago will host the 30th anniversary Farm Aid concert this Saturday (Sept. 19). Residents of the nation’s third most-populous city will have the opportunity to reacquaint with issues concerning family farmers, through the highest-profile — and most star-powered — event that benefits them and their causes.

Farm Aid founders photo
Music legends (from left) Neil Young, Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp founded Farm Aid in 1985 and have led the organization since. Dave Matthews (right) joined the Farm Aid board in 2001. Photo: ©Paul Natkin/Photo Reserve, Inc.

Music legends Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp, along with dozens of other artists, staged the first Farm Aid concert in Champaign, Illinois in 1985 to respond to a farm economic crisis. They and fellow star Dave Matthews, who joined the Farm Aid board in 2001, have raised more $48 million to support farmers and organizations such asFamilyFarmed, with a goal to make our food supply more local, sustainable, humane and fair.


Is it Really Healthy to Eat Wisconsin Cheese?

Written by Helen Fields 8.17.2015

Health-conscious people often frown upon dairy products. Cheese is popularly viewed as being a very unhealthy option contributing little to your health. However, cheese manufacturers across the states, including here in Wisconsin, are keen to change this assumption and prove that cheese is not only good to eat, but is also an integral part of a healthy, balanced diet(1). With the increase in people with poor diets due to a misunderstanding of what constitutes a healthy intake of food – marked by the variety of wacky, celebrity-endorsed diets and increasing number of eating disorder cases in the area – the dairy industry here has taken on the responsibility of providing accurate information about the health benefits of their products. Milk, cheese, and yogurt all contain elements essential to the functioning of your body including calcium for strong bones, protein for converting carbs into energy and building muscle, and vitamin D for building strong bones and teeth. Many people think that avoiding dairy altogether is the best option for their health, however, on closer review of what your body needs, a serving of three portions of dairy a day is closer to the facts. It is vital, however, that the produce is of a high enough quality to be considered beneficial.

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Kenyan Pastoralists Fighting Climate Change Through Food Forests

Saturday, 15 August 2015 00:00By Robert Kibet, Inter Press Service | Report

Sipian Lesan, a semi-nomadic pastoralist from Lekuru village in Samburu County, Kenya, taking care of one of his edible fruit-producing plants. (Photo: Robert Kibet/IPS)Sipian Lesan, a semi-nomadic pastoralist from Lekuru village in Samburu County, Kenya, taking care of one of his edible fruit-producing plants. (Photo: Robert Kibet/IPS)


Samburu, Kenya – Sipian Lesan bends to attend to the Vangueria infausta or African medlar plant that he planted almost two years ago. He takes great care not to damage the soft, velvety, acorn-shaped buds of this hardy and drought-resistant plant. “All over here it is dry,” says the 51-year-old Samburu semi-nomadic pastoralist.

Sipian is from Lekuru, a remote village located in the lower ranges of the Samburu Hills, an area dotted by Samburu homesteads commonly known as ‘manyattas’, some 358 km north of Kenya’s capital Nairobi. Here, the small villages are hot and arid, dominated by thorny acacia and patches of bare red earth that signify overgrazed land.

Samburu County is one of the regions in Kenya ravaged by recurrent drought, with most of the population living below the poverty line.

Climate change has made pastoralism an increasingly unsustainable livelihood option, leaving many households in Samburu without access to a daily meal, let alone a balanced diet.


Busting the Myth of the Food Desert: A Farmer’s Market in Milwaukee Sautés Statistics


THURSDAY, AUG 27, 2015, 2:53 AM

A transaction takes place at the Fondy Farmer’s Market in Milwaukee. / Google images

By any economic measure the 53206 zip code—part of a 120 block neighborhood on Milwaukee’s north side—is among Wisconsin’s most struggling. Sixty-six percent of households earn less than $30,000 per year while the number of violent crimes and the rate of unemployment rank consistently higher than state and national averages. But how’s the food?

In 2009, a Community Food Assessment (CFA) found that in this community, where 96 percent of the people are African American, 89 percent of the food retailers were comprised of “convenience stores, gas stations, fast food restaurants and food pantries.” This reality, not unlike a Slurpee®, is cold and utterly lacking vitamins. But it’s not uncommon in low-income urban areas. Neither, of course, are the disproportionately higher rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease—maladies empirically linked to the prolonged consumption of exactly the cuisine one encounters at convenience stores, gas stations and fast food restaurants.

Science suggests people should eat fruits and vegetables

From May to November, however, the local Fondy Farmer’s Market, now in its 97th year, operates one of the largest and most culturally diverse open-air markets in the region—connecting the 53206 community (and surrounding neighborhoods with similarly dismal access to fresh produce) to 30 local farmers.