Monday, September 21, 2009

Maybe it's something in the milk

Wisconsin is hands down the friendliest state so far. It's unreal. I have yet to encounter anyone even remotely unfriendly -- with the notable exception of the SUV drivers on Layton Avenue in Milwaukee, but they're probably from another state. How is it that everyone is so very friendly and cheerful? There isn't a lower unemployment rate. It certainly can't be the weather -- take that, Massachusetts! -- since winter lasts something like 8 months here (although it has been spectacularly sunny this week). Maybe it's something in the milk. There's an awful lot of good dairy around....

Since my arrival in the fine town of Madison nearly a week ago, I've been exploring the local food scene, from markets to school gardens to restaurants to co-ops. (And eating a lot of cheese.) In the coming week I'm hoping to make it to a number of farms in the area to learn and help out a bit, thanks to some connections fostered by Mark and Heidi -- two of the most friendly, thoughtful, food-loving people I have ever met. Talk about having a finger on the pulse of local food: I think between the two of them I was introduced to approximately half of the local farmers within an 80-mile radius. And there are a lot of them, many more small, organic operations than I would have guessed in the GM-feed-corn-dominated midwest.

My initial impression of the town when I came with a former partner to visit his alma mater for a weekend back in 2001 was that it was a fun college town with good beer. It is still a fun place, and the beer is quite good, but what "Madtown" really has going for it, in my humble opinion, is an amazing local food scene. I mean dozens of farms within an easy day's bike ride from the city center, multiple farmers' markets every day of the week, scores of restaurants sourcing their food locally, more varieties of cheese and heirloom fruits and veggies than you can shake a stick at, and a dynamic Slow Food chapter... this is a town after my own heart. (Chicago, you've got some competition: it's immensely bikeable, too.) It's clearly on the food policy map, with heavy hitters in the local food revolution dropping into town regularly to give free talks: Will Allen (of Growing Power) spoke at a community center this past Thursday, Michael Pollan has a few engagements here in town next week around the "Food For Thought" festival (the 11th annual one, mind you). The place is brimming with food advocates, educators, and supporters. The only other town I've been through with a comparable local farming and food advocacy contingent was in Burlington (in our country's *other* notorious dairy state, Vermont. Maybe there's something in the cheese...).

I can feel my determination to bike onward wavering as the original plan for a 5-day visit stretches to nearly 2 weeks. Must... get... to... Iowa... soon.... (I'm convinced there is some kind of highly addictive substance in the artisanal cheeses. I can't resist trying the seemingly endless, flavorful varieties. And here I'd been thinking all of the best cheeses were made in France -- yet *another* place known for food activism. Mon dieu!)

Stay tuned for a look into local farms and CSAs in the area....

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

1 comment:

  1. I knew going to Wisconsin was going to be good! Say Hi to tall of my relatives in Madison for me will ya!


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