Cheers to Cheese

Joan Peterson and Terese Allen’s 2014 ‘Wisconsin Local Foods Journal’ gets it right

It was easy, and a little funny, to think of the thousand attendees at the American Cheese Society’s annual conference at Monona Terrace the first weekend in August feeling as if they had landed in paradise. Here in Madison it was one of those glorious summer weekends—temperatures in the seventies, low humidity, not a cloud in the sky.

After a Friday evening at Dane Dances on the Monona Terrace rooftop, Saturday at the Dane County Farmers’ Market and Sunday brunch (to say nothing of the opening night “cheesemaker pub crawl”), we can imagine convention-goers returning to their home communities with a pretty positive picture of our city. We also hope that a fair number of them were able to find room in their luggage for a fresh-off-the-press copy of the 2014 Wisconsin Local Foods Journal. Because if they did, they got the genuine article.

First of all, the third version of local publisher Joan Peterson and writer Terese Allen’s annual journal is all about cheese. If the two didn’t plan this theme for release on this date—well, let’s just say it was a happy coincidence. It’s a handsome and handy spiral-bound volume, including an engagement calendar, maps and lists of cheese factories and cheese shops around the state, a cheese glossary and more. Part cookbook and part guide to eating sustainably year-round, the journal comes packed with monthly checklists of the vegetables, fruits, herbs and greens in season. There are profiles on Wisconsin cheesemakers and a featured cheese of the month. The whole thing is well-conceived and well-executed and a perfect successor to volume one on farmers’ markets and the 2013 version featuring chefs and restaurants.

Again, we wouldn’t blame ACS conference attendees for thinking it was published exclusively for them. The actual story is much richer, however, and that’s what makes the journal special in our eyes. As Allen tells it, she had been looking for a “local foods-focused publication project,” a book of some kind that could be, “a year-in, year-out funding source for REAP,” an advocacy group for a healthy and sustainable local food system.

Allen’s contributions to the food scene are many. She’s been involved from the beginning and is very well liked and respected by others involved in the local, sustainable agriculture movement. One role in particular, serving as board director for REAP, is of special importance to Allen. “I think REAP is one those kids I never had,” she says.

It turns out, veteran writer and publisher, and passionate farmers’ market-goer, gardener and local foods advocate Joan Peterson was thinking that perhaps the garden-themed engagement calendars she favored might be more valuable if they were expanded to include a year-round, eating-local theme. She pitched the idea to Allen and the journal was born. The 2014 version is, in Allen’s words, “bigger, more beautiful and better than ever,” in part because of grants from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and Organic Valley. But the kicker is all proceeds go to REAP Food Group, helping that invaluable organization sustain initiatives like its farm-to-school programs, the annual Southern Wisconsin Farm Fresh Atlas and the Buy Fresh Buy Local farm-to-business project.

It’s an awfully generous act by two people who have done a lot already, but were also both, in Allen’s words, “looking for a way to give back to the farmers and the local foods community.” And thus support for sustainability is itself a model of sustainability and that’s pretty genuine. That it is so beautifully produced, and about cheese no less, on the occasion of Madison’s first-ever hosting of the ACS conference in this its thirtieth anniversary year is just extra sweet. Some of the biggest ACS award winners are to be found in the pages of this year’s Wisconsin Local Foods Journal. Would that cheesemakers visiting our fair city had it so good in their own home states.

The 2014 Wisconsin Local Foods Journal can be ordered at, or from Ginkgo Press, P.O. Box 5346, Madison, WI 53726.

Nancy Christy is the former owner of the Wilson Street Grill. She now runs the consulting firm Meaningful People, Places and Food. Neil Heinen is, among other things, her hungry husband. 



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