Tag Archives: Farmer’s Market

Madison’s “real food” System

This was a paper I turned in for my Food, Culture, and Society class. It’s longer than my usual posts, but it is an overview of what I’ve learned (and gained) from being a part of Madison’s amazing, developing, and transformative food culture.


Jenny Lynes

Exercise 1

On September 27th, I found myself at the Madison Food for Thought Festival standing behind the sales table of the ‘Buy Fresh, Buy Local Café’ donned in a volunteer’s T-shirt handing out scones. Crowds of people walked past me toting canvas bags with bright red, yellow, and green produce poking out. They talked about petting the chickens, what Michael Pollan had said to them, and interesting new recipes they’d found that creatively included kale, zucchini, and lots (and lots) of tomatoes. As a stilt-walking farmer strolled past me, then stopped to take a picture with my literary role model, Michael Pollan, I had to take a moment.

How did I get here?

My history with local foods is a short one. In fact, just this spring I was a paying member in a weight loss program that encouraged my notion, as Michael Pollan describes, that eating at any one time does only one of two things: 1. Fixes my health, or, 2. Ruins my health. Paul Rozin calls this pleasure-voided idea of eating a personal and cultural “nightmare.” Wendell Berry calls these eaters “victims… passive, uncritical, and dependent.” M.F.K. Fisher describes this process as, “[eating with] a glum urge for food to fill us.” Saying, “we are ignorant of flavour. We are as a nation taste-blind.”

Putting these notions in my past, I spent time on a small family farm in Maine this summer where the farmer occasionally compared eating to sex. I knew that food could taste good, but this idea introduced me to the idea of pleasure in eating and began to prepare me for entering into the web of farmers, advocates, students, eaters, and community-makers by which I have been surrounded thus far this semester.

Through this essay, I would like to explain the Madison Food System and those involved with it through the lens of a ‘slow food baby’, or perhaps more accurately: a ‘real food baby’. I didn’t know it was possible, but this food I’ve been eating has taught me about myself. Despite a prior connection to and passion for the environment, Madison has taught me that Berry was right. “How we eat determines, to a considerable extent, the way the world is used.” On one of the first days of class, someone mentioned that Cargill would defend its practices by stating it’s just delivering what we want and what the market asks for. Although this town is not short many a “beer-and-pizzavore,” I wonder; if Cargill’s products were based off the Madison market demand, would America’s food system be the same? Would Cargill even exist?

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Slow Food in Madison

If Madison had a full name, I think it would be: Madison Slow-Food Wisconsin. (Well, maybe Madison Badger Football Slow-Food Wisconsin. Whatever.)

I became interested in food issues as a way to narrow my environmental focus last fall, but it wasn’t until this year that I realized just how impressive and involved the slow and local food movements are here. I now know how lucky I am to be surrounded by this and I will definitely gain plenty of ideas should I ever want to start similar programs in another city someday.

DSCN0763This morning I volunteered at the Food for Thought Festival where Michael Pollan also came to speak. I was only expecting a few people to stop by after the farmers’ market, so I was surprised when thousands of people stopped by to show support, learn, eat, and make community!

I got to meet many interesting people while I was working at the Buy Fresh, Buy Local cafe and then the info table. I EVEN got to break my no-meat fast with a brat from L’Etoile restaurant which told me all about the farm from which the meat came. It was so good. (SO. GOOD.)

Anyway, the morning made me excited about becoming more involved with food advocacy since it’s such a great way to play an important role in environmental issues and has an appeal to all types of people eating all types of foods. I’m hesitant to focus only on one “issue” group since I know I have a lot more to learn, but this has been really fun so far this year.

I’d love to go on, but I have to get to some homework, so I’ll let some pictures tell the story for themselves.


People learning about REAP and BFBL

People learning about REAP and BFBL

Had to love this after my soils test on Monday!

I had to love this after my soils test on Monday

The BFBL cafe tent where I was. SUCH good food!

The BFBL cafe tent where I was. SUCH good food!

Some local art (of food... surprise) with a view of the capitol

Some local art (of food... surprise) with a view of the capitol

The demonstration tent

The demonstration tent


Thanks for the food, farmers!

Thanks for the food, farmers!

Pet the chickens!

Petting the chickens

Tons of produce at the Farmers' Market

Tons of produce at the Farmers' Market

My friend Adi buying apples

My friend Adi buying apples

Fall flowers

Fall flowers

Anyway, it was a great morning and congrats on a successful event to REAP Food Group!

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Don’t let studying get in the way of your education

This is what Cal DeWitt tells us.

I like this theory, but I’m not sure how to accomplish it when I have this calling my name:

My reading for one semester (not including online readings and handouts)

My reading for one semester.

(And that stack doesn’t include online readings and handouts. Whatever.)

Anyway, this weekend I have a LOT of exciting stuff going on that I’m going to try to accomplish and enjoy despite the hundreds of pages of reading that are calling my name!

Some events include:

-Listening to Michael Pollan’s talk TONIGHT at the Kohl Center on campus

-Creating a spending budget for the rest of the school year

-Applying for jobs/researching online freelance gigs.

-Attending a Michael Pollan meet and greet tomorrow morning for Environmental Studies students. (Pictures to come)

-Training for the race!

-Grocery shopping at the Farmers’ Market

-Making 2 Strawberry pies for a potluck on Wednesday

-Researching jobs/Peace Corps/Other cool things I could do next year  and how to pay for them

-Volunteering at the Food for Thought Festival


-Have fun/see my friends/relax? (Maybe?)

-Blog about it all!

Wish me luck.

Off to Pollan’s talk now!

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