For the City Times
By State Senator Julie Lassa
Now that summer has officially started, many of us are eager to spend more time enjoying the great outdoors. Not only does warmer weather give us the chance to hike, bike, swim and picnic in Wisconsin’s many scenic locations, but soon the land will be offering its bounty of fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs and other locally raised products.
The communities of the 24th Senate District are fortunate to have innovative organizations that help us explore opportunities for summertime food and fun.
As the author of the Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin program, I’ve been a big advocate of the local food movement for a long time. A great guide for local food enthusiasts is the 2016 Farm Fresh Atlas of Central Wisconsin: A Year-Round Local Food Guide, published by Central Rivers Farmshed. It contains up-to-date listings for 159 sources of fresh local food and food products, including community-supported agriculture and other local farms, restaurants that specialize in farm-to-table cuisine, community gardens, and 39 farmers’ markets from Sparta in the west to Amherst in the east.
The Atlas also contains other useful information, including the seasonal availability of 38 fruits, vegetables, and herbs, a calendar of events and workshops throughout the region, and contact information for organizations that support and promote local food producers. To be included in the Atlas, farms must be family or cooperatively owned, use sustainable farming practices, and provide safe and fair working conditions for their workers.
The Atlas is just one part of the mission of Farmshed, a non-profit organization that helps farmers and producers grow and market their products, teaches consumers how to prepare them, and brings them all together to build the local food economy. The Atlas is available for free at local libraries and area businesses that support the local food economy, and you can view it online at www.farmshed.org. Atlases are also available for other regions of Wisconsin; you can learn about them atwww.farmfreshatlas.org.
Another innovative initiative is Point Back to the Land, a joint effort of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association and the Wisconsin Department of Tourism. The Point Back to the Land campaign highlights outdoor recreation, shopping for sustainable products and art, educational opportunities, and other eco-tourism activities. It features a series of weekend trips and tours around the Stevens Point area that will give visitors the chance to tour sustainable homes, farms, and businesses, have fun outdoors, and take advantage of deals offered at the local eateries, craft breweries and distilleries, local lodging facilities, and more.
The website, pointbacktotheland.com, also guides visitors to lodging facilities that limit their ecological impact and restaurants that feature locally-sourced food. The goal is to boost local tourism and bring eco-conscious visitors together with businesses that share their values.
I’m proud that the communities I represent are leaders, both in helping us enjoy the bounty of the earth, and in reducing our impact on it. Summer is a great time to do both, as we once again enjoy Wisconsin’s scenic summer time beauty and the offerings of local famers and artisans.