Announcing the 5th Annual Local Hero Award Winners

Edible Madison News Spring 2016 Issue

Announcing the 5th Annual Local Hero Award Winners

By Wendy Allen 0

It’s always a pleasure to host the people’s choice Local Hero Awards each year and see how much you, our readers, care about and appreciate our region’s local food and farming businesses and organizations. In this fifth year of the Local Hero Awards, congratulations to all the awardees, and thank you for the hard work you’ve put into making our local food system sustainable and delicious.

Awardees will be recognized at an awards reception, and on behalf of each recipient, Edible Madison will make a $500 donation to a non-profit organization of the recipient’s choice. 


Jake Hoeksema

Troy Community Farm

Photo by Patricia Espedal

Madison’s first urban farm, Troy Community Farm has been growing organic food since 2001 on five acres tucked into a corner of the greater Troy Gardens site (both programs of Community GroundWorks). The core of the farm is their CSA, which is unique in that members come to the farm to pack their own shares, providing an opportunity to chat with neighbors and the farmers each week. Many nominators also celebrated Troy Community Farm’s intern program, which is training the next generation of farmers and local food advocates.

Nominators said: Jake “leads his farm crew with an eye toward developing new organic farmers. He treats his [CSA] shareholders and his crew with respect and dignity. He brings passion and wisdom and a sense of humor to the long days of farming.”

Photo by Emma Cassidy



Luke Zahm

Driftless Café

Photos by Dan Howard

Photo by Dan Howard

The Driftless Café had been a fixture in the Viroqua community for many years and always had an aim toward quality, local food. Now under the energetic direction of Luke Zahm, the café’s menu is fully committed to local farmers and changes with the seasons, taking advantage of the Driftless Region’s bounty. The restaurant also offers catering and recently expanded to accommodate more seating and a bar. Your votes also recognized Driftless Café with a Local Hero Award in 2014.

Nominators said: “Best Chef, best food, best person!” and “Incredible community supporter, unsurpassed creative and delicious always changing menu, and committed to local farmers and local economics like no restaurant I have ever witnessed.”

Photo by Dan Howard

Food Shop

Willy Street Co-op

Photos courtesy of Willy Street Co-op

Willy Street Co-op has offered an expanding selection of local, natural and organic products since 1974 and has become a cornerstone of Madison’s local foods scene. They are today one of the nation’s largest grocery co-ops, with two locations and more than 31,000 owners. In addition to the grocery, Willy Street Co-op hosts community-building and educational events, classes and workshops throughout the year at both locations. Willy Street Co-op was also awarded a Local Hero Award in 2012.

Nominators said: “Their workshops add value to our community! I’ve learned so much about cooking foods I never would have on my own.” And “I love being a member of a co-op. They have great food options, and they really make their members feel like family. Madison wouldn’t be the same without Willy Street.”

Food/Beverage Artisan

Jeff Ford

Cress Spring Bakery

Photos courtesy of Cress Spring Bakery

Jeff Ford and team craft breads, granola and pastries by hand using traditional techniques and local, organic ingredients. They use a variety of grains ground onsite in their stone mills, and they use natural leavening with a long fermentation process, which improves nutrient accessibility. This past summer, they launched a weekly Pizza on the Farm night with great success, featuring a lineup of delicious pizzas, such as Pumpkin Sage, Spicy Zebra, and Aubergine.

Nominators said: “Jeff does more than bake bread—and he makes really good bread!—he is actively cultivating a food system that I want to be a part of.” And “They take no short cuts and offer the highest quality products. Jeff Ford is a perfect example of a local food artisan who is well-respected and loved by his customers and community.”

Non-Profit Organization

FairShare CSA Coalition

Photos courtesy of FairShare CSA Coalition

Bike the Barns participants enjoy a tractor ride at a farm stop.

For 23 years, FairShare CSA Coalition has been supporting and connecting community supported agriculture (CSA) farmers and eaters through education, outreach, community building and resource sharing. Through their Partner Shares Program, they offer financial assistance to limited-income households to purchase CSA vegetable shares because they believe everyone has a right to fresh, nutritious food. They host an annual spring CSA Open House, are well-known for their Bike the Barns fundraising bike tours, and have published two cookbooks. This year, FairShare was awarded a USDA grant to expand CSA in Wisconsin—they were the only recipient from Wisconsin.

Nominators said: “Their Bike the Barns events are fun and also raise money so low-income families can join a CSA.” And “A mighty organization that achieves so much on a lean budget and small staff. FairShare has put Madison on the map as the hub of CSA leadership across the country.”

Harmony Valley Farm booth at FairShare's annual CSA Open House.

Past Local Hero Award Recipients


2015: Kristen Kordet, Blue Moon Community Farm

2014: Cate & Mat Eddy, Ridgeland Harvest Farm

2013: Josh & Noah Engel and Mike Lind, Driftless Organics

2012: Carrie & Eric Johnson, Jordandal Farms


2015: Patrick DePula, Salvatore’s Tomato Pies

2014: Luke Zahm, Driftless Café

2013: Forequarter Restaurant

2012: Tory Miller, Graze

Food Shop:

2015: Conscious Carnivore

2014: Viroqua Food Co-op

2013: Fromagination

2012: Willy Street Co-op

Food/Beverage Artisan:

2015: Bloom Bake Shop

2014: Wisco Pop

2013: Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier

2012: Yumbutter

Non-Profit Organization:

2015: Middleton Outreach Ministry

2014: Driftless Folk School

2013: REAP Food Group

2012: Slow Food Madison

Wendy Allen is digital editor, copy editor, and a writer for Edible Madison. She reads style guides for fun, believes stories have power, and is fascinated by the evolution of the English languageā€”for better or worse. Her mission: to wrestle the wily comma into submission.

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