This blog is the home of the Driftless Region Food and Farm Project, a collection of farmers, consumers and organizations working to expand the local food system in the four-state Driftless Region. To join our efforts and to share your work, please email us at mmmille6 AT wisc.edu.
The Driftless Region is a 24,000 square mile area located in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois that was not glaciated during the last Ice Age. In adjacent areas, the topography was virtually buried by the silt, sand, clay and rocks left behind by retreating glaciers. This did not happen in the Driftless Region. Its rolling hills and meandering waterways, while highly prone to soil erosion, provide unique geographical, agricultural and cultural resources.
This region is uniquely positioned to significantly expand specialty and emerging crop production, processing and distribution into regional markets. Between Chicago and the Twin Cities, more than 20 milllion people live in the Upper Midwest’s urban and suburban neigborhoods. The Driftless Region boasts one of the largest concentrations of organic and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms in the country, as well as a wide variety of entrepreneurial, food-related businesses and institutions.
Numerous efforts to scale up local agricultural, food processing and distribution capacity are underway in the region. The Driftless Region Food and Farm Project aims to align these efforts and engage the region’s leaders in strategic conversations about barriers and opportunities for scaling up local food resources. The project communicates its work and resources through a wide range of channels including conferences and a blog.
Participants at the early conferences identified locally grown and processed foods positioned for quick growth and formed task forces to facilitate this growth. Most important, these conferences brought together food system leaders from across the region to learn from one another and align their vision and resources. Two research programs emerged from this work – one on domestic fair trade and labor and the other on transportation, distribution, and logistics.
If you are interested in geographic indication and branding the region’s food products, you may want to read Upper Mississippi River Valley American Viticultural Area Petition. This document details the basis for “taste of place” in the region.