RTF: The First Acre

Sustainability n: of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged. The word is heard often in today’s society  when discussing the current food movement that brings farmers and food producers together with consumers and restaurants. The societal movement behind food has a focus on living sustainably. But, what does sustainability really mean? The amount of times ‘sustainability’ is used when discussing food in certain circles makes it seem like a well-known adjective, noun, or verb, but not many really understand its cultural connection and deep roots. Perhaps it is worth while to take a moment and really look into what sustainability means, and how it  impacts our food system.

Slow Food – n: food that is prepared with care, using high quality local and seasonal ingredients. Slow Food has grown throughout international communities to uphold the definition above. ‘Slow Food’ incorporates the idea of creating wholesome good meals that stem from pure ingredients that are locally sourced. The people behind a food movement like this enjoy the culture that is deeply associated with Slow Food and work as activists behind such a cause, WOOFing, AmeriCorps, Food Corps, Peace Corps and student organizations alike all follow the same ideas and build on the idea of being sustainable. These organizations, along with Slow Food chapters across the United States are working to develop practices that lead to a healthier and more sustainable world. They all dedicate their work towards agricultural maintenance and preservation of the food system and they each have an educational component as well.

The University of Wisconsin at Madison is one of the first higher education institutions to join the push for better food with their campus Slow Food chapter, Slow Food UW. Here  a group of energetic and passionate students are striving to bring locally sourced food to the 50,000 plus students and professors that roam campus. There are five separate projects, each geared toward different missions, they range from volunteer work with the local Boys and Girls club, to cooking demos in the freshman dorms, to weekly dinners and café lunches.

Along with Slow Food UW, F.H. King Student Farm holds a strong presence on the campus with their community farm on the far end of campus. Their offering, Harvest Handouts provides free produce in the heart of the U.W. Madison campus every Friday afternoon. The students behind F.H. King follow the goals and dreams of agricultural god, Franklin Hiram King himself. This group of students honor F.H. King’s research and theories behind community supported agricultural systems.

These two organizations affords students the opportunity to uphold the deep roots of sustainability while having an irreplaceable experience and making real connections. Two recent graduates from the University of Wisconsin traded their books in for a handful of farming tools and came together to put all their advocacy work to good use. They stopped talking about how our food system should change and got their hands dirty. Brian Schneider and Darin Ripp of Slow Food UW and F.H. King respectively, are the proud owners of The First Acre Farm, a vegetable garden that resides on just about one acre of the Fountain Prairie Farm land.

  

    

The First Acre Farm is a few months into their first growing season and their produce is making its way through Madison and the Wisconsin farmers markets. At the beginning of August, after a few weeks of no rain they were able to offer a variety of kale, swiss chard, an variety of herbs, watermelon and cucumbers, and much more is on the way, their list of produce includes roughly 40 different organic fruits and vegetables.

These two young men want to make an impact on the food system and offer a food product that they believe in and that they would be proud to consume. They are using the educational knowledge and life experiences gained thus far on their organic farm and they farm with environmentally sound and  sustainable practices. The American Meat documentary claims that there is a need for 4 million people to start farming sustainably so we can make a real difference and reverse the damage done on our food system by corporate commodity farmers. This means there is a strong push for young farmers to pick up a hoe and start combing through the dirt. Brian and Darin are helping to reduce the deficit  by opening  The First Acre Farm. They’re incorporating organic, sustainable farming practices on their farm.

Brian and Darin are living sustainably and sharing the fruits of their labor with their friends, family and their growing customer base. They are taking it one step at a time and they’re doing whatever they can to support a vibrant and healthy food system. Sustainability can be daunting for just one person but choosing to live a certain way in your daily life and sharing that experience with others is the first step to sustainable living. Does creating a sustainable community define the true meaning behind being sustainable, not only understanding what it really means to be sustainable but to actually embrace and engage the community in the practice? Here at U.W. Madison students are getting first hand experience with sustainable living and they’re taking the practices out into the world with them.

All hail sustainability.

Amy Verhey

Summer Food Warrior 2012

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RTF: A walk in someone else’s hooves.

When walking through the pastures, barns and enclosures Temple Grandin strives to sense what the animals experience. Her autistic nature allowed her to understand the feelings of America’s farm animals. Her years of experience and research have helped farmers all over the country reconstruct their enclosures, pasture landscapes and even the route to which an animal takes as they exit the farm and head for the processing plant. Temple’s work has inspired many farmers to change their thought process from viewing the animal as a commodity but rather how to better treat the animals with respect. The approach Temple shares through lectures and literature, guides farmers to treat animals in a way that keeps them happy, safe and ultimately healthy. These animals are producing a higher quality meat that is raised more humanely with flavor that is greatly appreciated.

Today’s farming is shifting away from the ‘commodity farmer’ and moving towards a more sustainable and wholesome approach to farming. A commodity farmer is helping to feed America and produce high quantities of food. However, many farmers are starting to approach this differently and follow some of Temple Grandin’s suggestions. This allows farmers to consider the animals’ point of view in their day to day work.

      

Golden Bear Farm is located just outside Sheboygan, Wisconsin where their open pastures extend to roughly 200 acres. The slightly rolling meadows are home to about 50 cows, 100 Berkshire pigs and a handful of horses. The animals graze and incorporate each other as they rotate through various parts of these 200 acres. While one area of their land is being repaired and restored to grow grains for another season the animals are helping to graze the neighboring section. The animals manure along with hay and local fish help to create a fresh and wholesome fertilizer rejuvenating the land once again. Within five years Steve and Marie, founders of Golden Bear Farm, have cultivated their land to offer a home for the animals we currently view as food.

   

Steve and Marie first started looking into Temple Grandin’s work when they purchased some horses; hoping to truly understand the beautiful creatures and train them to some day assist with the farm work. The philosophies and psychology behind working with horses and their ability to sense human’s energy soon because how Steve and Marie approached their cows and pigs. The more they thought about this approach the better sense it started to make while today it is deeply ingrained in their approach to farming.

Golden Bear Farm follows the stages of farming all the way to the end – the butcher. They spent many years researching butchers to make sure they were able to offer a wholesome product through and through. Golden Bear Farm works very diligently to make sure the animals are raised 100% grass-fed, organic and with absolutely no antibiotics or hormones. Beck’s Meat Processing in central Wisconsin follows through the organic process by avoiding the use of nitrates and any other impure substances while processing Golden Bear meats.

The Golden Bear Farm’s success lies in an idea that Steve and Marie stumbled upon years ago, grass is not simply grass. They came to the realization that the animals raised should be treated like “you and me”. These two farmers said, “we choose to look at it from the whole picture, soil on up.” Their own philosophies regarding food and the land its grown on, Temple’s inspiring work and the animals themselves have all helped Golden Bear Farm produce a pure and divine product that is appreciated by all who enjoy it.

All hail the spirit of animals.

Amy Verhey

Summer 2012 Food Warrior

RTF: The Golden Bear hogs

As a part of the food warrior internship a video is to be produced in order to help our journalistic skills evolve. While visiting Golden Bear Farms I spent some time with the happily grunting piglets and their trusting farming. Here is a look at the life of a pig.

RTF: Underground Meats

Collaborating on methods and experience is exactly how the team of people behind Underground Food Collective change the production side of our current food system. Jonny and Ben Hunter started bulding their name in the Madison food scene with their student run cafe on the University of Wisconsin campus years ago. From those early days in the kitchen they were able to branch out and bulid a community around their food. Over the years UFC’s core team has grown to incorporate restaurant work, bartending, catering and meat processing.

The Underground Meats portion of the UFC organization is striving to produce a high quality product that is sourced from a handful of local farmers. In 2007 UFC decided to expand and include Underground Meats along with a Meat CSA. This project allows UFC to offer a variety of uniquely cured and processed meats to local food establishments and consumers. The employees started teaching themselves the necessary skills needed to understand animals and eventually how to explore different processes and flavors. Today Underground Meats offers a variety of workshops including their popular whole hog breakdowns, allowing education to become a key component of UFC’s mission.

Underground Meats is invested with the entire process around meats as they have worked with many farmers to hand select animals and even help raise them in some cases. The experience gained over the years allows them to branch away from pigs and work with many other meats that are locally raised in Madison. The creativity has also allowed them to expand their sourcing across Wisconsin and throughout the Midwest.

To learn more about their meat products or join the Meat CSA email meat@undergroundfoodcollective.org. There are also a variety of events happening that allow consumers to engage with the entire UFC team while enjoying good food and good company. Follow their website or Facebook posts to stay up to date.

All hail meat … done right.

Amy Verhey

Summer 2012 Food Warrior

**All images are taken from http://undergroundfoodcollective.org/ with permission from Emily Julka**

Bon Appetit with UW Slow Food

Once again it was time to feast on the fine food of UW Slow Food’s café lunch on Wednesdays! I had the pleasure of volunteering with them to help out with some last-minute preparations before the doors opened. The lucky little duck that I am was grating Gruyère and parmesan cheeses for about an hour which left me stuck with a cheesy aroma for the rest of the day, turns out me not so lucky but instead stinky! Regardless, I met up with some friends and waited in a very long line catching up on our week while starting to smell the kitchen’s fragrance floating through the air.

While waiting in the line one of the volunteers surprised us with samples of Amuse Bouche, a crostini with goat cheese, herbs, roasted beets and olive oil. My oh my so divine and really left us wanting more!

We were able to choose from a menu with Venison tacos including sautéed onions and peppers, served with sour cream and gallo pico on local tortillas. The other main dish option was an open face Croque Monsieur with sweet potato, kale, béchamel sauce and my grated cheeses! This is what we all had our eyes on but I also decided to sample the lemon tart for desert and of course selected the salad made of water crest, wheat berries, sunchokes and a sunflower seed oil dressing. The rest of the menu was made up of a Tuscan and bean vegetable soup, potato salad or a granola bar hunk with peanut butter, walnuts and chocolate chips, mmm mmm.

Finally, if you are reading this and dying to get more involved and sample some of this extravagant cuisine but worried that it is too late since the semester is over… no worries!! Next friday is their end of semester kick off which will be a picnic in the park with Chef Tory Miller, the head chef of L’Etoile and owner of Graze. The tickets are 7$ in advance and 10$ on the day of the event. This will be held in a park, TBD, next Friday (5/6) starting at 5:30pm. There is also an event before the dinner where UW Slow Food will be promoting their very first cookbook. This will begin at 4:00pm and free copies will go to the first people to arrive. This is an awesome event to enjoy the end of a great semester with good food and fun people.

We made sure to buy our tickets at the this weeks café lunch so hurry up and come one, come all!

For more information check out their website or blog!

Join the movement and Bon Appetit!