Our food system in focus

Article was written by Leigh Presley, Agriculture Extension Educator. 
Originally published in the Kenosha News.

Seeing empty shelves at the grocery store triggers some thoughts about our food system.

I recall going to the grocery store in mid-March and looking for garlic — not a clove to be found. I reflected on where most garlic comes from: China. In that moment, stories of backed up shipping ports there and consumers rushing to the grocery store in this country brought our food system into focus.

Despite the hiccups and delays that this pandemic has caused in our complex food system, on a local and state level, food production continues on the farm. As spring comes to Wisconsin, farmers are planting seeds, milking cows, and caring for newborn animals.

We can’t control much right now, but for those who are fortunate enough to have a steady income, what and how we purchase is something we can control. Here are a few ways you can exercise that control while also helping to make a difference to farmers in our local food system:

  • Winter farmers markets have closed normal operations, but many have found avenues to continue in a different way. The Great Lakes Farmers Market in Racine is one of those markets supporting pre-order and pick-up options to connect consumers with their vendors. Visit milaegers.com/info/farmers-market for more information.
  • Now is the perfect time to purchase a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share from a local farm. A CSA share will provide you with a regular allotment of fresh vegetables and other farm products throughout the growing season. To find farms that offer CSA shares, visit farmfreshatlas.org or contact me at 262-857-1948 and I can recommend a CSA based on your location.
  • Stock up on meat by buying it in bulk from a local farm. This is often a more affordable way to source protein than frequent purchases from the grocery store.
  • Buy Wisconsin dairy products – look for the Wisconsin Cheese logo on your next block of cheddar.
  • Interest in gardening has increased. At the same time, many seed companies, flooded with orders, are having to temporarily close for restocking. Consider purchasing started vegetable plants from local farms and garden centers. Many have come up with creative ways to take orders and get plants to you with limited in-person contact.

For those who don’t have a steady income at the moment, visit www.kenoshacounty.org/covid-19 and check out the Emergency Food Listing. This resource is updated daily by my local colleagues in Extension’s FoodWIse program and provides details on when, where and how you can access free and affordable food during this uncertain time.

There are few positives about our current reality, but I hope one of them is a renewed appreciation for food, including the systems that get it from farm to table.

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