Marigold doesn’t have the capacity to process and store enough tomatoes in-house, but Marigold Director of Operations Sam Mack hoped there might be a farmer nearby who could provide [tomato juice] for them. After a bit of research, [REAP’s Buy Fresh Buy Local Program Manager] Theresa [Feiner] successfully connected Marigold with Happy Valley Farms in Black Earth, 20 miles west of Madison.
Last fall, Happy Valley owner Kevin Lucey had an abundance of Mountain Fresh Plus tomato seconds – not quite good enough for retail, but perfect for processing or cooking. With this in mind, Kevin approached the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen, a shared commercial kitchen located in Mineral Point. Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen worked with Happy Valley Farms to prepare, process, and package the tomato seconds into vibrant, flavorful, ready-to-sell tomato juice. When REAP made the connection between Happy Valley and Marigold, it was win-win solution for the grower and the restaurant. Marigold Kitchen is proud to feature Happy Valley’s tomato juice in their bloody marys and hopes to continue this relationship.
You can find the full article and other locavore news from South-Central Wisconsin in the current REAP newsletter [PDF].
Dave Swanson doesn’t call himself a chef. He refers to himself as a cook. Yet his vision extends far beyond the plate.
More than 20 years in the making, Braise Restaurant, 1101 S. 2nd St., is the conversation Swanson wants with his community. It includes more than 400 farmers from southeastern Wisconsin, a culinary school and getting fresh foods on more tables. It also means storing more than 10,000 pounds of carrots each season.
Swanson put in the time and elbow grease to create his 80-seat Walker’s Point restaurant. Much of the space is his own vision, though he enlisted an architect to ensure ideas would work. He hand-stained pieces himself. Barn wood throughout the building comes from a farm in Burlington. The building’s original bowling alley floors got new life on the bar, and tables were created from recycled materials.
The interview that follows Kierzek’s introduction is fascinating, so check it out here. For more, watch this installment of Wisconsin Foodie that features Swanson and his Braise Restaurant, and check out this profile in the Chicago Tribune.
The name Sugar Bee might make you think of a familiar sweet, golden, oozy substance, but the choice crop at Sugar Bee Farm is spongy, delicate oyster mushrooms. Sarah Wisniewski and Dave Grow own and operate this year-round farm – the only devoted mushroom farm in Milwaukee – producing eight varieties. They plan to add bees and honey to their repertoire next.
With the help of a USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) micro loan, Wisniewski and Grow moved into a warehouse space on July 1 and within five weeks had their first harvest. Sugar Bee is the latest addition to Milwaukee’s Green Corridor running along 6th Street from Howard to College Avenue on Milwaukee’s Southside….
Sugar Bee is delivering 50 pounds a week to three restaurant customers right now, although Wisniewski and Grow are hoping to produce a few hundred pounds a week to be fully financially sustainable. “The ability and capacity is there, but we’re still working out the kinks,” says Grow. There is currently room for 800 bags and another untapped room has space for 600 more….
Sugar Bee has its sights set on the Garden District Farmer’s Market, located right across the street, that operates Saturday afternoons from mid-June through mid-October. With significant support from 13th District Alderman Terry Witkowski, the Garden District Neighborhood Association and Simon Landscape Company, there are plans in the works for an urban orchard, a year-round food market and more – which is what originally drew Wisniewski and Grow to the space.
Check out the full story, plus photos by Rob Gustafson, here.
Apple growers wanted to find the best way to grow apples. Agricultural scientists wanted to reduce pesticide use on Wisconsin farms. These groups, starting with different objectives, found one solution that benefited them both: eco-fruit farming.
The Eco-Fruit Program began as a collaboration between the UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS) and several apple growers around Wisconsin. CIAS project leader Michelle Miller spearheaded the program in 2000, and since then it has served nearly 100 apple and berry growers from more than 20 counties.
The Eco-Fruit Program’s main focus is reducing grower reliance on pesticides that are hazardous to themselves, consumers and the environment, while also supporting growers in finding the best farming practices.
For the full piece, including an overview of “integrated pest management” and plenty of informative links, head here.
Clover Meadow Winery in Shell Lake, 80 miles northwest of Eau Claire, is out there on the green edge of things as the state’s only certified organic winery.
Alexia Gannon, who describes herself as Clover Meadow’s “chief wrangling officer,” says that as far as she knows it’s the only certified organic winery in the Midwest….
Gannon’s parents, Pat and Laura Walters, bought 180 acres in Wisconsin’s Bashaw Valley in the mid-1970s and moved to the land from Chicago in the mid-1990s.
Over the years, they planted orchards and vines “and then we needed something to do with the fruit, so wine came about,” Gannon explained….
In addition to making wine from both cold-hardy wine grapes and table grapes, it also ferments plums, blackberries, apples, cranberries, pears, dandelions, crabapples and — hold your breath — onions. (That last is a novelty wine.)
Schamberg explains that about half of the winery’s 20+ varieties are organic; the others are made with locally sourced (but not organic) fruit. The family behind Clover Meadow are also distillers, producing organic brandy, and run a cafe at the winery as well.
It’s a nice piece, highlighting a slice of Wisconsin agriculture that I previously hadn’t known about. Check out the full article here.
“Growing Future Farmers,” a highly informative piece by Erik Ness for the UW College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS), describes the challenges of finding and preparing a new generation of farmers, as well as the CALS programs that are helping to confront those challenges. One of my favorite sections is the following:
“Since 1995 [Dick] Cates has run the Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers, a hands-on seminar series conducted as a joint program of the Farm and Industry Short Course and CIAS [the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems]. By focusing on business planning and pasture-based management, the school provides an accessible and sound financial approach for the beginning farmer.
“One key for new farmers, says Cates, is managed grazing. In a typical confinement feed operation you have to plant, cultivate, harvest, dry and store the feed. Then you have to take it out of storage, feed the cows, and remove and distribute the manure. It takes a lot of labor, equipment and fuel.
“Grazing advocates like to joke they hire the cows to do all that. By providing a lower capital approach, grazing allows for a farm that can reasonably be owned by a family just starting out. ‘Your business is turning sunshine into grass into milk or meat,’ says Cates. ‘You can make it as complicated as you want, but those are the essentials.’”
Among other educational programs, the story describes a new formal apprenticeship aimed at promoting managed grazing and another that seeks to help farm families with generational transfer, a process that can be difficult in the modern era. The piece also touches on the topic of urban food deserts, describing federally funded research efforts at CALS “to analyze urban food systems to identify local innovations in food production and distribution—and then expand local production.”
It’s a somewhat lengthy article but well worth the read, so check it out here.
The Conscientious Omnivore is away. This is an encore presentation of a post that originally appeared in slightly edited form on March 2, 2012.
The sunflower is one highly versatile plant with the sunniest of dispositions.
Despite the plant’s many uses, it wasn’t cultivated in North America until much, much later, in the late 19th century. At some point, it was overlooked as a plant worthy of mass cultivation. But Spanish explorers were quick to realize its potential and shipped seed back to Europe around 1500, where it was traded and shared for nearly 200 years, largely grown as an ornamental until the late 1700s when the English started pressing the seed for oil.
The sunflower’s eastward journey continued to Russia, where finally in the late 18th century, the sunflower reached cultivation status for the commercial sale of its oil, largely thanks to Russia’s Peter the Great and the Orthodox Church. When the Orthodox Church forbade oilbased foods during Lent, sunflower oil rose to immediate culinary popularity as it was never recognized by the Orthodox Church as a Lent-prohibited food.
Kate Prengaman of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism recently produced an in-depth report looking at important water use issues in the Badger State. She writes,
In a state with about 15,000 lakes and more than a quadrillion gallons of groundwater, it is hard to believe that water could ever be in short supply. Experts say, however, that the burgeoning number of so-called high-capacity wells is drawing down some ground and surface water, including the Little Plover River and Long Lake.
In the early 1950s, there were fewer than 100 high-capacity wells in the Central Sands, according to the state Department of Natural Resources. Today there are more than 3,000 — 40 percent of the state’s total — in the six-county area.
Officials at DNR say that legally, they cannot block new wells based on the impacts from existing wells. And lawmakers want to keep it that way.
Prengaman effectively details current political battles over whether and how to protect water resources, alongside consideration of the competing demands being placed on Wisconsin water.
Experts say the implications of overpumping are on display across the state.
In the Madison area, the deep aquifer is down almost 60 feet. Waukesha’s withdrawals have pushed the deep aquifer down 600 feet. Green Bay had to tap Lake Michigan after depleting its groundwater in the 1950s.
In the Central Sands, scientists say that a rapid expansion of irrigated agriculture may be largely to blame — setting the stage for a water fight between farmers and those who fear for the region’s lakes, rivers and wetlands.
“We were all raised with the sense that this is Lake Superior underneath us, and it’s not,” said Justin Isherwood, a farmer with about a dozen high capacity wells for irrigating his 1,400 acres of potatoes and other vegetables in Portage County.
Tensions have sprung up over how to allocate a finite water resource to many legitimate uses: municipal water supplies, industries, irrigation, private wells, lakes and streams.
To some, it comes down to this: Who needs the water more — the potato plants or the trout?
For those, like Isherwood, who love both, finding a solution involves hard questions.
The full story is outstanding; find it here.
I was lucky enough to enjoy dinner the other night at Nostrano, one of Madison’s top restaurants. Their local, seasonal approach to dining extends not just to the food but to the cocktails as well. After reading André Darlington’s recent feature on summery drinks around town, I was eager to give the Lovage Martini 2.0 a try, which he suggested “uses the celery-like plant to pleasant effect.” Here’s the description from Nostano’s menu:
If you’ve never had lovage before (I hadn’t), Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of The Guardian has a great description of the taste: “The flavour is like parsley and celery combined with a hint of aniseed and curry. And if you think that sounds intriguing, you’d be right.”
Follow the ingredient links above for details on the other components of this expertly balanced cocktail.
For more on leafy lovage, check out Fearnley-Whittingstall’s article and recipes, along with a 1979 (!) piece from Betty Laws for Mother Earth News and this post from the FrenchGardening.com on “Acquiring a taste for lovage.”
Linda Falkenstein of Isthmus has some great news, Madison lovers of Pelmeni (aka Pel’meni):
Pel’meni, the Russian dumpling shop that operated out of 505 State Street in the mid-’00s, is coming back to downtown in mid-June at 201 W. Gorham St., a space next to AJ Bombers.
After the State Street storefront closed, Paul Schwoerer started serving his handmade pelmeni out of the Oasis Café, his coffee shop in at 2690 Research Park Dr. in Fitchburg. In the in-between time when the dumplings were not available at all, what might reasonably be called a cult following only deepened. And after the re-appearance, not all devotees could make the trek out to Fitchburg.
My earlier post about rediscovering the delicious dumplings (now featuring local produce) in Fitchburg has garnered hundreds and hundreds of hits, so I think Schwoerer will find continued success when he makes his triumphant return to the State Street neighborhood. Check out Falkenstein’s full piece for all the details.
UPDATED June 28, 2013: Good news! As reported by Samara Kalk Derby today, Paul’s Pe’meni (AKA Gorham Dumplings) is now open downtown. The bad news, though, is that owner Paul Schwoerer, “who also owns the Oasis Cafe and EVP coffee shop, 2690 Research Park Dr., in Fitchburg, has discontinued dumplings at that location because he doesn’t have the proper equipment or space there.”