Student organizations, city officials and now the county parks department are all pushing to include more organic and locally grown food into the diets of students and residents across the city of Madison and Dane County.
As part of its Organic Agriculture Lands initiative, Dane County will lease 24 acres of county park land to an organic grower, according to a Dane County statement. The county also has a community garden at another park, and hopes to open up another fresh food market in Madison, the statement said.
University of Wisconsin students are also among those advocating for sustainable food. Slow Food UW, a student run organization that advocates clean, healthy and fair food, provides students with access to sustainable food through the cafe they operate on campus during lunchtime every Wednesday.
The campus-based chapter of the Slow Food movement was founded just four years ago and already runs four different projects with the help of forty interns, Taylor Lundberg, the café finance intern at SFUW said in an email to The Badger Herald.
Lundberg added SFUW does not only promote organic produce on campus, but also throughout Dane County and works with farmers throughout southern Wisconsin.
“SFUW prides itself on benefiting both the UW-Madison community as well as Dane County as a whole,” Lundberg said. “We really make an effort to diversify who and where we are sourcing from while maintaining our sole principle of good, clean and fair food.”
SFUW attains its products from a variety of local producers, including Willy Street Co-op, Hook’s Cheese in Mineral Point and Jordandal Farms in Argyle.
In addition to SFUW, F.H. King is another student-run organization on campus that promotes sustainable agriculture. Axel Adams, a spokesperson for F.H. King, said the organization has an organically run student garden.
“We have about a two-and-a-half acre student garden that we run organically,” King said. “That’s kind of like a teaching garden for students — for a lot of students it’s their first exposure to organic production.”
F.H. King also has a compost pickup program, which Adams said involves members biking around and picking up compost at local businesses and people’s houses to help raise awareness about food mileage.
Most recently, Adams said, F.H. King has been working with the Agronomy department at UW to increase food production on campus and increase the amount of local produce in cafeterias.
F.H. King also offers workshops and lecture series that range from issues of self-sufficiency like beer brewing, yogurt making and bee keeping to help involve more students in the sustainable agriculture movement.
Lundberg said although UW has been making great strides to encourage local and organic agriculture in recent years, there is still some room for improvement.
“A great place for the university to start would be to take on the Real Food Challenge, which encourages universities to create a ‘healthy, fair and green food system’ by 2020,” Lundberg said. “By switching its purchasing over to local/community-based and humane food sources, UW could potentially become a national leader in changing the way colleges impact our food system.”