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A partnership between Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Food and Nutrition and REAP Food Group spent much of 2022 bringing local agriculture straight to classrooms thanks to a USDA Farm to School grant. The Harvest of the Month program includes Virtual Farm Tours and a series of video shorts featuring vegetables that students will find right on their lunch trays! In Spring and Fall of 2022, REAP Food Group led virtual farm tours across southern and southwest Wisconsin with help from Shiftology Communications. K-5 classrooms across Madison public schools zoomed into the tours and asked farmers questions live, while REAP polled classrooms to find out how many varieties of apples or mushrooms students could name, or what they thought CSA stood for (= Community Supported Agriculture). Meanwhile, REAP brought on independent video producer Bria Brown, based in Atlanta, GA, to produce engaging short films featuring peppers, greens, corn, and cucumbers. Together Brown, Farm to School Director Allison Pfaff Harris, and Communications Manager Samantha Kincaid visited several local growers and food makers over the summer of 2022 to collect stories and footage. I was repeatedly amazed by all that can be grown in compact spaces and places.Allison Pfaff Harris, REAP Farm to School Director Over the lifetime of the grant, the team got to share the inspired voices of farmers who often spend their days deep in manual labor and managing teams both tiny and large. [O]ne of my takeaways was that farmers are very forthcoming with their knowledge, and want a place to share what they do. These tours provided the opportunity for farmers to share their work and knowledge on a larger platform, without having to leave their farms," said Farm to School Director, Allison Pfaff Harris. All tours and vegetable videos are available for public viewing at the Harvest of the Month page. A Special Thank You to the farmers and chefs who contributed their time and passion to this grant: Alex Booker, Badger Rock Urban Farm and Booker Botanicals Armando Pérez, Pérez Produce Bethanee Wright, Winterfell Acres Elena Terry, Wild Bearies Heidi and Julian Zepeda, Tortilleria Zepeda John & Halee Wepking, Meadowlark Organics Liz Griffith, Door Creek Orchard Patty Grimmer and Ky Christenson, Wonka’s Harvest Sarah Leong, Squashington Farm Tommy Stauffer, Vitruvian Farm Yimmuaj Yang, Groundswell Conservancy Yusuf Bin-Rella, Trade Roots Culinary Collective ...

students in front of Badger Rock Community Garden sign

Noah Reinkober, a student in the UW Madison School of Human Ecology, joined us this fall as a Farm to School intern, supporting Director Allison Pfaff Harris and REAP's partnership with MMSD Food and Nutrition. The following article was researched and written by Noah. Many people today are familiar with the concept of a “food desert," not just those in academia or the fields of sociology and human ecology. The term, which began being used in the 1990s, refers to a neighborhood, often in an urban environment, which has very little access to food. People living in a food desert may have restaurants in the area, but have to travel far to purchase foods at a grocery store, or they may simply be lacking in nearby food entirely. As the understanding of this issue has progressed over the last few decades, activists and researchers have proposed different labels for these areas. “Food swamp," a term which came into usage about a decade ago, refers to the same areas, but emphasizes the fact that these neighborhoods are often saturated with unhealthy foods, rather than lacking food entirely. Both of these terms are misleading when it comes to the conversation about food access, however. Deserts and swamps, unpleasant as they’re often perceived to be, are natural parts of the global environment with unique and thriving ecosystems. Neighborhoods which are deprived of healthy food options are not naturally occurring. To better describe this phenomena, Karen Washington, a Black farmer, activist, and organizer, came up with the term “food apartheid.” Rather than labeling a lack of food access as a natural occurrence, Washington’s term explicitly states the role that politics, economics, and histories of classism and racism play in the matter.  Food apartheid occurs when institutions fail to invest in communities which need the investment the most. Food apartheid occurs when institutions fail to invest in communities which need the investment the most. Segregation, poor public transportation, redlining, high food prices, lack of access to growing land, and perceived lack of profitability for private businesses are just a few examples of things which inform food apartheid, all of them products of society, not nature. Karen Washington grew up in New York City, so that is the context from which she is working, but the systemic racism and classism which created food insecurity in NYC exists in Madison, WI too.  According to Nicholas Heckman, a Public Health Planner in Policy and Food Security in Madison, because of how new the concept is, food apartheid “hasn’t yet been effectively measured at the local level.” Rather, data around food access and food insecurity often comes from the state or county, and researchers must use “various proxy data points and population characteristics to draw conclusions.” Though now dated, and lacking the context of COVID-19, Heckman’s 2016 report, Hunger and Food Security in Wisconsin and Dane County, sheds some light on the disparities which exist on the state and county levels. In 2016, it was reported that 12.4% of all people in Wisconsin, and 11.8% in Dane...

On Tuesday, May 24, REAP Food Group, in partnership with Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Food and Nutrition, zoomed into classrooms for our second Virtual Farm Tour, this time with farmers Patty and Ky of Wonka's Harvest in Hollandale.   Geared to grades K-5, the live presentation included an experiment demonstrating the benefits of no-till agriculture using various soil mediums. Patty and Ky answered questions from students about the favorite crops they grow, and they shared their love of bees. Watch a recording of the tour, and consider following Patty and Ky's lead and improve your own garden soils with compost! Virtual Farm Tours are made possible through a grant and brought to classrooms by REAP Food Group, in partnership with Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Food and Nutrition in an effort to deliver the sights and smells of Wisconsin-grown foods to MMSD classrooms through virtual farm tours, videos, and books. Shiftology Communication Virtual Farm Trips® facilitated the tours. The unique PR firm offers "one-of-a-kind learning experiences by connecting participants to real working farms from the comfort of their computers, classrooms, conference rooms and living rooms." https://youtu.be/hmk7bahUJCQ ...

On Thursday, May 5, REAP Food Group, in partnership with Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Food and Nutrition, zoomed into eighty-three classrooms for a Virtual Farm Tour at Vitruvian Farms in McFarland. The tour marked the first in an ongoing series to deliver the sights and smells of Wisconsin-grown foods to MMSD classrooms through virtual farm tours, videos, and books.  Geared to grades K-5, the live presentation included a tour of the farm led by co-owner Tommy Stauffer*, poll questions for the nearly 1,500 students gauging their knowledge of, and like--or dislike--of mushrooms, and a Q&A for Tommy. Hosts discovered that the students already had a rich vocabulary in mushroom varieties, and were at least amenable to tasting them! Watch a recording and stay tuned for the next tour at Wonka's Harvest in Hollandale before schools close for the summer. Virtual Farm Tour is made possible through a grant and brought to classrooms by REAP Food Group, in partnership with Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Food and Nutrition. Shiftology Communication Virtual Farm Trips® facilitated the tour. The unique PR firm offers "one-of-a-kind learning experiences by connecting participants to real working farms from the comfort of their computers, classrooms, conference rooms and living rooms." *Tommy Stauffer is also a REAP Food Group board member. https://youtu.be/FxqWG0x0Mgs ...

REAP Food Group's staff and board are thrilled to welcome Philip Kauth as our new Executive Director. After earning a Ph.D. in Horticultural Sciences, Phil spent eight years working with the Iowa-based non-profit Seed Savers Exchange. As Director of Preservation, Phil led a team that stewarded a living collection of 25,000 open-pollinated seed and plant varieties and a historic apple orchard. With Seed Savers Exchange, Phil's work fused his scientific training with the organization's mission to preserve and share seeds, their integrity, and culturally significant stories. "For communities to have control over their foodways, they need to have control over the seeds they want to grow and share," Phil explains. In pursuit of REAP's mission to make healthy food grown well, accessible to all, and in a manner that honors communities' agency over their foodways, Phil brings open ears and a collaborative spirit. He embraces a leadership style that emphasizes learning and building trust to maximize the values and strengths people bring to the table, and he draws from experiences partnering with historically underrepresented groups. Phil’s work with Seed Savers Exchange has included collaborations with Asian American farmers on the West Coast searching for linkages to ancestral food crops, the Indigenous Seed Keepers Network to restore seeds to tribal communities, and the organization's multi-disciplinary collaboration, the Heirloom Collard Project. “REAP has exciting times on the horizon and happily welcomes Phil Kauth to lead the organization into the future[.]...

We are thrilled to announce that Madison Community Foundation (MCF) has awarded REAP Food Group a $50,000 Community Impact Grant to expand our development and fundraising capacity. We will use the funds to hire a grant writer and train our board of directors in fundraising skills in order to grow support for our efforts to build a sustainable and just local food system. COVID-19 laid bare for REAP the unreliability of in-person events as fundraising drivers. Meanwhile, it presented an opportunity to collaboratively problem solve with community partners on the ground. In 2020 we co-created the Farms to Families Fund with Roots4Change to get food into the hands of families who needed it. The impact we saw from that collaboration showed us that we have even more work to do in the community. A focus on strengthening our development capacity in the immediate future will allow REAP to focus our energy into our core goals and on mission-oriented events without relying on restaurant partners to donate time and resources, especially as the food service industry deals with challenges exacerbated by a pandemic. We have big dreams to realize in our efforts to expand Farm to School programming beyond the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), to plan for future disruptions in our local food and farming value chain, and advocate for policies that support sustainable agriculture and a fair food system. “REAP is taking a strategic approach to long-term financial sustainability, recognizing the importance of using not just the development director but also the executive director and board members to build a strong culture of philanthropy[.]...

Dear REAP Friends, We are all still cheering over a strong year-end campaign, excited that countless hours of deliberation on how to grow and deepen our impact is starting to come to fruition and that your support and investment means we hit the ground running in 2022. In that context, there is another big change coming: this spring, I will be moving on after serving as the Executive Director of this vital community organization for the past five and a half years. My family has an opportunity to temporarily relocate overseas, and as we see the window of time as a family of 4 get ever-smaller, we feel this was the right time to take the leap if we do this together. It has been a true honor and deep privilege to learn, listen, work and celebrate with so many smart and passionate people who choose to work to make the world a better place. Given the scale of our global - and local - problems, it’s tempting to give in to cynicism, maybe too easy to convince yourself you can’t do anything about it. And yet, every single day, I am surrounded by caring, creative humans who - to quote Theodore Roosevelt - step into the arena and dare greatly to rise to the challenge of dismantling racism, rebuilding a just food system, reversing environmental destruction and co-creating the community that reflects our diversity and shared values. And as I listen to the conversations of my own young teens, I feel even more hopeful that we are in good company with the next generation of changemakers coming our way. REAP is doing important work at the nexus of food systems, social justice and environmental protection and we are seeking that next dynamic leader to harness the momentum, continue to forge deep partnerships and lift up the ridiculously talented team at REAP who serve farmers, children, chefs, and food businesses and dare greatly every day to build a just and sustainable local food system. Maybe you know that person? Maybe you are that person?  I couldn’t imagine a better place to land, or a better time to be joining REAP. And I look forward to joyously writing those checks, attending farm dinners and contacting elected officials as a proud member of REAP Food Group. The position description is posted on our website, please help us spread the word. Yours truly, Helen Sarakinos ...

The Farm Fresh Atlas is here! Go beyond farmers’ markets to support local farmers through the Farm Fresh Atlas of Southern Wisconsin, organized by Madison-based REAP Food Group. Originally launched in 2002 as a trifold pamphlet, the latest edition is 40 pages detailing the region’s farms, farmers’ markets, restaurants, specialty stores, grocers, and other businesses dedicated to promoting good food grown well. Grab a copy at your local farmers’ markets or browse statewide at farmfreshatlas.org. ...

[EDIT: POSITION CLOSED] Posting Date: March 18, 2021Deadline for Application: April 15, 2021Location: Madison, WIAppointment: Full Time Join a team that is passionate about creating a just and sustainable local food system for all residents in Dane County and WI. We seek a team member who will share our commitment to bring curiosity, inclusivity, collaboration to the work of building a just, culturally responsive and resilient food system in Dane County and Wisconsin. Position Summary:REAP Food Group, based in Madison, WI, is inviting applications for a Farm to School Director, a role that will bring more healthy, WI-grown, and culturally appropriate food to children in K-12 settings, and provide educational resources around food and agriculture that reinforce our organizational values of equity and inclusivity. The primary focus of the work will be at the city and county level. REAP’s Farm to School partnership with Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) has been a model statewide for growing markets for local farmers and increasing access to local and sustainable food for all children. The Farm to School Director candidate will collaborate with colleagues who oversee institutional food procurement and community outreach programming to implement REAP’s Farm to School Program and provide strategic direction and program management to continue to grow our impact.REAP’s mission is to transform communities, economies and lives through the power of good food by: building the next generation of healthy eaters and leaders through youth education; educating and connecting sustainable WI farmers to institutional and individual buyers; strengthening and amplifying community-led solutions to food system challenges; Educating consumers so they can be advocates for actions and policies that support an equitable, just and environmentally sustainable food system; and, celebrating with community around good food*. We define “good food” as food that is produced, processed, sold, consumed, and re-circulated in a manner that is transparent, is racially and ethnically equitable and socially just, builds up thriving local economies, and promotes healthy and sustainable natural, social, and economic environments. Position Summary: Strategic Leadership– ● Lead strategy and goals for the Farm to School initiatives including the Farm to School Partnership with MMSD ● Nurture our Farm to School Project partnership with MMSD while evaluating strategic opportunities to grow our work to other districts in the county; ● Be informed and when needed, engaged, on relevant local, state and federal policies affecting the Farm to School program; Program Management: ● Oversee our initiatives to engage and educate diverse communities of kids including Harvest of the Month activities, summer Farm to School programming, and fresh snack educational resources; ● Support and facilitate successful procurement and promotion of local foods by Madison Metropolitan School District for menu items, garden bars, snack program and UpRoot Farm to School food truck; ● Manage REAP Farm to School Snack Program to ensure qualified schools receive a weekly REAP-sourced fresh snack and accompanying educational materials; Outreach and Communication– ● Represent REAP and the Farm to School Program on statewide network of WI Farm to School leaders, and on local coalitions and committees....

REAP applauds the Governor's and DATCP's focus on Wisconsin farmers and food. On Friday, February 5, Governor Evers announced a $43M investment in local farms and food systems in the upcoming state budget. The plan is wide reaching but we are excited to see the unprecedented focus on small farms, local food system infrastructure and higher investment in conservation programs - initiatives that bring us all closer to a just local and sustainable food system in Wisconsin. Our friends at Wisconsin Farmers Union do a terrific job of advocating for good food farmers at the State Capitol and their analysis of the budget initiatives is a great resource if you want to dive deeper. Governor Evers' budget incluces the following investments (a full list of the proposed actions found here): Invest $20M to help connect Wisconsin food banks and pantries with Wisconsin producers;Fund the Farm-to-School Grant Program ($400K over biennium);Create and Fund Farm-to-Fork to build connections between farmers and non-school entities looking to purchase local food for their cafeterias ($552K over biennium);Increase the Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin program ($350K over biennium);Provide additional funding for Something Special from Wisconsin marketing program ($400K over biennium);Create and fund a Small Farm Diversity Grant program – support producers adding new products, increasing production of an ag product where market opportunities exist, or starting a new farming operation ($250K over biennium). "Coming out of a brutal pandemic, these initiatives are a wise and welcome investment in rural revitalization and food security," says REAP Executive Director Helen Sarakinos. "This budget represents a needed first step to rebuild resilience in our food system so Wisconsin farmers can feed Wisconsin residents." Every day, REAP works with our partners and supporters to develop local food supply chains, strengthen connections between community and farmers and grow the voices calling for a resilient food system. We couldn't agree more that it's time to join this fight for Wisconsin farmers to ensure a good future in Wisconsin for farmers, for eaters and for our clean water and land. REAP has advocated for funding Farm to School grants and programs in DATCP, for COVID-19 relief payments to benefit small and beginning farmers and we have worked hard to support farms that were hard-hit when closures of farmers' markets and businesses shut down their sales. So, what can you do? Stay informed! Sign up to receive our weekly newsletter to stay on top of REAP's work and opportunities to get involved. You should also follow us on Facebook and Instagram, where we post thought-provoking articles about food and sustainability. We will be posting updates and sharing additional opportunities to act in the coming months Voice your support! We ask you to take a moment to thank Governor Evers for valuing small farms and local food systems and for walking the walk. Let them know this budget reflects what matters to Wisconsin residents! Your email or phone call mattes and it only takes a moment.Call: Governor's Office: 608-266-1212,Email: share your approval online at this site.It doesn't have to be long, simply state who you...

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