In response to an evolving farm crisis in Southwestern Wisconsin, we launched a series of five Listening/Networking Sessions in the early months of 2018. We invited farmers, food producers and rural community members to share their thoughts about two topics with regard to their communities: what they consider to be their community’s assets/strengths and what challenges/issues they face.
We selected locations in 5 counties in Southwestern Wisconsin being mindful to keep locations within reasonable driving distances of all residents. The locations and counties were: Monroe (Green County); Fennimore (Grant County); Viroqua (Vernon County); Dodgeville (Iowa County); and Richland Center (Richland County). We held the sessions in the late winter months when farming activities are at their lowest ebb.
Our goals were to listen to local residents and network with groups and organizations that can help address the issues surfaced. We compiled a report, “Looking into the Future of Southwestern Wisconsin”, summarizing what we heard and outlining some initial directions the Network intends to take in addressing these issues. We hope this document will trigger discussions about other actions that could be taken to address issues and foster additional partnerships in addressing these issues.
We reconvened Session attendees at our Harvest Celebration on November 9 at Southwest Technical College in Fennimore to nurture the seeds planted at the Listening/Networking Sessions. The findings in our report were the foundation for our discussion. We celebrated the season’s end with a locally-sourced meal prepared by Rex Smith at Southwest Tech, and engaged in conversation to stimulate ideas for potential projects to move these ideas forward.
At the Harvest Celebration, we encouraged participants to apply for seed money to support new initiatives that would address the priorities listed in our report. Those who were unable to attend the Harvest Celebration may apply by completing this form and submitting it to Roger Williams at email@example.com no later than April 1, 2019.
For more details on the event see Brooke Bechen's article in the Leader-Telegram on November 18.