by Erin Oliver, WSGC Member, REAP Food Group Volunteer
My friend Daniel has a lifetime goal to visit every single U.S. National Park before he goes to that big Yosemite in the sky. A map of North America is for him a delicious menu of monuments, parks, battlegrounds and historic sites that he will savor over a lifetime. As for me, I have a less lofty, but equally delicious ambition—to sample food from every farmers’ market, family farm and business listed in the Farm Fresh Atlas.
Since 2001, the annual Farm Fresh Atlas has served as the definitive guide to truly good eating in southern Wisconsin. The atlas includes over 100 farms, farmers’ markets and food-related businesses in our region. Within the colorful pages of the Atlas, readers can find local farms and businesses that offer everything from pick-your-own strawberry patches, to fine cheeses, to pasture-raised meat.
It is worth seeking out an Atlas just for the scene of the bountiful countryside depicted in Mark Harmon’s colorful painting on the cover. Inside, the easy-to-follow format provides the reader with a short description of each farm along with their location and the products you can expect to find at the farm.
The Atlas is a labor of love created by REAP Food Group, Dane County Farmer’s Market, Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems and Friends of the Dane County Farmer’s Market (along with several talented volunteers). The collaborative set out to make it easier for consumers to support working farms committed to sustainable agriculture. The Atlas lists farms and food businesses that pledge to protect our land and water resources, treat animals with care and respect, and provide safe working conditions for their employees.
As “buying local” takes off around the nation, here in southern Wisconsin we are blessed with both quality and (as the Atlas demonstrates) quantity when we make food choices that influence farmland preservation, water quality, local economy and global biodiversity.
“Buying food from locally-owned farms and business is a triple play,” says Atlas fan Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk. “First, you get high quality, fresh, healthy food to eat. Second, your food dollar stays in southern Wisconsin and helps our rural economy. Third, buying food from farms using sustainable agricultural practices protects our lakes, streams and wildlife.”
Keep your eye out for the FREE Atlas which will distributed throughout the summer at the Dane County Farmers’ Market and at other farmers’ markets, public libraries, farms, food co-ops and other area businesses (including Willy Street Co-op). For a complete list of distribution sites, visit www.reapfoodgroup.org.