A Full Plate


 

My head is spinning. Or perhaps it’s the calendar that’s spinning and my head can’t keep up. School has started. The harvest is beginning. There’s a presidential election. And for me—and I’ll bet for many of you—each is connected to the other. For those of us here at Madison Magazine October is all about food. We’re gearing up for our annual Madison Food and Wine Show, details of which you’ll find inside.

The local food economy, the availability of fresh and healthy food, and the protection of our food-growing land continue to rise in importance among the vital global issues of our time. Thrive, the eight-county regional economic development entity, is touting as one if its first initiatives a project to hook up grocery stores and markets with local farmers to support those producers as well as satisfy the growing demand for local food. It’s a great strategy for Thrive and for our region.

At the most recent meeting of the Collaboration Council, which helped spawn Thrive, I was struck by a short but very thoughtful presentation by DeForest School District superintendent Jon Bales who talked about schools, all schools—elementary, middle and high schools, technical schools and colleges, public and private—as a single regional asset. This thinking holds great promise for how we collectively meet the demand for educated citizens and skilled and knowledgeable workers to fill the jobs—and create more jobs—in the sectors Thrive has identified as the foundations of its economic development strategy. And of course the prospect of collaboration among school districts and schools themselves is very intriguing. Thrive president Jennifer Alexander and executive VP Rafael Carbonell and their talented sector chairs are doing great jobs thinking strategically about how the pieces of the greater Madison economic development puzzle fit together.

Meanwhile, I’m once again teaching a class (with my colleague Judy Adrian, a “real” teacher) at Edgewood College. After a several-year absence I’m finding a new energy and enthusiasm for community collaboration at Edgewood, an often under-appreciated asset in our region. Under president Dan Carey’s leadership the campus is placing a high priority on principles of sustainability and respect for the natural world. Judy and I are teaching a Slow Food class in which we hope to think through with our students the related issues of safe, healthy food, local farms, and environmentalism as well as hunger, food-related health issues, and the cost and availability of food. Many of these issues are interwoven into government policies, just one place where the election is part of my autumnal outlook. Both senators Barack Obama and John McCain are saying, well, essentially nothing about food among their issue briefs and campaign promises. Both men would benefit from spending some time in my class, or at our Food and Wine Show.

I’ve always thought our leaders could benefit from reading a little more poetry as well. After all, we are fed by more than food, right? The organizers of the Wisconsin Book Festival have again cooked up a literary feast. And the roster of presenters, while replete with international heavyweights, is once again evidence of the talented writers with roots here. It’s impossible to list here the delicious ingredients each adds to this literary stew. But let me just put in a word for UW professor Ron Wallace’s most recent volume of poetry, For A Limited Time Only. Wallace is one of my favorite poets in the world. I keep The Uses of Adversity, Time’s Fancy and The Makings of Happiness within easy reach of my desk. The latest is a creative wonder, combining Mr. Grimm of the fairy tales with God in more ways than one. But in the spirit of October I was drawn to his poems “Pasta,” “Hamburger Heaven” and “The Professor of Plums.” The book did wonders for my appetite, for poetry, for school, for politics and, yes, for food.

Neil P. Heinen, Editorial Director
Comments and letters can be sent to P.O. Box 44965, Madison, WI 53744-4965 or e-mail nheinen@madisonmagazine.com. Letters we publish may be edited for space and clarity.

Madison Magazine - October 2008
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