Saturday, March 06, 2010

Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food. Local-foods economic development


Deputy Secretary of the USDA Dr. Kathleen Merrigan will be visiting Madison next week. She is a great proponent of a highly entrepreneurial effort at USDA called 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food'.

The 'Know Your Farmer' web site (link below) describes it this way: "This is a USDA-wide effort to create new economic opportunities by better connecting consumers with local producers. It is also the start of a national conversation about the importance of understanding where your food comes from and how it gets to your plate."

Wisconsin is rapidly emerging as a leader in innovative agricultural and rural economic development efforts that serve the goals of 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.'

For instance, the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen is our new community-access food processing kitchen, located at Mineral Point in Iowa County. Creative new food products can prepared in the Innovation Kitchen and sold commercially. This will be a great platform for increasing connections year round between local producers and consumers. A top goal is to help increase economic opportunities and successful connections between local producers and consumers in the world of local foods.

The Innovation Kitchen is available to custom process smaller batch recipes on a contract basis. This will be artisan food processing: small-batch food preparation done in a state inspected facility by people who truly love their work.

The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen will also soon be available for rent on an hourly basis to food entrepreneurs with the appropriate certifications.

We will soon begin offering a program allowing chefs and food entrepreneurs to partner with specific growers and producers in our region to collaborate on creative new food products that can be prepared in the Innovation Kitchen for resale to their friends and followers.

There are many ways to use these types of platforms to create new economic opportunities to better connect consumers with local producers.

I think our Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen effort and all the exciting work done on the Highland/Driftless Foods project (vegetable processing and freezing) match up nicely with these goals.

Both create pieces of missing infrastructure that will allow wider regional audiences to know their farmer and know their food. All these efforts are being designed to be replicated appropriately in other regions.

The prototypes we're rolling out in Iowa County and all over Wisconsin, especially those of my friend Sue Noble in Vernon County, are being built to create new economic opportunities that connect increasing numbers of consumers with local producers.

The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen is opening now. Driftless Foods, our high-speed vegetable processing project in Highland is accelerating every day. These are real tools that will create new economic opportunities and new understandings of where our food comes from.

Thanks to Dr. Merrigan for her support of this kind of work, and we welcome her to Wisconsin next week!



Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.

Learn more about the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen.

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