Healthy Food Systems Convergence: A Community Conversation on Healthy Food Access – May 9 – Wisconsin Rapids

Convergence graphicThe Wisconsin Food System Convergence session at the 2017 Hunger & Health Summit, May 9  will give attendees an opportunity to share their voice on how to create a sustainable, good food movement that makes healthy food accessible for all. This convergence will build on all the great work that has been done in the past, and through a modified process of Appreciative Inquiry, will seek to chart a coordinated path forward.

 This session will provide a space for continued conversations from those that participated in the convergence at the January WLFN summit, and an opportunity for new voices to come to the table.

Join us to share your input on how to more effectively work together to build a food system that makes it easy to grow, sell, access, and eat healthy food for all people in Wisconsin.


Apply Now for Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin Grants

datcp_logoMADISON – Since its inception in 2008, the Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin grant program has generated more than $8.4 million in new local food sales. Farmers and others in Wisconsin’s food industry who want to grow their local markets are encouraged to apply in the 2017 round of grants. Managed by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), the grants can help farms and business more efficiently process, market and distribute food in local markets including stores, schools and institutions.

“Just as a wide variety of foods makes for a healthy diet, a variety of farms and agribusinesses makes for a healthy economy,” said BLBW program manager Kietra Olson. “We encourage growers, processors and distributors of diverse products to apply, and we look forward to funding some innovative ideas.”

Pre-proposals must be received at DATCP by 4 p.m. April 14, 2017. Each proposal must include a cover page, a completed budget template and three-page project description. The necessary documents can be found online at

Qualified projects selected during the pre-proposal round will be invited to complete a full proposal. The recipients will be announced in May, 2017.

A total of $200,000 is available in grant funding; the maximum award for each project is $50,000. Grant applicants must provide a cash or in-kind match of at least 50 percent of the total project budget.

Qualified applicants include individuals, groups or businesses involved in Wisconsin production agriculture, food processing, food distribution, food warehousing, retail food establishments or agricultural tourism operations. Proposals could include collaborations or partnerships.

Since 2008, DATCP has awarded 44 BLBW grants for a total of $1,225,400. The program has resulted in nearly 200 jobs retained or created and has benefited more than 2,600 producers.

If you have questions about the application process, contact DATCP’s Buy Local Buy Wisconsin program manager Kietra Olson at 608-224-5112 or


WLNF Summit – 2017 – WI Public Radio “Newsmakers” Interview & News 8000 La Crosse Summit Coverage

Check out the recent “Newsmakers” interview on WI Public Radio featuring La Crosse County’s Maggie Smith, Wisconsin Local Food Network‘s Kathleen Hein, Hillview Urban Agriculture Center‘s Joe Klinge and Feeding Wisconsin‘s David Lee.

The interview covers the recent WI Local Food Summit and looks at local foods in our state and beyond, including Coulee Region Farm2School. The interview will replay on 88.9 on February 4th at 5 am and 6 pm.

Learn more about Coulee Region Farm2School at www.laxf2s.orgwpr-public-radio-2017-newsmaker-show

(L to R) Kathleen Hein – WLFN Chair; Maggie Smith, David Lee, Joe Klinge

Summit 2017 News Coverage – Highlighting the Importance of Local Food in Wisconsin

Text from the news story featured during the Summit in Jan 2017; Watch coverage by clinking on link below.

News Coverage – 2017 WLFN Summit

LA CROSSE, Wis. – There’s a push to grow and buy food locally, and the Wisconsin local food Summit is highlighting that.

This is the eleventh year the Wisconsin Local Food Network (WLFN) is hosting the summit, but the first year it’s in La Crosse.

Organizers said knowing where your food comes from is important for healthy people and communities, and the Coulee Region stands out in the state for how communities and businesses have embraced local food practices.

“I tell people this is important to only people who eat,” WLFN’s chair Kathleen Hein said.

The best discussions take place over food.

“I always like these conferences because they always have good food,” Hein said.

And if local food is the topic you’re bringing to the table, the Radisson Hotel in La Crosse is as good of a place as any Thursday and Friday, where there are representatives from about 160 different organizations that all have food in common.

“It’s about networking, connecting and inspiring people to go back to their own communities to make change,” Hein said.

Hein lives in Prairie Du Chien and is happy to see the local food summit brought home to the Coulee Region.

“It’s really exciting to see the work going on around the state, but then I think ‘We have it here!’, so it’s really nice to bring it here, especially to the Driftless Region,” she said.

“La Crosse is amazing. You guys are really looked at in the state as a shining beacon,” Angela Rester, WLFN manager, said.  “People in the state know that this is an amazing region to come to for production of food as well as farm to table.”

Organizers point to community gardens, and various organizations and businesses supporting locally-grown food as examples, such as Organic Valley.

“We all need to eat,” Shannon Havlik, sustainability manager at Organic Valley, said. “A lot of people don’t know where their food is coming from, and I think it’s important that children, families, everyone knows where their food is coming from and how it’s being made.”

There is still room for improvement in the La Crosse area, and sessions provided attendees with some food for thought on topics ranging from farm to table to starting a business in local food.

“This is about helping people discover things they didn’t know,” Rester said.

The keynote panel at the summit featured Midwest Food Policy leaders talking about how local food charters and policies have moved forward in surrounding states such as Minnesota and Michigan. Hein said she’d like to model that kind of organization and collaboration here.

Hein said hopefully when everyone gets home, they’ll have something new to bring to the table.

“The tools and connections to be inspired to make change in their local communities,” she said.

The summit continues Friday at the Radisson Hotel.


Job / Internship Opportunities in Local Food

2616088_origSheboygan Market Manager
Sheboygan County Interfaith Organization (SCIO)
The SCIO Farmer’s Market makes available fresh native products directly from farmers to residents. Working to help local farmers remain vibrant, educate the community on healthy eating, and provides a social experience that helps build community.

Market Communication Intern
Food, Faith, & Farming Network
Spring 2017
Assist with developing and executing digital marketing efforts including launching the organization’s new website. Prepare program support materials and coordinate pre-event planning. Qualifications: Passionate about earth stewardship and a just food system. Excellent verbal and written communication skills. Adobe Creative Suite or related experience demonstrating copy writing and/or design/layout skills. Ability to work independently to complete tasks. Keen attention to detail. Ability to arrange travel to attend meetings and events in Madison, WI. Submit resume in PDF form to:

Farm to School Education Coordinator
REAP Food Group

This is a full time position with benefits. Please see position description and application instructions here. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until a suitable candidate is identified. Seeking a Farm to School Education Coordinator who is passionate about local, sustainable food and inspiring children to eat healthy and know where their food comes from. The Coordinator will manage the Farm to School educational curriculum and programs, deliver direct education in classrooms, and provide management and training to REAP Farm to School educators.

Education and Events Director
Wellspring Education Center & Organic Farm
Position will remain open until right candidate or candidates are found.  Part-time position or full-time, depending on candidate.  Position could include housing, food, utilities, internet, and laundry on-site at Wellspring. This position is responsible for Farm to School, field trips, camps, adult education, and events such as Taste of Wellspring – 35th Anniversary celebration, Agri-CULTURE Fest, etc.

Request job description and apply by submitting cover letter and resume to

Events Intern
Wellspring Education Center & Organic Farm
Interns commit to a regular schedule of 4-10 hours/week for at least 3 months.  Intern positions are open to students and community members able to commit to a regular schedule for the duration of the internship. Intern will be guided and taught by Wellspring staff, including the Executive Director with over 40 years of event planning, management, and delivery that included Cedarburg Festivals, numerous galas, open houses, YMCA events, and more. Executive Director was also National YMCA Trainer for program planning, management, and delivery.  Request intern description and apply by submitting cover letter and resume to

Outreach Coordinator
Wild Root Market, a food co-op startup in Racine
This person will be responsible for community outreach and member-owner recruitment. Candidates must have excellent communication and organizational skills, with a genuine enthusiasm for our community and our co-op. This is a part-time contract position. The Job Description with details about the position and application process is linked below. Send an email to with questions.

Summit Presentations Led Many to Discuss Kids Learning to Cook – More Local Food Would Be on Plates

WLFN Manager & Wellspring Education Center and Organic Farm Executive Director, Angela Rester had the opportunity to chat with a lot of attendees for the 2017 WLFN Summit and then last week, attended the Routes to Farm Summit where 130+ farmers gathered from Illinois, Southern WI, and a bit of Indiana.  Both Summits had attendees talking about the need for folks to learn to cook again and to WANT to cook, which would lead to greater demands for local food which would in turn, positively impact the local economy and local community vitality, as well as, individual health.

Angie recalled seeing the movie “The Big Chill” where friends gathered over a weekend and while lives and the drama of those lives were revealed in the movie, the friends gathered in the kitchen to prepare the meal and cleaned up afterwards as they listened to great tunes like “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”. They sat together at the table and enjoyed conversation and great food. It honestly inspired folks to cook together and enjoy it!  Some may also recall the surge and interest in “progressive dinners” where the different courses were prepared and eaten in different homes.


“The Big Chill” – Dance Scene in the Kitchen

Is it time for something to happen that makes it “cool” to cook again and take time to enjoy food and friendship or family?  As a nation, do we need to change the devaluing of the dining experience where we insist that kids inhale their food at school and not talk or talk very little?  As a former 2nd grade teacher and someone who has traveled to 30 countries and seen and experienced the customs around food, Angie was very uncomfortable herself when given all of 8-10 minutes to eat her lunch before going out for playground duty (this was back in the mid-70’s). However, now sometimes teaching Farm to School in several elementary schools, she sees the same thing still happening.  “The lack of time to eat not only teaches really bad eating habits, but I think it also leads to some of the food waste we are seeing,” commented Rester.

This article from Huffington Post poses the question, “Should Schools Bring Back Home Economics?”  What do you think?  Go to our Facebook page and leave comments with this posting.  While there, LIKE our page if you haven’t already!

Should Schools Bring Back Home Economics?


At the Summit, Breakout Sessions included;

Wisconsin Farm to School: Continuing the MomentumVanessa Herald, Farm to School Outreach Specialist; Allison Pfaff Harris, WI Department of Public Instruction; Beth Hanna, Community GroundWorks; Natasha Smith, REAP Food Group

Food Waste and New Opportunities for Food RecoveryJonathan Rivin, World Environmental Consulting

Farm to Early Care and Education (ECE)- Growing Farm to Early Care and Education in La CrosseDaithi Wolfe, Wisconsin Council on Children and Families; Audra Wieser, The Parenting Place; Jordan Tredinnick, The Parenting Place; Beth Hanna, Community GroundWorks; Jill Carlson Groendyk, Community GroundWorks

Don’t Miss the WLFN 11th Annual Summit – Hackberry’s Bistro – “End of the Day” Reception – Thurs Jan 12

A special thanks to our reception sponsor – Hackberry’s Bistro  


Always seasonal, local, and organic!

Come to Hackberry’s Bistro Thursday for WLFN’s “end of the day” reception! 

Sample from the best of La Crosse area foods:

  • Fizzeology fermented foods
  • Nami chips
  • Hidden Springs sheep cheese
  • Nordic Creamery goat cheeses and the
  • Bistro’s amazing appetizers created just for the Summit Reception using “local only” products! 
  • Full cash bar includes local beers and wines!

Hackberry’s Bistro is located on the second floor of People’s Food Co-op (PEC), 315 S. 5th Ave  –  a brisk 5 block walk from the Radisson La Crosse Center or drive and park on the street or in one of two PFC lots.

Thursday, January 12……5pm to 6:30pm

INCLUDED with your Summit Registration – Let us know if you are attending so we have enough for everybody!

If you have not yet registered then email to let us know and if you have any dietary requirements.  You can register at the Radisson La Crosse beginning at 7:30 a.m. either Thursday or Friday. Check should be made out to WLFN and full registration at the door is for all registrants is $170 for two days and $100 for one day.  Credit card payment (VISA or MasterCard) will also be accepted on site.


Jan 11 Pre-Summit Tour Registration Deadline – Partners Working Together to Make Local Food More Accessible and to Support Local Food Enterprises – Only $16 includes Dinner, Music, Tour, New Ideas and Network

Open to General Public and WLFN Summit Attendees

Tour will start at 3 p.m. at the Vernon Economic Development Association’s Food Enterprise Center – 1201 North Main Street, Viroqua, WI 54665. Registration deadline is noon on Monday, January 9.  Call after that to see if openings are still available. 262-488-4747.

Pre-Summit Tour poster.jpg

The Food Enterprise is a unique blending of space as a LOCAL FOOD HUB.  Tenants Leasing Production Space include:

  • Artisan Deli Foods – produces white sauerkraut,
  • Community Hunger Solutions – local produce for meal sites and food pantries
  • Driftless Co-Option – organic food-buying club –
  • EZ Farming – aggregator for organic produce
  • Fifth Season Cooperative – coordinates moving local food to institutional foodservice –
  • Kickapoo Coffee – coffee roaster –
  • LuSa Organics – handmade bodycare products –
  • Sole Expressions Dance Studio Co-op – dance classes –

Tenants Using Commercial Kitchens include:

You may have heard about Viroqua and the Vernon Economic Development Association’s Food Enterprise but this is your chance to experience it up close and personal!

This article about Vernon County and Viroqua is taken from a recent publication in Food Tank: The Food Think Tank and Wallace Center at Winrock International. Open to Summit Attendees and the general public is a chance to explore what everyone is talking about!

“Next to Wal-Mart on the edge of rural Viroqua, Wisconsin, a 100,000-square-foot abandoned industrial building is now bustling with new businesses and jobs from an unconventional source: The local food and farming sector.

It’s a turnaround for a small town that lost one of its largest employers and then bet on the growth of local food markets to enliven that vacant space and the area’s economy.” Read the full article at…/food-business-centers-move-o…



WLFN Summit Early-Bird Ends Tomorrow – Wed., Dec. 21

You won’t want to miss the 11th Annual Local Food Summit in La Crosse
Thursday, January 12 and Friday, January 13 with Pre-Summit Vernon County / Viroqua Tour starting at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, January 11.
Breakout sessions will be of interest to local food minded people regardless of whether or not it is part of your profession or because it is your interest or passion!  Click Here to see all your presentation opportunities.
Registration includes;
  • 20 + breakout sessions
  • Panel of State Policy Leaders –  Those who have been a part of effecting state-wide change will participate in the panel, the Convergence, individual breakout sessions, and available for networking throughout the two days.
  • Convergence* – a forum to solicit input from food system stakeholders – see more below
  • Reception and opportunity to participate in after-dinner conversation with the State representatives
  • Two breakfasts and two lunches
  • Tour on Thursday morning to Hillview Greenhouse, the Green Wall at Western Technical College, and then the Vermicomposting Center – open to first 45 registrants signing up for the tour
Click here to register.
Scholarships – Need a full or partial scholarship?  Applications are open until the funding is depleted.  But don’t delay. Ensure your opportunity by applying early as we are nearly half way through the available funding.  Open to high school and college students, and all professions.  Click here to complete a scholarship application.
Pre-Summit Vernon County / Viroqua Experience – Wednesday, Only $16 includes tours, Happy Hour, dinner, and music.  This is a self-drive opportunity starting at 3 p.m. at Vernon Economic Development Association’s Food Enterprise Center – 1201 North Main Street, Viroqua, WI to tour various local food enterprises and initiatives. Then enjoy Branches Winery, Happy Hour, and a locally sourced dinner by Viroqua Food Co-op with music by Dan Sebranek/Acoustic guitar. If you aren’t able to join us for the Summit, consider signing up separately for the Pre-Summit!  Click here to register for the Pre-Summit and /or Summit.
Convergence –  The Wisconsin Food System Convergence will be a forum to solicit input from food system stakeholders on how to create a sustainable, good food movement throughout our state. The Convergence will build on all the great work that has been done in the past, and through a modified process of Appreciative Inquiry, will seek to chart a coordinated path forward. Join us to share your input on how to more effectively work together to build a food system that makes it easy to grow, sell, access, and eat healthy food for all people in Wisconsin.
Volunteers & Group Moderators Needed – There are still some openings for volunteers to serve as room hosts, at registration, set-up, clean-up, and to help moderate table discussions during the Convergence.  If you would like to volunteer, please email
Carpool or Room Mate Needed – Need help with finding a room mate or a ride share?  Click here to list on a carpooling site. Click here to submit a request for room share offer or seeking.
Reception – Thursday 5 – 6:30 p.m. – Hackberry’s Bistro above People’s Food Co-Op is the location and sponsor for this event. . Light appetizers and cash bar featuring local and organic foods, beer, and wines.
Networking Dinner – Thursday 6:15 – 8 p.m. – Piggy’s Restaurant and Blues Lounge – Check out menus at both restaurants at Piggy’s web site by clicking here.  Join the policy leaders and panelists from IL, IA, MI, and MN for a conversation about how we might all work more collaboratively related to local food.  Sign up here for the Networking Dinner (individual checks- not included in registration fee)
We look forward to seeing you for the exciting 11th Annual Wisconsin Local Food Network Summit!  Feel free to contact us if you any problems with registering or have questions.
Find us on Social Media!
Twitter: WLFN7
Instagram: wilocalfoodnetwork



On January 12-13, 2017, The Wisconsin Local Food Network (WLFN) will hold its 11th Annual Summit at the Radisson Hotel in La Crosse, Wisconsin convening stakeholders from across the Wisconsin food system for learning, networking, and community building.

WLFN is a network of individuals and organizations that works towards a Wisconsin food system that supports a strong food infrastructure that helps local communities and businesses thrive, sustainable farms of all sizes, and affordable access to healthy locally grown food for ALL Wisconsin residents. With a long-standing partnership with UW-Extension and other food and agriculture groups, WLFN is the leading coalition of food advocates in the state.

The Summit, held annually since 2007, brings together community organizers, agency staff and advocates, educators, students, local food producers, processors, distributors, businesses, and eaters to learn, network, and help shape our local food systems.

Click here if you would like to see the e-news with all the details including the Pre-Summit Vernon County / Viroqua Experience, the La Crosse Food Tour on Thursday morning, the reception, networking dinner, opportunity to network with and converse with local food leaders from five (5) states, and things like carpooling and seeking or offering room shares.

In past Summits, WLFN has introduced concepts of Open Space, Networking, and Collective Impact throughout the schedule, encouraging participants to come together to discuss key issues surrounding the Wisconsin food system and to think creatively about how we can come together to collectively shape a strong, equitable food system.

This year’s closing general session will be a Wisconsin Food System Convergence. This will be a forum to solicit input from food system stakeholders on how to create a sustainable, good food movement throughout our state. The Convergence will build on all the great work that has been done in the past, and through a modified process of Appreciative Inquiry, will seek to chart a coordinated path forward. Join us to share your input on how to more effectively work together to build a food system that makes it easy to grow, sell, access, and eat healthy food for all people in Wisconsin.

“We are very excited for the closing general session,” said Kathleen Hein, WLFN Board Chair. “It will bring together the work we have done together over the last decade and start to chart a course forward for the next 10 years to engage more people and spark more connections throughout the state.”

“For those who have felt things may have moved too slowly in the past as it relates to action, we’ve heard you and the Convergence is our promise to ensure work between Summits,” said Angela Rester, former WLFN Board Director and currently managing WLFN. “The Wisconsin Healthy Food Systems Alliance partnered with us this year and have given an extra boost to ensuring next action steps between Summits.

Early bird registration rates are available until midnight CST Wednesday, December 21 and discounts are available for farmers and students (high school, technical college, and other higher learning institutions). Registration scholarships are also available for anyone wishing to participate but hasn’t the means or all of the means to do so. To register for the conference or to learn more about WLFN, please visit the Wisconsin Local Food Network website at

Volunteers are needed to serve as room hosts and monitors, set-up and take-down, support for IT needs, registration, and new this year, we need about 20 folks to serve as table moderators during the Convergence.  If you would like to learn ways that you can be engaged as a volunteer at the Summit or to help spread the word, please contact Angela Rester at or 262-488-4747.