Food for Thought Festival 2011

The September farmers market abounds with inter-season produce, creating a cornucopia of summer succulents such as tomatoes, sweet corn, eggplant, and cantaloupe paired with the first fall crops of sweet potatoes, hearty winter greens, butternut squash, and beets. Harnessing full advantage of market’s vast array, my mother and I scoured the veggie-laden stands equipped with empty canvas tote bags practically begging to hold our edible treasure trove.

Jones Valley Farm (aka the Grey Bin People): lacinato kale, purple peacock broccoli, broccoli rabe, and tuscan rossi onions (as always, proudly displayed in their grey plastic bins).


The Plahnt Farm: sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, red frying peppers, and beets.

Palm’s Mushroom Cellar: crimini mushrooms.

Door County Fruit Market: peaches.

Singing Fawn Gardens: sungold tomatoes.

Cress Spring Bakery: kamut bread (a main ingredient in my grilled-vegetable panzanella) and the number 1 all-time best vegan baked good on the planet: a blueberry-peach breakfast bar.

Luck’s Produce: sweet corn.

We also picked up a bunch of purple grapes, a bag of royal purple string beans, and three heads of garlic but alas, I cannot recall the names of the farms from which they came!


Halfway through our market perusal, I spotted this glorious Angel’s Trumpet tree of which I deemed necessary to snap a picture.

After completing the square of the market, I strolled just across Carroll street to volunteer at the 13th annual REAP Food for Thought Festival.

You’ve probably seen REAP mentioned elsewhere on my blog, such as in the Buy Fresh Buy Local Madison restaurant partners, but I’ve never taken the time to thoroughly explain the organization. REAP (Research, Education, Action, and Policy on…) Food Group, completely dependent on volunteer efforts, functions as a liason between farmers and the Madison community. To local restaurant, they say “Hey! Where did you get that carrot?” To which the restaurant will reply: “Um, er, well…I’m not quite sure.” Instead of recieving Sysco delivery trucks full of vegetables, meats, and cheeses from a far-off hidden factory, restaurants work with REAP to source organic products from local farms, thus reducing the restaurant’s carbon footprint while boosting the local economy, supporting fast-disappearing small family farms, and vastly improving their food’s quality with fresher ingredients grown in pesticide and hormone-free soil. REAP also boasts a Farm to School program which exposes Madison school children to local, sustainably produced foods through hands-on opportunities such as field trips to farms, healthy cooking demonstrations from Madison chefs (like my idol Tory Miller!), and snacks of locally farmed fruits and vegetables. Can you say “Ali’s ideal job”? However, seeing as a 17-year-old probably shouldn’t head an entire well-established organization, I’ll settle for volunteering for REAP at every possibly opportunity…for now.

Thus, I eagerly signed up for a volunteer shift at the Food for Thought Festival (“a fun, festive forum that explores and celebrates our many opportunities to eat more pleasurably, healthfully and sustainably”), running the information booth where I smiled, answered questions such as “So…what’s happening here?”, handed out event programs, and sold nifty t-shirts.

My favorite sprout man handed out samples of his delicious radish microgreens at the Willy Street Coop booth.

Local Dirt set up laptops for festival-goers to play with their Locavore iPhone app.

Grains from a local stone-ground mill.

The Bloom Bake Shop, fine purveyors of vegan baked goods, handed out yummy free samples of their banana chocolate chip cake.

Nature's Bakery Coop showcased their many flavors of delicious granola.

Troy Gardens sold huge bags of buckwheat, oats, and peas to entice families to sign up for a community garden plot.

Oodles more vendors highlighted their products and services, but I certainly couldn’t photograph them all. An Iron Chef inspired battle raged on between the chefs of Crema Cafe, Mermaid Cafe (WOOT!), and RP’s Pasta whilst I perused the various booths like a kid in a candy store.

I truly appreciate REAP for heading the local food movement of Madison—a progressive city which, in turn, leads the nation as one of the premiere farm-to-table communites in America.

Until next time, Ali.


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