Fresh—a word that has many different connotations and meanings. And when it comes to food, fresh—whatever the meaning—is something that everyone is looking for. There is nothing better than biting into a just-picked, sun-warmed peach so ripe with juice it drips down your chin, while the opposite is anything but good. Unfortunately, there is often no guarantee that the food we buy is as fresh as it can be.

Luckily for us, Wisconsin’s growing season abounds with fresh foods in all tastes, shapes and scents. And to make it easier for you to find the freshest, locally grown products available, just turn to the free 2007 Southern Wisconsin Farm Fresh Atlas—a listing of more than 100 southern Wisconsin farms, many that grow fruits and vegetables that are free of pesticides and chemicals or raise animals that are free of growth hormones and antibiotics.

Selecting a farm

In its sixth year of production, the annual Southern Wisconsin Farm Fresh Atlas gives you the freedom to select a farm that has what you’re looking for, be it tender, pencil-thin asparagus in the spring or BLT-ready heirloom tomatoes in summer or free-range heritage turkeys in the fall. The Atlas is your link to fresh, great-tasting food grown close to home.

Looking to join a CSA program this year? Want to pick your own strawberries? Wondering if the farm down the road is certified organic? With easy-to-use icons, the Atlas is your go-to guide for locating local, sustainably grown food. The Atlas also lists area farmers’ markets and businesses (like our own Willy Street Co-op!) that feature local, seasonal products on their menus and shelves, so even if you can’t make it to the farm, you can still enjoy the season’s bounty.

Too busy to cook but still want to support local agriculture?

“Buy Fresh Buy Local” is REAP’s new program launching in this year’s Atlas. The program will provide consumers with the resources to help them locate restaurants and businesses that have developed working relationships with farmers in southern Wisconsin. And that, ultimately, helps achieve the main goal of the Buy Fresh Buy Local program: increasing purchases from local farms.

Farmer pledges

The farms featured in the Atlas have pledged to “protect our lands and water resources, treat animals with care and respect, and provide safe working conditions for their employees.” Buying locally grown foods helps keep farmers on their land, preserving Wisconsin’s great farming heritage. And when you buy local, you are free to experiment with what is growing in your “backyard”—not from someone’s backyard 2,000 miles away. Not only does shortening the distance from farm to table make for fresher, more flavorful food, it also saves energy and reduces carbon dioxide emissions. Your food choices affect more than what you’re having for dinner—things like global biodiversity and global warming can ultimately be shaped by something as simple as buying locally.

To find your copy

With its April 21st debut at Dane County Farmers’ Market, the Atlas is now available every Saturday at the information booth located at the top of State Street. Look for a steady supply in the Co-op’s entryway or find a copy at farmers’ markets, libraries, participating farms, and area restaurants and businesses throughout southern Wisconsin. To see a list of distribution sites, please visit www.reapfoodgroup.org/atlas (a web version of the Farm Fresh Atlas will soon be added to the website, as well).

A group effort

The Southern Wisconsin Farm Fresh Atlas is a collaborative effort of REAP Food Group, the Dane County Farmers’ Market, the Friends of the Dane County Farmers’ Market, and the UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems. This year’s Southern Wisconsin Farm Fresh Atlas has received generous underwriting support from Heartland Credit Union. Other major financial supporters include Bunky’s Café, Capital Brewery, Fountain Prairie Farm, Greenbush Bar, Harvest Restaurant, L’Etoile and Café Soleil, Lombardino’s Restaurant, MACSAC, Nature’s Bakery Cooperative, Organic Valley, Physicians Plus, RP’s Pasta, Savor Wisconsin, Slow Food Madison, The Washington Hotel, the Wisconsin Farmers Union and, of course, the Willy Street Co-op.

For more information

If you are interested in distributing copies of the 2007 Southern Wisconsin Farm Fresh Atlas or if you would like more information on this resource, please contact Miriam Grunes at (608) 294-1114 or info@reapfoodgroup.org.