Eating Healthy and Supporting a Healthy Local Economy
With the move toward healthier living, eating, and caring for the environment, many consumers are turning to local farmers and farm products for food choices. In fact, the popularity of these types of farms appears to be growing; the growth is spurred from a desire to eat better and from the hopes of increasing small businesses. Fortunately, for those consumers in Western Wisconsin, there are no shortages of opportunities to buy locally, eat healthy, and make an impact in the local economy.
One farm that is participating in the movement toward more naturally-grown food is Out to Pasture Beef located in Fall Creek. Vic and Mary Price, owners of Out to Pasture Beef, purchased the farm 11 years ago. Mary said that the farm is the culmination of everything her and Vic believe in when it comes to land, food, and taking care of the cattle. “We had a passion for raising 100 percent grass-fed beef cattle, a commitment to land stewardship, a gratitude for the cattle, and a desire to offer customers an alternative to commodity beef or even organic corn-fed beef,” Mary explained.
Mary feels that the popularity of organic and freshly-grown foods is increasing. “Customers want a say in the food they buy. They want, and are entitled to, knowledge of how their food is raised. This allows families to better provide for their families,” Mary said.
Another farm, Genesis Acres, is also striving to bring quality food to local consumers. Mary and Bruce Anderson have been in the agriculture industry all of their lives. Genesis Acres, located in Whitehall, has been in production since 1997, when the Andersons became involved in management intensive grazing, a process that heals the land, plants, and livestock that graze there. “At first, our primary goal was just to feed our family — we wanted meats that we knew were safe, free of hormones, and free of pesticides,” Mary said. The Andersons have now converted their farm to all organic processes. “We only feed our livestock plant materials —no animal proteins,” Mary explained.
One consistent theme that is found on many local farms is the family atmosphere and can-do attitude. “We do it all. We milk the cows, manage the farm, and attend all the farmer’s markets and market ourselves. This leads to a very intimate knowledge of each step in our production chain. Our prices reflect our price of production, not the industrial food chain prices,” Mary stated.
Not only are most of the farms and local growers self-sufficient, they are able to affect others in the local economy. “Our business also conducts business locally; the processing plant we use is a small, family-owned and operated business; our secondary processor is also family-owned and operated. All business we do is conducted within 15 miles of our farm,” Mary said.
Josh Bryceson of Turnip Rock Farm in New Auburn is also happy to offer locally-grown items to the surrounding communities. Along with the owners of Out to Pasture Beef and Genesis Acres, Bryceson believes that the popularity of organic and locally-grown food is being led by consumer education. “There is a small percentage of people who understand the environmental impact of what organic farming provides, but the majority of people see it as a better personal choice, leading to better health for them,” Bryceson explained. “But once consumers understand both the environmental and economic impacts, it begins to tip the scales, the good far outweighs the bad,” he continued.
For Genesis Acres, the movement toward locally grown food means a paradigm shift. “The customers are responsible for making this change; they are doing so by purchasing locally and seeking good growers of sustainable, natural, and organic products,” Mary Anderson said.
Alison Deutsch of Deutsch Family Farm in Osseo believes that consumer education is slowly evolving. “As people are more aware of how different food has become in the last 20 years, they are shocked and are demanding ‘real’ food again,” Deutsch explained. “The start of consumer education often happens after someone in a family gets sick and they start looking at what is going on today; they begin to understand the connection between food and health,” she continued.
To help contribute to healthy and safe food production, the Deutsch Family Farm raises hogs that thrive in the outdoors and fresh air each day. “Our hogs are on the farm from birth to finish and that allows us to specifically breed for the best tasting pork; it also keeps all of our meat consistent in quality,” Deutsch said.
Whether their products are sold during farmers markets, at local restaurants, or at the farm itself, all of the local farmers have a similar core belief: farming is a dignified profession where learning is continuous. “Our farm is always a site for new learning; we always welcome customers or new farmers to share in what we have learned,” explained Mary Price of Out to Pasture Beef. “We need a food supply that is nutritionally better, to help counter the health problems and expenses we see going on around us,” explained Josh Bryceson.
As long as there are local farmers and producers who wish to provide high quality, natural food that is healthy and environmentally-friendly, local consumers will have the opportunity to eat better, assist local businesses, and help their own communities at the same time.