Fields Best makes eating local easier
Podcast: Nate Chappell discusses the benefits of wheat grass
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Think about it: do you know where the food you just ate came from?
Most of our food comes from sources far, far away. If you could eat more locally, would you? And if you'd like to eat more locally grown food, how do you do so?
Thankfully, the Milwaukee area is full of farmers markets, including the Milwaukee Public Market. Inside are many local vendors that sell fresh, local products. Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, however, stands out for its nearly 100 percent local approach to food.
Since 1984, the institute has been devoted to developing an agriculture that can sustain the land and its resources. As a public, non-profit learning center, it works to revitalize farming with research, education, technical assistance and public policy.
"The founders moved from Germany to the Wisconsin to the site (East Troy), and it's site the oldest bio-dynamic farm in the United States," says Nate Chappell, enterprise development coordinator.
Much of what's sold at Fields Best at the Milwaukee Public Market is grown at its farm in Easy Troy. Heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, herbs and greens are all in season now. But, currants, raspberries, potatoes, strawberries -- "whatever is in season," says Chappell -- also are available.
The "Wisconsin Eat Local Challenge" runs Sept. 14-23. This initiative encourages Wisconsinites to spend at least 10 percent of one's food budget on locally grown and made foods. Field's makes this easier with its "Garden Connections" box program. It will package boxes of fresh produce that you can pick up at your convenience. It's an "easy, direct link to a local farm," says Chappell.
Local first, organic second
"I think there is a confusion in the word organic," says Chappell. In order to be called certified USDA organic, there are standards to be met. "It's really lack of chemicals in the produce and there's a huge market for it," Chappell adds.
But, Fields is local, not just organic. "We've chosen to be local, first, not just organic. We want to be local, then we can source and talk about organics. Just to be organic and not know where your food comes from, a lot of people don't find the benefit in that. The closer to home the better," says Chappell.
Juice it up
Two of biggest draws at Fields Best at the Market are its fresh salad bar and its unique juice bar. Freshly made juices come in all varieties and wheat grass (as a shot or a juice additive) is now really taking off. Wheat grass, a "super food," has many benefits and Fields has many regular wheat grass customers. On a typical Saturday at the market they sell more than 60 shots ($2 each) of the stuff.
Milwaukee Public Market grows
The first winter here was, according to Chappell, a "feel-out stage, finding out what the customers wanted and needed." Like any good start-up, MPM vendors have changed to meet market forces and Fields has now, "really (has) nailed it with our juice bar," says Chappell. "We've really figured it out, and this summer has been really busy. We are entertainment, too, slicing and making juices."
Fields supplies many local and regional restaurants with ingredients and in collaboration with Fondy Food Center, Growing Power, UW Extension for Milwaukee County, The Kitchen Table Project and the City of Milwaukee, MFAI and Slow Food Wisconsin Southeast it will host the Urban Agriculture Conference here in 2008. The goal is to work side-by-side to overcome the barriers to sharing urban resources and building an urban agricultural future.
Ready to eat local? Wisconsin's Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems asks that you keep track of the local foods you buy and eat. You can do this with its form at the link below. At the end of the challenge, talk about your local eating experience with the OnMilwaukee.com Talkbacks or a Readers Blog.
Until then, eat local, because, as Chappell says, "If you actually know where your food came from, you can almost guarantee its fresh."
Fields Best is my favorite!!! They even greet me by my first name! They will happily juice whatever produce they have for you - any combo. My favorite is apple, carrot, beet, ginger. I am all about growing power and sustainability. What is your carbon footprint? http://www.carbonfootprint.com/
I, too, am a fan of the wheatgrass at Field's in the Green Orchard juice. And, they have the honeycrisp apples now. Yum!
I tried them for the first time last Friday... EXCELLENT! I had the salmon salad and a strawbery mint lemondade. Hope they are around for a long time!
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