Foodsheds Part 2: Foodshed Superheroes

Feature Stories Fall 2011 Issue

Foodsheds Part 2: Foodshed Superheroes

By Jessica Luhning | Photo By Jim Klousia 0

This is the conclusion to “Foodsheds Part I: Restoring Our Sense of Place,” published in the Summer 2011 issue of Edible Madison.

Under the hot, orange sun on a mid-July afternoon, I tallied the contents of the carefully placed buckets and totes in the back of our small, borrowed, two-wheeled trailer: 50 pounds of fresh asparagus, four cases of red chard, two cases of curly kale, 25 pounds of yellow summer squash and broccoli, five large buckets of crisp salad mix, enough red beets to permanently dye your fingers pink, and odds and ends of green garlic, cilantro and curly parsley. All the fruit—or rather, produce—of our labor.

From farm to farm, we harvested the “leftovers” that had no grocery store shelf or CSA box to call home. Leftovers that would surely meet their untimely death by the blazing sun and blades of a plow if it not for the work of the Kickapoo Gleaners. The Gleaners harvest, wash and pack farm fresh produce for donation to low income elderly persons in my community of Viroqua, and they have one mission in mind—putting fresh, healthy food into the hands of those who need it most.

The Gleaners are “foodshed superheroes” armed with shears, buckets and a knack for spying a field’s last tasty remnants. On this particular harvest, our team included six youth and seven adult volunteers who gleaned enough fresh food to give 35 low income seniors a week’s worth of healthy meals. The Gleaners are making and inspiring sustainable change in my foodshed. They are proof that a simple act, like harvesting beets for someone in need, can make a big difference to the farmers with excess food to share, the children who learn to connect with the land and their elderly community members, and the hungry who are in need of fresh, nutritious food.

The social element (i.e. people power) of sustainable change is key to reviving our local foodsheds. Each of us, young and old, has a role to play in creating more vibrant, healthy communities for this generation and the generations of tomorrow, and there is no better place to start than in your own foodshed.

If you need a little inspiration, look no farther than our own state’s borders. We have outstanding “foodshed superheroes” right here in Wisconsin who are receiving national recognition for innovation and leadership in sustainable food systems development.

Michelle Miller, associate director of the Center for Integrated Agriculture Systems (CIAS), and her colleagues are transforming the way farmers, researchers, consumers and eaters think about food and the health of our foodsheds. This work certainly comes with its challenges here in the Corn Belt of the Upper Midwest, where large, chemical-dependent, monoculture farms are big agribusiness’s prescription for the future.

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