Announcing the Inaugural Local Hero Award Winners
By Wendy Allen | Illustration By Bambi Edlund 1
A hearty congratulations is in order for our five 2012 Edible Madison Local Hero Award winners. As a “people’s choice” award, the winners were nominated and voted on by you, our readers, which makes this award all the more meaningful to the recipients. Thanks to you for recognizing the hard work these organizations and businesses have put into championing farm fresh, locally-produced food. Each of them fosters a sense of community in what they do. Join us in celebrating these very special local heroes.
Argyle & Darlington
Starting out with over 60 varieties of produce ten years ago, Carrie and Eric Johnson quickly realized how much work it takes to grow good produce. So they pared down to just a few varieties of potatoes and turned their sights to pasture-raised meats.
“We soon realized that we enjoyed the animals much more and saw how the whole system worked together by rotating the animals and investing in the pastures,” said Carrie. The beef, lamb and veal are 100 percent grass-fed. “No grain… Only grasses, legumes and alfalfa in the seasons when available, and hay and fermented silages in the winter."
They raise chicken, turkey, lamb, beef and pork, plus sell prepared frozen meat entrees, stocks, soups and stews at Madison-area farmers markets, and to restaurants and grocers. Three years ago, the busy couple took on a partner, Matthew Walter, to manage the beef and hog part of the operation. Since Matthew remains behind the scenes, Carrie says most folks don’t realize he’s part of the farm, but he has become a vital part of what makes Jordandal Farms tick.
And that tick isn’t slowing, by any means. One of their proudest accomplishments of 2011 was a 15 percent increase in production and sales even during a recession, and 2012 looks to bring more growth to their recently introduced and already successful meat CSA. Watch their website for information about farm dinners throughout this year as well.
The trio’s good works extend beyond the market, too. In their “spare” time, they work with school programs, raise money for battered women and children programs, and donate to Second Harvest Food Bank.
Jordandal Farms, with only six hands, seems to be making the difference of 50 to our local food system and food economy— from farm to plate to community-at-large.
Tory Miller, L’Etoile Restaurant and Graze
Between L’Etoile and Graze, teaching cooking classes at Sherman Middle School, and getting nominated for a James Beard Award for Best Chef Midwest (winners announced in May), Chef Tory Miller has his hands full. But however busy, his focus on quality, local food never falters.
“Tory is steadfast in the restaurant’s philosophy of choosing local and sustainable ingredients whenever possible—not only when it’s convenient, and not because it’s trendy,” said Traci Miller, coproprietor of L’Etoile and Tory’s sister. “We believe it’s the right thing to do for our local food community, and that partnership with our producers is what inspires us to remain committed to that philosophy.”
“L’Etoile has a great history and reputation, and Graze restaurant has been incredible,” said Chef Tory. “It has expanded our buying power to more farms, putting more into our local agricultural economy. It is also incredibly fun to work with such amazing people on all sides of the business—cooks, servers, office and farmers.” Traci elaborated that Graze has helped them double (in some cases triple) their purchases from their long-time producers.
Throughout this year, L’Etoile will be hosting casual wine and artisan cheese tastings on the first Wednesday of each month. Keep an eye out for Graze’s ever-changing “market menu” and special Sunday night dinners happening in upcoming months.
“Since it was voted on by our local audience, it really means a lot.” said Chef Tory. Traci continued, “Especially as we strive every day to be a sustainable food leader for our community. When the work that we are so passionate about gets acknowledged in such a personal way, it gives the entire team energy to strive even further.”
Food Shop Category:
Willy Street Co-op
Willy Street Co-op is one of those places where, even as an outof- towner, you can walk in and feel at ease. The co-op has been a fixture in the Williamson Street neighborhood since 1974 and, remaining loyal to the seven international Cooperative Principles, does more than simply provide nutritious food to an urban area—they are working toward social, environmental and economic change in the entire food system.
“We are gratified to win this award, especially with the other high-quality food retailers in our category,” says General Manager Anya Firszt. “I’m honored to accept it on behalf of our staff, board and owners, but really it belongs to all of us. Thank you to all who voted for Willy Street Co-op!” The co-op is owned by over 28,000 people and is governed by a democratically-elected board of directors.
Their most exciting development of the last year was the first anniversary of their new location, Willy Street Co-op West in Middleton. After a six-year process to finally open the store in 2010, Brendon Smith, director of communications, says the co-op is feeling incredibly welcomed by the neighborhood and proud to bring local, organic food to a new area.
Over the next three to five years the co-op will be focusing on green energy initiatives, working to price products to be more affordable and accessible to all members of the community, and creating multi-dimensional partnerships to develop our local food system and maximize the co-op’s collective economic impact.
Remember, you don’t have to be a member to shop at the Willy Street Co-op (though there is a 5 percent surcharge for nonmembers) or to participate in their educational programs, so feel free to visit either location, wander the aisles, learn about what it means to be a cooperative, and pick up a tasty treat for dinner.
Food/Beverage Artisan Category:
Adrian Reif and Jeremy Lynch, Yumbutter
“It’s pretty freakin’ cool!” said Adrian Reif, founder and head yumbutterologist. “It’s kinda reaffirming for us because from the day the idea was conceived, the goal was to make customers happy. A company cannot—and should not—exist without putting customers at the forefront of all decisions. Period. So for the people to vote and give us this honor lets us know we’re doing something right.”
The first half of Yumbutter’s 2011 was spent hammering and sanding (local wood), painting (with no VOCs or toxins), and finally in June, “firing up a new churnin’ machine in our new churning facility,” said Adrian, which incorporates repurposed equipment “to keep it in the loop.”
2012 seems to have Adrian squirming like a schoolkid at 2:59 p.m. This year Yumbutter will begin donating one jar of their fantastically funky—and more important, healthy—PBs to a program fighting child malnutrition in Haiti through their BuyOneFeedOne program. But possibly the most exciting development: Yumbutter’s Food Goodness Guru Jeremy Lynch will be launching Wisconsin’s peanut industry (in a sense) at Enos Farms in Spring Green. He’ll be growing a trial peanut crop this year, replacing soybeans as a rotation for corn.
“We’re proposing a company that measures success by the happiness of its customers and employees, the footprint of its time on earth, and the benefits it brings to others’ ways of life,” Adrian continued. “Really, we want to be an example of the company of the future, a company that cares about everyone around them, not just the next dollar.”
Quality ingredients. Inspired combinations of deliciousness. Socially-responsible business philosophy. Global community mindset. We see now why these folks got your votes.
Slow Food Madison
Slow Food Madison was founded in 1999 as one of the first Slow Food chapters in the United States. Since then, they’ve been tirelessly working toward a mission to “make our food system more good, clean and fair through grassroots volunteer-powered educational, DIY, ‘foodie’ social events.”
“We are honored, humbled and surprised,” said Matt Feifarek, chair of the leaders committee. “We also want to share the award with our Slow Food colleagues at the UW campus chapter—they’re doing great work there, and we’re certain that some of your readers also had their work in mind.”
Last year, Slow Food Madison coordinated beer tastings, a fundraiser for a community center and urban garden in Senegal, and a celebration of heritage pigs with Chef Dan Fox called “Slow Pig." Slow Food Café was also born, where every Wednesday Slow Food UW volunteers plan, cook and sell a homemade lunch at The Crossing on campus.
The group is also proud of the nationally-coordinated “$5 Challenge.” Last September, more than 5,500 people showed the world that delicious, quality food can be had for less than $5 per meal. And apparently, Matt said, “the day even caught the attention of Michelle Obama!”
For 2012, watch for a website update to make it easier for volunteers to get involved with Slow Food activities. “Here’s a teaser,” said Matt. “Look for a ‘Home- Economics, Rebooted’ series of classes on everything from pantry-mastery to home mixology.”
Incredibly, Slow Food Madison does all this with no offices, no staff and no funding from national or international Slow Food offices. “We’re proud to be 100 percent volunteer-powered,” said Matt, “yet we can make our small mark on the food system and be counted among your other local heroes. Being in such good company makes us proud.”