When I think about time I always seem to pull this picture out of my desk drawer. It is of the building of either my grandfather's or great-grandfather's barn (both are still standing). I think it may actually be my grandfather's barn because I recognize my Aunt Mathilda (tall, dark-haired woman sitting in foreground, second from right) so the time may be around 1930-1932. If it is my grandfather's barn, then at some point in the construction, my great-grandfather fell off the roof and broke nearly every bone in his body. He died about a week after the fall. This picture reminds me of how hard early settlers had to work just in order to live and subsequently give me the life-style and heritage I now enjoy. I am and will be ever grateful to them. It also reminds me of my responsibility to continue their work both for my own family's future and my duty to contribute to my chosen community. It is this latter duty that I speak of now.
There is a new initiative being proposed before the Wisconsin legislature by Sen. Julie Lassa called Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin. The initiative asks for a small amount of the state budget that would be used to build the infrastructure of local food systems throughout the state. This legislation would complement, not overlap, existing programs like Something Special From Wisconsin and SavorWisconsin, which are more geared toward marketing of value-added and raw produce, respectively. Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin would help small producers, like me, in very rural areas, who need help getting our tiny businesses organized, running and networked.
This legislation can only benefit the state. In a recent ATTRA publication I read that studies in Minnesota have shown that money recirculated in local economies multiply the economic benefit four-fold. Wisconsin can expect to keep 1.9 billion dollars in the state by increasing local food purchasing only 10%! I find that truly astounding. Think of how that money could be used to benefit rural area local school systems that are in dire need at this time; think of the aid to depressed, rural, season-relying economies suffering the effects of global warming (last summer's devastating drought and this winter's lack of snowfall); think about funding a state sponsored health insurance program possibly tied in with and expanding the existing BadgerCare program. Or, how about a liability insurance program for tiny producers who have a hard time getting product liability insurance from traditional insurers because they are so small and cannot afford higher priced policies. The list can go on. And from a national viewpoint, a well-founded local food production system can protect Wisconsin residents' (and possibly neighboring states as well) food independence in the aftermath of an agro-terrorism or other national calamity event. Again, the state can only benefit from passage of this legislation. Passage of Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin would again have Wisconsin leading the nation by example in supporting socially and economically responsible laws.
If you live in Wisconsin, I urge you to call or e-mail your state representatives and ask to support Sen. Lassa and the Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin initiative. She will be accepting co-sponsors of the bill until February 6, 2007. If you would like to read the draft proposal for Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin, you can click on this link: http://www.uwex.edu/ces/cty/barron/cnred/documents/BuyLocalBuyWisconsinProposal14.pdf
This truly is an exciting time for farming! I hope my ancestors are smiling.