Eating local is beneficial to both the environment and our health. It’s estimated that U.S. meals have traveled 1,500 miles from farm to plate. These lengthy transportation times require crops to be harvested prematurely and result in lower nutritional content that continues to decline before being consumed. Local food travels shorter distances, which also means less fuel and fewer greenhouse gases.
Wisconsin’s water, soil, and climate contribute to it being ranking as one of the nation’s leading agricultural states. Here in south-central Wisconsin, we have a number of options available to access fresh, local foods during our growing season. Eating locally can significantly reduce your individual carbon footprint by avoiding the travel, but it also has health benefits because organic produce tends to be more affordable when purchased locally and directly from producers.
1. Shop at a food co-op
Co-ops generally seek local, organic, quality foods and dry goods. Rather than being privately or investor-owned, food cooperatives are owned and governed by the community. These grocery stores are open for all to shop but also welcome shoppers to join as member-owners, allowing them to vote on decisions regarding the operations of the co-op. To find a co-op near you, visit localharvest.org. Currently, the closest co-op in operating to Whitewater is Basics Cooperative, but there is there’s a co-op coming to Whitewater hopefully soon!
Whitewater Grocery Co. serves to nourish and educate the community while offering local foods, natural choices, and gourmet options. Planning efforts for the Whitewater GroCo began in 2016 and they anticipate opening in the next few years once they reach their target ownership goal of 1,000. For membership options and more information visit whitewatergrocery.co.
2. Shop at local farmers markets
Whether you’re shopping for produce, honey, flowers, meats, products from the farmers market are minimally processed and more humane than conventional agriculture. You’re also able to meet farmers and artisans directly to learn about how and where your food is made. While farmers markets usually offer produce, some also have various forms of entertainment including music, food trucks, art, crafts, and other products. Going to local markets is a fun thing to do with family, friends, or to meet new people within the community. Check out localharvest.org to find farmers markets in your area.
Whitewater has two weekly farmers markets available throughout the growing season! From May through October, the Whitewater City Market is held at the Historic Train Depot (301 W. Whitewater St.) on Tuesdays from 4-7 PM. The Whitewater Farmer’s Market is held on Saturdays from 8 AM-12 PM at the True Value (1415 W. Main Street).
3. Join a CSA
Community supported agriculture (CSA) connects consumers to local food directly from farmers. By purchasing an annual “share,” members are provided with fresh, seasonal produce and other specialty products. Product offerings and delivery options vary by CSA. Visit localharvest.org to find a CSA near you.
UW-Whitewater is a host site for Wholesome Harvest CSA, a family farm located in Fort Atkinson, WI that offers a variety of membership options for their products including produce, meats, and eggs with weekly deliveries to the University Center for its members. They anticipate achieving organic certification in the next year or so and have used organic methods for a number of years. Additionally, the city of Whitewater is served by Regenerative Roots, a Certified Organic farm located near Jefferson, WI that delivers to The SweetSpot Cafe. As an added bonus, CSAs are typically looking for summer help and can be a great job for students to learn more about farming and gardening produce!
4. Start your own garden
Growing your vegetables is as local as it gets! If you don’t have the space or aren’t ready to commit to a traditional garden bed, container gardening is a manageable alternative and easy way to get started. Joining a community garden is another option, allowing you to rent a garden plot for the season. This also gives you the opportunity to connect with fellow gardeners to share tips and tricks! Attending volunteer sessions at the UW-Whitewater Campus Garden is another option to learn about gardening maintenance first hand.
Whitewater Community Garden (1201 Innovation Drive) has 30 plots available to the public with access to water and tools included in the rental fee. If you’re not in the Whitewater area, you can search for local community gardens at communitygarden.org.