Announcing 2nd Annual Local Hero Award Winners
By Wendy Allen | Illustrations By Bambi Edlund 0
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.
Honoring the region in which they farm with their name, Driftless Organics is committed to preserving our special “Driftless” bio-region of Southwest Wisconsin through sustainable organic farming. Brothers Josh and Noah Engel started growing potatoes when they were pre-teens, evolving their business from “Rainbow Potatoes” into the 86-acre certified-organic enterprise it is today, located near Soldiers Grove, Wis. They took on business partner Mike Lind in 2006 after discovering his affinity for graphic design, marketing and sales. Since then, Driftless Organics has become a well-known name in the local area for their high-quality farm products.
They each have drifted toward their unique skills and passions while also working together to keep it all running smoothly—a quality tantamount to any successful partnership. Their organic sunflower oil (“the olive oil if the Midwest”) and other biodiversity and biofuel projects are the brainchild of Josh. Mike heads up the community supported agriculture (CSA) program plus design and marketing (along with his Big River Beef grass-fed beef business at his own farm). And Noah’s childhood love of tractors has evolved into an innate knack for the farm technology constantly running behind the scenes, from irrigation to washing and packing to, yes, tractoring.
After a fire destroyed their first restaurant, the industrious crew from Underground Food Collective (UFC) rebounded in killer fashion—no self-pity, no time off, no accepting hand-outs; all they requested from their loyal following was work to help themselves move forward.
Moving forward happened only a year later, with the opening of Forequarter in the Tenney-Lapham neighborhood of Madison. The restaurant is intentionally very small (about 35 seats) and is meant to cater to the community; however, its fame spread beyond the neighborhood in less than six months. Get there right at opening or risk waiting the rest of the evening. It’s a tight fit, but the mood is pleasantly boisterous and neighborly with a hint of UFC’s hipster style.
The UFC crew has a special passion for local meat, especially pork. They butcher and break down their own animals, stuff their own sausages, and cure their own salami using traditional techniques (they even offer workshops teaching most of these skills). These products end up on the tables of Forequarter and other area restaurants, crafted into dishes that honor the taste of place.
After the kitchen closes, stick around for farm-fresh mixology at the bar, where they focus on Collins, Aperitifs and Amaro, as well as other unique combinations when the bartender is feeling creative…which is most nights.
708 ¼ E. Johnson Street, Madison