"Planting Seeds for Our Future" Conference

March 16, 2007
Dawn Burgardt (608) 266-4540
Planning & Development

Local gardeners, farmers, anti-hunger activists, and food businesses to be honored at “Planting Seeds for Our Future” Conference Madison, WI - The Dane County Food Council prepares to host its’ first annual “Planting Seeds for Our Future” Conference on Monday, March 26th, 2007 from 8:30am-4pm, at the Exhibition Hall of the Alliant Energy Center (1919 Alliant Energy Center Way, Madison, WI 53713). This event is an opportunity for people living and working in the Dane County region to come together to celebrate local food and farming, network, learn, strengthen collaborations, and sow the seeds for future action to create a stronger food system for everyone! The day will include a morning panel presentation, an awards ceremony during a delicious local foods lunch, and afternoon workshops: Farm-to-School 101 - Getting started at your school; Foods for Our Future; new and unusual perennial fruiting plants; Obesity Prevention and Public Health: Community Partnerships for Activity and Nutrition Promotion; Using Food Stamps at Farmers Markets; Dane County Food Waste: how much is there, and where does it end up?; Supermarkets selling locally grown foods; Fish: A Fresh Look at A Local Food Source; Creating a center for sustainable agriculture in Fitchburg; Developments in community gardens; New immigrant farmers; Madison area buy local initiatives; Federal and State policy supporting local food systems; Farmland preservation at the urban fringe; Food Sovereignty 101; healthy food is a basic human right, not just a market commodity; The Dane County Food Pantry Network; and the Madison Public Market. More information about the “Planting Seeds for Our Future” Conference is available at www.co.dane.wi.us/foodcouncil or by PHONE: (608) 266-4540, EMAIL: burgardt@co.dane.wi.us. Who are the nominees? The Dane County Food Council asked for nominations, and our community responded! More than 20 local individuals and organizations will be honored at a luncheon during the conference (starts at 12:00p.m.). The Council wishes to recognize the "planters" who help us grow an environmentally sustainable and economically and socially equitable food system for the Dane County region. The many “planters” being honored include: Juan Gonzalez --- Quann Community Garden Quann Community Gardens is a jewel on Madison’s Southside. Two years ago, gardeners received a grant to build a “living fence” of grapes, hardy kiwis, climbing roses, raspberries, and blueberries for the neighborhood to enjoy. Janet Parker, Community Organizer at Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin, Inc. nominated Juan for this recognition, saying, “as soon as Juan got a plot at Quann, he volunteered to care for the grapes. Juan has worked in vineyards in California, and he is pruning the grapes to maximize production (16 bunches per vine, he says!!). In addition to caring for the vines, he has led two workshops to teach fellow gardeners how to care for grapes. Also, he co-taught a workshop last fall on organic gardening which covered Mexican herbs and seeds saving and seed starting. In 2006, he planted and cared for the Quann youth garden as well. Juan’s family all helped with their market gardening business in Puebla, Mexico, so he grew up growing produce. They harvested from their family farm and brought produce to market by burro. Juan brings these strong skills with him to Madison. He is a natural leader, and often brings several young people along to Quann Garden workdays with him. Juan’s goal is to get a piece of land in the Madison area where he can grow traditional Mexican crops for market, including epazote, tomatillos, papalo, and peppers.” Jack Hamman --- Plant-A-Row For the Hungry, St. Martin’s Lutheran Church Kim Grafenauer works at Middleton Outreach Ministry, and nominated Jack Hamman, who is the coordinator of St. Martin’s Lutheran Church’s Plant-a-Row garden campaign. According to Kim, “although the church has had this community garden for several years, in 2003 Jack took over the project and has seen it grow steadily ever since. What makes Jack different from other community garden coordinators is that his primary goal is to provide fresh, locally grown produce to area families in need through the Middleton Outreach Ministry Food Pantry. Last year alone, St. Martin’s garden provided over 600 lbs of food to area needy families! Jack also seeks to involve whole families in this project, especially children and youth, because he believes these young people should learn the benefits of growing a sustainable food source while also gaining problem-solving skills, developing inter-community friendships, and learning about the food needs of local families. Jack works hard to ensure the project succeeds. Not only does he coordinate donations of seeds and all the tools necessary for gardening, he also oversees the volunteers who work the garden, puts in several hours a week ‘getting down and dirty’ in the garden himself, and personally delivers the harvested food to the food pantry so that it can be made immediately available to families. Jack truly is an inspiration and provides a successful model for others to follow. “ Patricia Daubs --- Anti-hunger activist Patti Daubs is a dedicated volunteer who has given countless hours to making a difference in the lives of those who are food insecure in Dane County. According to Pat Ludeman, Family Living Educator with UW-Extension Dane County, “over the years she has worn many hats – a director of a large food pantry, president of the Hunger Prevention Council for over 10 years, board member of Community Action Coalition for Southeastern Wisconsin and Second Harvest, a member of the Dane County Food Pantry Network and a Food Share (i.e. Food Stamps) outreach worker. She is interested in finding ways to improve the systems that serve residents who are in need in our community and in each of these roles she has made improvements, such as increasing awareness about hunger issues and addressing the underlying root causes of poverty.” It is this type of dedication to addressing food security issues in our community that makes Patti a worthy recipient of this recognition! Ben Hunter ---- Underground catering Unlike most catering companies, Underground Catering doesn’t have set menus and prices, because what tastes good varies from season to season and from year to year. While what they cook is constantly changing, how they cook has stayed pretty much the same: with excitement and passion. Tom Brantmeier explains that, “for several years now, Ben Hunter has dedicated himself to understanding the local food system and getting to know the growers, especially the sustainable and organic ones. Underground Catering not only uses local and sustainable food – paying full price for it – but they offer it to people at very reasonable prices.” Terese Allen, local food writer extends "a big, joyful salute to the feel-good food and gonzo cooks of Underground Catering. These folks get it right: local, seasonal and utterly delicious fare that's eater-, grower- and earth-friendly. I love the way they balance casual and classy, conviction and creativity. They're fearless in the kitchen, personable in the dining room and generous in the community. When Underground is cooking, I'm very happy to be at the table." Peg Whiteside --- Earth Rise Farm Mimi Jett nominated Peg Whiteside and Earth Rise Farm, “to recognize her work to provide chemical-free vegetables and naturally raised beef and pork to our community through the Northside and Waunakee Farmers Markets. In addition to supplying healthy foods through her own labors, Peg rents several acres at a very low cost to Hmong farmers for both commercial growing and family subsistence. Peg was a professional engineer before giving up her profession to take over the family farm and work full time as a farmer.” Peg explains that she first moved back to the farm with her mom and sisters, and eventually took over the farm in 1986. “We avoid using chemical on the garden mostly by pulling and rototilling weeds, using BT for cabbage bugs, and hand picking a lot of potato bugs. Our fertilizer is thoughtfully provided by the cattle. The calves are bred and born here.” What is the Dane County Food Council? The Dane County Board of Supervisors created the 12-member Food Council in 2005 to address local food issues. The citizen-led body includes large and small-scale farmers, food security advocates, academics, planners, and farmers’ market managers. The mission of the Dane County Food Council is to explore issues and develop recommendations to create an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable local food system for the Dane County region. This group recently released its “Annual Report 2006” highlighting the many important accomplishments during this first year (available at www.co.dane.wi.us/foodcouncil). The Food Council is currently working on three priority projects, which include: developing the Farmers' Market Alliance for South Central Wisconsin to increase direct marketing opportunities for local producers and provide a forum for developing solutions to collective issues; supporting expansion of a Market Basket program in Dane County that provides fresh fruits and vegetables for low-income households; and increasing the amount of local food purchased by Dane County government. Food and agriculture issues significantly affect the public health, land use, economy, and overall quality of life of all Dane County citizens. Although several County agencies are involved in particular aspects of these issues, the Dane County Food Council is the only governmentally-sanctioned group looking at the different ways that our food system impacts the County, from the production of food, through its passage along the consumer food chain, to its eventual disposal as waste. Across our country local city, county and state governments have created food councils to link economic development, anti-hunger and food security efforts, preservation and enhancement of agriculture, and environmental concerns. Dane County is among the leaders of this growing movement to provide a coordinated response to food, nutrition and agriculture issues, ensuring universal access to healthy and affordable food. ###