It's time to give thanks for local food and the people who bring it to us.
All local food is political
So many reasons to be thankful, and here are a few.
Many Thanksgiving tables will feature local foods this week, a real blessing. It’s hard to imagine a more positive development than the growth of the local foods movement. Some thought it would be a trend. Not anymore. It’s a powerful market force, and it’s here to stay.
Local and regional growers continue to find ways to extend the season, and with a little persistence and flexibility, consumers can find local fruits and veggies more than half the year. Some are available all year, as are local and regional meats, fish, dairy products, beverages and more. Buyers get to know the folks who grow the food. Farm operations thrive near or in urban areas, often on small acreages. The money stays at home. Dollar for dollar, the local food trade doesn’t rank up there with some other kinds of agriculture, but it is woven deeply into our cultural fabric.
One of the ways local and regional growers extend the season is with those high tunnels, or hoop houses you see on farms. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has helped support them with cost-sharing under its “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative, a program that boosts local economies, local foods and sustainable agriculture.
NRCS is USDA’s conservation service, focusing on private lands. As 2012 comes to a close, we can say thanks to Wisconsin NRCS State Conservationist Pat Leavenworth. Pat retired recently, after 18 years of leading the state agency. She was the longest-serving state conservationist in the country when she retired. Her knowledge and expertise frequently led the agency to call her to Washington on special assignments.
Pat has given in other ways here at home. She was co-chair of the Waters of Wisconsin Initiative for the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters from 2000 to 2002. She also served on the coordinating committee for the academy’s Future of Farming and Rural Life Project from 2005 to 2007. She has mentored many young men and women along the way.
Washington can’t snatch Pat anymore. She and her husband, Phil, are staying right here. In addition to tending their farm near Mount Horeb, Pat promises to stay active in causes she supports.
Finally, some anniversaries come and go without a lot of fanfare. So it was when the Wisconsin Area Research Center network celebrated its 50th year in October. But it’s an anniversary well worth noting. The Wisconsin Historical Society serves as the hub of the network, which has 14 area research centers (ARCs), located on four-year University System campuses and at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center in Ashland. The network makes the Historical Society’s vast collection easily accessible. Almost everyone in the state lives within an hour of an ARC.
ARCs house important manuscript collections in the regions where they originated. Staff help people access those collections, and a transfer system makes materials in one location available at any of the others. People from all walks of life and corners of the state use the system. Many are genealogists interested in family history. They find themselves in the company of students, faculty and local historians.
Civilizations advance when they take care to preserve history and its lessons for all. Thankfully, that’s what the ARC network does.
November 22, 2012
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Bill Berry is a FightingBob.com contributing editor who lives in Stevens Point and writes columns for the Capital Times and other publications.