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.