Our crew of three met John Peck - farmer, Economics and Environmental Studies instructor, and executive director of NFFC member group Family Farm Defenders - for breakfast on the isthmus in Madison. Like John, Family Farm Defenders stays active on a number of issues in the name of food sovereignty - opposing free trade agreements, genetically modified organisms, and price manipulations of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange while supporting (and selling) fair trade products, farm and migrant worker rights, and the opportunity for people to grow food free of corporate domination. With members living throughout many US states and longtime participation in the international peasant movement La Via Campesina, Family Farm Defenders has admirers worldwide, thanks in part to founder, longtime president, and statesman-ambassador John Kinsman who passed away a few years ago. Like the heirloom popcorn they've sold for many years, they are 'tiny but mighty'.
The next stop included a drive north to Wisconsin Dells, a small resort town known for water parks, theme parks, and Carr Valley Cheese, among other things. We stopped at the farm of Sarah Lloyd, a member of Family Farm Defenders as well as Wisconsin Farmers Union. Sarah and her husband are debating how long they can continue to milk their 350 to 400 cows. There we were joined by Julie Bomar and Darin Von Ruden of Wisconsin Farmers Union and Dale Wiehoff who is both an ally of WFU and part of the Working Families Party.
While we didn't reach a conclusion about the best mechanism for achieving fair producer prices, we enjoyed debating parity, supply management, and other means toward that, and vowed to continue talking with these Dairy Together leaders. Local strawberries, sweet peas, and cheese were shared almost until the minute we stepped outside to watch the cows stroll out of the milking barn to enjoy a spray under a water mister. It was a little sad thinking that they may not be making that walk too much longer, but that's still to be determined.
Our next stop was at a small diner/bar in Wonewoc, where fried walleye steaks beckoned.
With full bellies we drove afterward through the driftless region to Jim and Rebecca Goodman's farm for the night. Although they weren't home, their gracious hospitality was visible everywhere - a casserole ready for baking, in case we were hungry, and chilled adult beverages in case we were thirsty. Lush shade trees and gardens with big skies above - it was easy to see why they kept their comfortable country home even as they sold their cows and land around it.