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.
At our Harvest Celebration on November 9, 2018 at Southwest Technical College in Fennimore we nurtured 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 meal prepared with locally-sourced food, and engaged in conversation to stimulate ideas for potential projects to move these ideas forward. We announced that we would be providing Seed Money to support initiatives that addressed the issues unearthed in our Listening Sessions. We provide short descriptions of all the worthy projects we have funded over the past five years on our Seed Money page.
In response to the Rural/Urban divide in Wisconsin we initiated a series of Listening/Networking sessions in Southeastern Wisconsin. The series,"Fostering Rural/Urban Connections in Southeastern Wisconsin", held over a 3-week period in Fall 2022, brought farmers, crop managers, community gardeners, UW-Extension, Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, and USDA representatives, landscapers, a vocational agriculture teacher, conservation planners, food pantry staff, observers from Tammy Baldwin's office and more.
Our objective was to bring together community members to address four issues: rural/urban connections, local foods; food security; and sustainable farming. We asked attendees what they see as significant issues in these four areas, what barriers they face in overcoming them, and what solutions they suggest to begin to tackle these challenges. Participants were fully engaged, passionate about the issues, and were grateful to network with each other.
We disseminated the final report on our findings to a wide audience including all who were invited to the sessions, and public policy makers. We invite you to read the report, particularly the Central Themes on page 3. The report can be found HERE.
At each of the sessions we announced that we will be providing Seed Money grants for innovative projects that meet the challenges Southeastern Wisconsin faces. The application for Seed Money grants can be found HERE. The deadline for submission is January 30, 2023.
We invited participants from nine counties: Milwaukee, Kenosha, Racine, Walworth, Waukesha, Jefferson, Dodge, Washington, and Ozaukee. We held sessions in Racine, Neosho, East Troy, Saukville and Milwaukee.
We are grateful to Bader Philanthropies, Inc. for funding these sessions and the 2023 Seed Money grants.