LA CROSSE, Wis. - There's a push to grow and buy food locally, and the Wisconsin local food Summit is highlighting that.
This is the eleventh year the Wisconsin Local Food Network (WLFN) is hosting the summit, but the first year it's in La Crosse.
Organizers said knowing where your food comes from is important for healthy people and communities, and the Coulee Region stands out in the state for how communities and businesses have embraced local food practices.
"I tell people this is important to only people who eat,” WLFN’s chair Kathleen Hein said.
The best discussions take place over food.
"I always like these conferences because they always have good food,” Hein said.
And if local food is the topic you're bringing to the table, the Radisson Hotel in La Crosse is as good of a place as any Thursday and Friday, where there are representatives from about 160 different organizations that all have food in common.
"It's about networking, connecting and inspiring people to go back to their own communities to make change,” Hein said.
Hein lives in Prairie Du Chien and is happy to see the local food summit brought home to the Coulee Region.
"It's really exciting to see the work going on around the state, but then I think 'We have it here!', so it's really nice to bring it here, especially to the Driftless Region,” she said.
"La Crosse is amazing. You guys are really looked at in the state as a shining beacon,” Angela Rester, WLFN manager, said. “People in the state know that this is an amazing region to come to for production of food as well as farm to table."
Organizers point to community gardens, and various organizations and businesses supporting locally-grown food as examples, such as Organic Valley.
"We all need to eat,” Shannon Havlik, sustainability manager at Organic Valley, said. “A lot of people don't know where their food is coming from, and I think it's important that children, families, everyone knows where their food is coming from and how it's being made."
There is still room for improvement in the La Crosse area, and sessions provided attendees with some food for thought on topics ranging from farm to table to starting a business in local food.
"This is about helping people discover things they didn't know,” Rester said.
The keynote panel at the summit featured Midwest Food Policy leaders talking about how local food charters and policies have moved forward in surrounding states such as Minnesota and Michigan. Hein said she’d like to model that kind of organization and collaboration here.
Hein said hopefully when everyone gets home, they'll have something new to bring to the table.
"The tools and connections to be inspired to make change in their local communities,” she said.
The summit continues Friday at the Radisson Hotel.
- 4 killed, 5 injured in minivan-pickup crash in NW Wisconsin
- Two people rescued from Onalaska Spillway
- Wisconsin Democrats view Republican Gov. Walker as beatable
- Man being deported after transit officer asked about status
- Thousands traveling on Memorial Day weekend
- Community shares Memorial Day plans, traditions
- Arcadia hosts annual Broiler Days Parade
- Bauer's Market has busy weekend
- News 8 Sports Round Up- May 27, 2017
- Local Radio Shack closing permanently