Series: Local Food Science

Local food generates both widespread interest and economic activity around Wisconsin. Many residents purchase food at farmers' markets, receive community-supported agriculture shares and/or grow their own produce in personal and community gardens. Restaurants and grocery stores are increasingly sourcing homegrown foods as well, and marketing them to consumers seeking local flavors. Scientists and educators are likewise turning their attention to the concept of local food, exploring its benefits and challenges — and Wisconsinites' complex attitudes about it.
 
In places where the common grape vine recoils from the cold, old and new hybrid varieties are supporting a growing commitment to viticulture in the Midwest.
Beets have come a long way to fields and vegetable gardens from their roots as a leafy green growing wild in the sandy soil of the Mediterranean.
The wines produced in Wisconsin's unlikely climate are the result of centuries of selection, cultivation and hybridization of many grape varieties.
The flowering of craft beer over the past decade was accompanied and aided by an arms race to scale new heights of bitter flavors.
Cindy Mischnick was a driving force behind the La Crosse Seed Library, the state's first that allows patrons to "check out" seeds to plant in their gardens.
Food scientists around Wisconsin are building on a growing interest in fermentation to help both craft brewers and multinational mega-breweries improve their beers. But their work isn't just about the state's alcoholic beverage producers.
Fermentation — the process by which microorganisms metabolize sugar into alcohol and other byproducts — has been an important part of the human diet for thousands of years. But the art and science of this practice is undergoing a bit of a renaissance.
While local food can be viewed as both an eternal and contemporary concept, a basic way-of-life present throughout humanity's history and a fashionable type of grocery purchase, the science behind what it is and means is still taking shape.
Wisconsin consumers widely agree that "local" food means food grown within the state. However, most Wisconsin shoppers do not consider food grown in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota to be "local," a new statewide survey shows.
UW-Madison researchers are helping extend the science behind the farm to table movement. Its idea is to source more food from local farms to improve nutritional opportunities and local economies.