The Wisconsin state budget includes more than $600,000 over two years for the Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin program, to be coordinated by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). The program will provide financial and technical assistance for growers, communities, non-profits, and businesses to develop and expand local food markets. The program is the first of its kind for the state.
“Wisconsin farmers and small food manufacturers produce an abundance of wonderful food. Increasing access to local markets is a win-win solution for the farmer, retailer, and consumer,” says Mark Olson of Renaissance Farm, Spring Green. “Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin will help create the structure to link all of the players and will provide the producer training necessary to increase locally produced food in our schools, grocery stores, and restaurants.”
Over the course of many months, DATCP convened meetings with farm groups, business leaders, and non-profit groups to discuss barriers to bringing locally produced food to regional food markets in the state. The Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin program emerged out of the discussions.
The Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin program will:
• Develop, expand, and enhance regional food markets for Wisconsin growers and processors
• Meet the increasing consumer demand for high quality, locally produced foods
• Expand regional agricultural tourism in Wisconsin
• Shift 10% of Wisconsin’s $20 billion annual food expenditures to regionally produced food.
“By funding Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin the state is making a commitment to the health and well-being of our economy, which includes food producers and food consumers,” said Martha Davis Kipcak of the Kitchen Table Project in Milwaukee. “As the level of awareness grows, Wisconsinites are increasing their demand for fresh, local food to sustain our communities.”
Boosting The Local Economy
In February 2007, Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) introduced legislation to fund the program; the bill gained more than 30 co-sponsors from rural and urban districts.
“Our goal is to improve Wisconsin’s economy by reducing the distance from farm to table as a result of people, local businesses, schools, and other institutions purchasing more foods directly from Wisconsin farms,” said Lassa.
The Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin program is supported by a diverse coalition of more than 35 organizations. Among the supporters are Wisconsin Fresh Market Vegetable Association and the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association.