September 22, 2011
By: Jennifer Reece
This year’s annual Food for Thought Festival, held last weekend in Madison, explored and celebrated the diversity of ways to eat more pleasurably, healthfully and sustainably in Wisconsin. Hosted by REAP (Research, Education, Action and Policy)—a Madison based non-profit organization with the mission to build a regional food system that is healthful, just, environmentally sustainable and economically viable—the Food for Thought Festival is reminiscent of the age-old harvest festival. However, this festival is more of a festival of the minds than one celebrating piles of wheat and corn stacked high.
The goal this year was simply to connect and reconnect people with their food through guest speakers, demonstration workshops, information booths and activities for the young and those just young at heart. Attendees were shown by more than 80 vendor and organization booths how ‘eating through the seasons’ is doable with the local bounty right outside their backdoor. Joan Peterson and Terese Allen, authors of the newly released Wisconsin Local Foods Journal, helped answer questions about how to eat locally all winter long: “Eating local in the summer is easy, but the ability to eat locally 365 days of the year is no small feat, but it IS doable!”
In the past, the festival hosted popular local/sustainable food celebrities such as Michael Pollen, Frances Moore Lappe, Alice Waters, Gary Nabhan and such guest chefs as Deborah Madison, Rick Bayless, Odessa Piper, and Mollie Katzen. This year, coordinators decided to take a different approach, however, organizing the festival so that attendees could “learn and work with their hands, and even get their hands dirty,” says REAP communications coordinator, Erin Courtenay.