Celebrating Southern Wisconsin’s Robust Local Food Culture

Edible Madison News

Celebrating Southern Wisconsin’s Robust Local Food Culture

By Edible Madison 0

VIROQUA Wis.—March 13, 2014Edible Madison readers from Madison to the Mississippi River have made it clear: Southern Wisconsin has a profound connection to its rural roots. Thousands cast nominations and votes for the magazine’s annual Local Hero Awards, honoring local food and farming entrepreneurs in five categories: farmer/farm, chef/restaurant, food shop, food/beverage artisan and non-profit organization.

Edible Madison is proud to announce this year’s awardees, who all hail from the Viroqua area. This notable result demonstrates a region-wide appreciation for and dedication to preserving Wisconsin’s rural heritage, placing high value on businesses and organizations that support and grow their small, hometown communities as well as serve the region’s urban centers.

"Receiving a Local Hero Award shows that the work we are all doing is about celebrating the bounty of the area and the whole agriculture and food processing movement." said Chef Luke Zahm of the Driftless Café and this year’s Chef/Restaurant category awardee. "Through the power of localism, organics and sustainable business practices, our region is vibrant and growing like never before. Together, we can serve as a sustainable model for the entire nation.”

The Local Hero Awards are “people’s choice” awards—nominated and voted on by the readers in an open process. Credit goes to the people for recognizing the hard work these organizations and businesses have put into championing farm fresh, locally-produced food.

“Edible Madison is pleased and proud to represent a region that embraces its rural roots from the Driftless hills and coulees to Capitol Square.” said Jamie Lamonde, publisher and editor-in-chief of Edible Madison. “We invite everyone to join us in celebrating this year’s awardees and our entire pioneering food community.”

Announcing Edible Madison’s 2014 Local Hero Award winners:

Farmer/Farm: Cate and Mat Eddy, Ridgeland Harvest (ridgelandharvest.com)

Cate and Mat Eddy of Ridgeland Harvest Farm grow certified organic produce and raise beef, pork and chicken on organic pastures. They clearly love what they do and love every bit of real food that comes from their patch of earth, whether bright and perfect or a little buggy and misshapen, because when they look around at the countryside, they’ve noticed “there is certainly not a lot of food for humans.” They primarily sell through their CSA, but you may also find them at the Dane County Farmers’ Market.

Chef/Restaurant: Chef Luke Zahm, Driftless Café (driftlesscafe.com)

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 the Zahms, its farm to table values and Chef Luke’s love of good food truly show in every dish. The café’s menu is committed to local—their many farm and artisan sources are all listed on the website—and changes with the seasons, taking advantage of the Driftless Region’s local abundance.

Food Shop: Viroqua Food Co-op (viroquafood.coop)

VFC is a thriving natural foods cooperative that has, over the past 15-plus years, grown from humble beginnings as a simple buying club into a store and deli with more than 2,800 owners. The store focuses on sourcing local and organic produce and products, and fair trade when applicable. The co-op also sponsors educational events and donates to local organizations; notably, the second Wednesday of each month is One Percent Wednesday, when the store donates one percent of the store’s gross sales to a non-profit organization selected by the membership.

Food/Beverage Artisan: Wisco Pop (wiscopopsoda.com)

When demand became so founder Austin Ashley could no longer call brewing his craft sodas a hobby, he and his wife, Hallie, took the plunge and launched Wisco Pop. Wisco Pop is craft brewed soda made with real ingredients: organic fresh-juiced citrus, pure honey and real herbs and spices. No processed corn, no artificial flavors. Bonus points for their reusable packaging—a 5 gallon keg or a cute 2.5 gallon pig dispenser (which actually looks like a pig). Since their founding just in 2012, they’ve grown to distribute to 30 locations in Madison, Milwaukee and Viroqua. In their words, Wisco Pop “makes it safe to drink soda again.”

Non-Profit Organization: Driftless Folk School (driftlessfolkschool.org)

Folk schools are popular in Nordic countries, Germany and Austria, so it makes sense that one would find its home in Wisconsin, with our Norse and German heritages. The Driftless Folk School is a unique educational organization that is preserving rural culture by offering experiences in agriculture, natural history, arts and crafts, and traditions of rural Wisconsin and other cultures, with a goal of inspiring lifelong learning. Classes include blacksmithing, wild edibles, carpentry skills, weaving and so much more. Many of the classes Driftless Folk School offers are “dying arts,” skills that have become unnecessary in the wake of modern conveniences, making them all the more important to preserve and protect.

About Edible Madison, a magazine on a mission

Dedicated to celebrating the food and agriculture of Southern Wisconsin, Edible Madison magazine is published quarterly with the seasons. Edible Madison’s mission is to promote that eating locally is good for our economy, environment and health and to connect eaters with local, sustainable food sources. We accomplish this through food education and by telling stories about the people behind our region’s dynamic food movement. For more information, visit ediblemadison.com.

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