Community members of Portage County gathered at Bernard’s County Inn Restaurant on Saturday to celebrate and support the products and food of local farmers at the annual Farmer Tribute Dinner.
The Central Rivers Farmshed and UWSP’s Sustainable Agriculture in Communities Society (SACS) collaborated to organize the dinner, which was completely open to the public. All the proceeds went toward the 2013 Central Wisconsin Farm Fresh Atlas. Joelle Groshek, Food System Coordinator for Farmshed, helped to organize the event.
“This is the fifth annual dinner Farmshed has hosted. Everything for tonight is purchased locally from the farmers, and when the community purchases a ticket they help to pay for the food and support their community,” Groshek said.
The dinner is meant to promote community and local products, which is exactly what Farmshed stands for in general. It aims to educate and offer the community opportunities to support food supplied by farmers in Central Wisconsin. Torri Bradley, Educational Director of Farmshed, explains what this means to the community.
“The tribute dinner is a chance for the community to come together and recognize the effort that farmers put into their crop over the last season,” Bradley said. “Guests have the opportunity to eat the food grown locally and then have the chance to have a conversation with the farmers who grew what they are eating.”
The night was dedicated to the farmers. While the farmers provided all the food, their crop was not the only thing to be displayed and enjoyed over the course of the night. The dinner also featured a silent auction with many products donated by farmers who do not raise crops. Janice Becker raises sheep at Kimmet Croft Fiber and donated yarn to the event.
“My grandmother taught me how to work with yarn when I was young, and in 1973 I decided I wanted to create my own quality yarns and raise sheep,” Becker said. “This is a chance to get recognition and celebrate farming in Central Wisconsin.”
Editor of SCENE newspaper, Joy Grimes, simply came to the dinner to support her friends who own farms and the cause they strive for in the community.
“Sustainable agriculture is great for this community,” Grimes said. “I have friends with different farms here tonight, and I am here to eat some great food and meet some new people.”
The highlight of the night and what Groshek was most excited for was the tribute video that was compiled to feature the farmers and their thoughts about what they do.
Farmers were asked four questions to answer in the video: What is your mission? Why do you farm and face the challenges that it brings? What does community mean to you? How do you incorporate this into your business?
“11 farms contributed to the video, and 22 farms overall participated in tonight’s event,” Groshek said. “The message of tonight is to show what farming and sustainability is all about, especially talking to the farmers. They are the backbone of this community.”