On this blog, we post recent sustainability news to help people learn about initiatives and events related to sustainability in Central Wisconsin.

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“Gobble Gobble”: Youth Connect with Farms and Learn about Turkeys

From Farmshed Press Release, November 20, 2014

Central Rivers Farmshed and the Boys and Girls Club of Portage County Gateway Report Center have enjoyed a unique partnership over the past few years. When Farmsheturkeyd took on their
downtown renovation project at the former Sorenson’s Garden Center, the Gateway Report Center was looking for more community service partners. When the two organizations found each other, it was a perfect fit. The teens started helping with construction and clean up projects, specifically at the Farmshed facility throughout the school year. Then in 2013, Farmshed worked with Gateway staff to introduce the teens to several farmer partners, on Tuesdays during the summer, when more program hours were available.

Farmshed’s farm partners included: Cutler Country Comfort, The Sand Box, Rose of Sharon Homestead, Nami Moon Farms, Whitefeather Organics, Lonely Oak Farm, Liberation Farmers, and Painted Rock Farms. When the teens arrived, they assisted with large projects that gave them a glimpse into life on small, diversified farms. These projects included but were not limitedto composting, planting trees and shrubs, feeding animals, pulling thistle and, of course, weeding vegetable plots.

To round out this season’s partnership, the teens went to Whitefeather Organics to choose a turkey for their Thanksgiving feast set for November 20. The turkey was donated by the
Whitefeathers (Tony, Laura, Siris, Ashae, and Indie) and community members, Kent and Sue Hall. During the teens’ visit to the farm, just two days before the dinner, they went into the pasture
and together captured a suitably sized bird. Afterwards they learned from Tony and Laura Whitefeather the process of raising birds on pasture based systems, how to butcher a turkey, and
about poultry’s anatomy. The teens were amazed that turkeys eat grit and pebbles; storing them in their crops before passing the debris to their gizzards. The turkey’s gizzard helps to
grind their food, since turkeys don’t have teeth. For many of the teens, this was an eye opening way to learn how food, like Thanksgiving turkeys, reach our plates.

This partnership between Farmshed and Gateway has been great for many reasons. We look forward to seeing it grows in years to come. Partnerships like these help teens become part of
their community, teaches them how food is raised, and it involves hard work in all aspects. Everyone involved has much to be thankful for…Happy Thanksgiving from Farmshed and the
Gateway Report Center.

School for Beginning Market Growers Helps Beginning Farmers

From CIAS, November 2014

The Wisconsin School for Beginning Market Growers, a three-day workshop for anyone planning to start a fresh market vegetable farm, will be offered January 9-11, 2015 on the UW-Madison campus. The program, now in its 17th year, serves new and beginning farmers seeking to grow and market fresh produce. The focus of the program is to provide information and inspiration to help new growers make smart business decisions about production, marketing, pricing, capitalization and labor.  This is accomplished by having a team of experienced growers do the majority of the teaching.

The program emphasizes organic production methods and direct marketing. Participants will learn about fertility management, greenhouse use, season extension, pest management, equipment needs, and get real-world perspectives on the financial and quality-of-life realities of running a small scale farm.

The School for Beginning Market Growers is sponsored by the UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems. Registration for the program costs $325. Enrollment is limited, so early sign-ups are advised. For more information, contact John Hendrickson at (608) 265-3704 or jhendric@wisc.edu, or visit the CIAS website. Click here for online registration.

9th Annual Wisconsin Local Food Summit To Be Held in Wisconsin Rapids

From WLFN, November 2014

The 9th Annual Wisconsin Local Food Summit, Seeds for Change: Learning from the past to grow food for tomorrow will be January 30 and 31 at Hotel Mead in Wisconsin Rapids, in conjunction with the Wisconsin Farm to School Summit, on Thursday, January 29, also at Hotel Mead. Make one trip to attend TWO Summits!

The summit brings together community organizers, agency advocates, educators, local food producers, students, and stakeholders from all aspects of our food system to learn, network, and help shape our local food systems. This year’s summit has a great line up of workshop presenters (tentative schedule), and for the first time will feature poster presentations that visually highlight local food system research, education, innovative models and artwork. The 2015 keynote speakers are Venice Williams, Alice’s Garden; and Irwin Goldman, Professor and Department Head, University of Wisconsin, Department of Horticulture and Open Source Seed Initiative.

Stevens Point Resident Achieves Energy Security

From North Wind Renewable Energy, November 2014

Jan Roberts contacted North Wind Renewable Energy about reducing the electrical bills at her property in Stevens Point. On the property sits a rental home along with another building functioning as half office-half garage. As a resident of Portage County, she was able to participate in North Wind’s Community Solar Group Buy (CSGB) program. The CSGB program lowers the cost of installing solar electric systems for participants by leveraging volume of installations and reduced sales costs for us, the contractor. The more systems that get installed, the larger the volume discount for participants and the larger the contribution to Central Rivers Farmshed and local charities. Upon contract signing, Jan received an immediate 2.5% discount. Depending on the amount of program participants, she will receive an additional rebate at the end of the program term next May.

As a whole, the property consumes about 11,700 kWh per year. Through some energy efficiency measures and adjusting electrical use habits, Jan intended to reduce her consumption by 15% to about 10,000 kWh per year. Since her utility, Wisconsin Public Service, has an unfavorable policy in how it credits a homeowner by devaluing the excess electricity generated from their solar electric system and sent back to the grid, the aim was to offset about 70% of the annual electrical usage and minimize the amount of electricity that is net-metered.

The final system design called for a 6.6kW PV system mounted on the south-facing roof of her office/garage. The system is comprised of 24, 275 watt Solar World modules mounted in two rows of 12 along with a 6,000 watt ABB string inverter. This system is estimated to generate 6,700 kWh annually.

The CSGB program is helping many Portage County residents save thousands of dollars off the cost of their systems and, coupled with other state and federal incentive programs, reduce system costs. Click to learn more about North Wind’s Community Solar Group Buy program and how you can become a part of Portage County’s move towards a clean energy future!


Regulators Agree to Increase Fixed Charge on We Energies Electric Bills

From Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 14, 2014

We Energies customers will pay a larger fixed charge on their monthly electric bills, and the utility will pay less for the power that customers generate with solar panels, state regulators decided Friday.

The increase in the fixed charge from about $9 to $16 a month was justified, the Public Service Commission decided in a 2-to-1 vote.

The decision, which will be finalized next month, came as the three PSC commissioners met in Madison to decide the Milwaukee utility’s request to raise rates in January.

The preliminary bottom line for residential customers: a 1.8% increase in bills on average, though bills will rise more for customers who use less energy, PSC spokesman Nathan Conrad said. Bills will go up by another 0.8% in 2016.

Read full article.

To End Food Waste, Change Needs To Begin At Home

From NPR, November 17, 2014

Food is the largest single source of waste in the U.S. More food ends up in landfills than plastic or paper.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 20 percent of what goes into municipal landfills is food. Food waste tipped the scale at 35 million tons in 2012, the most recent year for which estimates are available. The enormous amount of wasted food is weighing on our food system.

“Forty percent of all the food in this country never makes it to the table — at a cost of $165 billion to the U.S. economy,” says Dan Nickey, associate director of the Iowa Waste Reduction Center, which works with businesses to cut back on how much food goes into the garbage.

There are lots of reasons for food waste. Some crops are never harvested. Some foods are thrown out if they don’t meet cosmetic standards. Restaurants often prepare more food than they sell. And grocery stores pull food off the shelf when it starts going stale.

Still, Nickey says, part of the problem is that consumers can afford to waste.

Read full article.

US-China Deal on Emissions Reductions Won’t Stop Climate Change, but It’s Still Good

From Slate, November 12, 2014

The United States and China—the world’s biggest contributors to climate change—just produced a game changer. Leaders of the two countries jointly announced ambitious new targets in Beijing on Wednesday. In doing so, the superpowers set an example for the rest of the world at a crucial moment in history, removing a key “you first” obstacle to global action on one of the planet’s most pressing problems.

Together with new pledges by the European Union, the new targets by the U.S. and China comprise more than half of global emissions. If achieved, that means the world would stand a decent chance of deviating from a business-as-usual scenario. That scenario—which the world has followed for years now—would have all but ensured unfathomable changes to coastlines and ecosystems in the span of a single lifetime.

Read the full article.


High on the Food Chain: Sustainability in Stevens Point

From Wisconsin Parent, November 12, 2014

Sustainability is more of a way of life than a kitschy trend these days and the more I travel, the more I see small towns setting the finest example of how a community can live within an equally compact carbon footprint. A few weeks ago I was in the Stevens Point area learning about the Wisconsin State Cranberry Harvest and found several different examples of sustainability around food and farming. And while some are more “granola” than others, each is doing something within a business model that benefits the business and the bigger picture.

Read the full article, which includes Central Rivers Farmshed, Great Northern Distilling, Emy J’s, The Main Grain Bakery, Tortuga Express, and PJ’s SentryWorld.

La Crosse Hospital Becomes First in Country to Achieve Energy Independence

Gundersen Health System Expects $30M Investment To Have Return In 8 Years

From WPR News, November 12, 2014

Gundersen Health System in La Crosse has become the first energy-independent hospital in the country.

Gundersen has been working toward generating all its own energy for its hospitals and clinics for a few years. Among its many projects, the system has constructed wind turbines, built methane digesters at dairy farms in Dane County, and has a facility that captures biogas released from the La Crosse County landfill.

Gundersen has now had 12 days total where it produced more energy than it consumed.

Read the full article.

CLUE Note: Below is the contact information for health care providers in central Wisconsin:
Mr. Matt Heywood, CEO, Aspirus, 425 Pine Ridge Blvd, Wausau, WI 54401
Mr. Stewart Watson, CEO, Ministry Health, 11925 W. Lake Park Dr., Milwaukee, WI 53224

River Riders Bike Share Program

From Press Release from Jean Rosekrans and Danielle Hiller, November 2014

The River Riders Bike Share program is one of Wisconsin’s first rural bike share programs. This bike share program is intended to promote a healthier lifestyle and a cleaner environment. The project is a community collaboration which started two years ago in the south Wood County area. The purpose of the bike share program is to make it easier for residents and visitors to access a bike for transportation or recreational use. Not only can the public take advantage of the beautiful bike trails in this area, but utilizing the bikes will also increase physical activity and help our environment at the same time.

Read the full article.

Student Group Practices Sustainable Agriculture with Support of the Green Fund

By Cassandra Lund, CLUE Student Office Assistant, November 14, 2014

This summer, you may have noticed a flourishing garden on Franklin Street across from the Fire Station in Stevens Point. This is the Campus Garden which is managed by the student organization, Sustainable Agriculture in Communities Society (SACS). The organization’s main focus is to bring the garden to a state of upkeep that will make it easier for future members to maintain. This includes building 15 raised beds within the garden.

SACS has done many things around the Steven Point campus with the help of a grant received from the Green Fund. The biggest project is the Campus Garden, and the task of creating raised beds is huge and will require a lot of teamwork and strength. While the members will be working hard with this task, other students and community members are invited to help.

Read full article.

EBT/FoodShare Accepted at Winter Farmers’ Market in Wisconsin Rapids

From Farmshed Press Release, November 2014

Central Rivers Farmshed will continue to acept EBT/FoodShare Cards on Thursdays during the winter farmers’ market inside the Rapids Mall. This program allows FoodShare recipients to use their benefits at the farmers’ market and ensures that all community members havee access to fresh, local products including fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, honey, maple syrup and more. Farmshed has been accepting EBT at the Wisconsin Rapids Farmers’ Market since 2011 and this is the first season they will join vendors for the indoor farmers market.

Learn more on the Farmshed website or by calling 715-544-6154.

Judge Blames Toxic Kewaunee County Wells on Massive Regulatory Failure

From the Cap Times, October 31, 2014

An administrative law judge says “massive regulatory failure” led to groundwater contamination in a dairy farming region and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources must use its powers to prevent further pollution.

In a ruling issued Wednesday, Judge Jeffrey Boldt ordered the DNR to modify a discharge permit for Kinnard Farms, an industrial-sized dairy farm in Kewaunee County, by requiring the operation to install at least six monitoring wells. Two of the wells should be on fields where manure is being spread, Boldt said. He also ordered the agency to cap the number of cows allowed on the big dairy, though he did not specify a maximum.

DNR officials previously testified that no large, permitted dairies, also known as concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, had ever been required to install monitoring wells.

Read the full article.

Food Waste Provides Fertile Ground for Tech Innovators

From Marketplace, October 24, 2014

Food waste is a big problem around the world. The United Nations reports that 1.3 billion tons of food are tossed every year. But now, figuring out how to keep produce and leftovers out of landfills has become fertile ground for tech innovators.

Throwing out food happens all along the supply chain. Here’s an example: A farmer ships out a truckload of eggplant, but when it arrives, the re-seller thinks the color’s a bit off. “They say it should be dark or it should be purple. I’m not really sure what color eggplant is supposed to be, but a lot of times, eggplant is refused because it’s not the color they want,” explains long-haul trucker, Richard Gordon. “Or you might get a load of potatoes with too many eyes in it or too many curves and they reject it for that reason.”

Gordon has transported food along the East Coast for 30 years. When a shipment was rejected, he hated throwing it in a dumpster, so he’d call his brother to help. “I would get on the phone and try to find a place for him to donate it to,” says Richard’s brother, Roger Gordon. “We realized one day that hey, you know, Rich is calling me from a mobile computer, we should be able to find a way to take me out of the equation.”

Two years ago, Roger Gordon launched the web and app service, Food Cowboy. It connects truckers, wholesalers, caterers and restaurants with food charities and composters. Food rescuers will pay 10 cents a pound and suppliers can get a tax write-off for the donation. When food becomes available, it has to get to a rescuer fast, which is why an instant, established network is important. As a result, food waste apps are popping up across the country. In New York, there’s PareUp, and in northern California, Crop Mobster. Two MIT business students are launching Spoiler Alert in Boston later this month.

Read the full article.

State Regulators to Tackle Utilities’ Proposed Increases

From Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 1, 2014

As soon as this week, state regulators will start deciding what to do about controversial utility proposals that would boost the fixed charge on monthly electric bills by 75% to 150%, depending on the utility.

Three of Wisconsin’s utilities this year came out with proposals to hike the nonenergy charges on monthly bills, as a result of slower sales and part of an effort that they say will make billing more fair for all customers.

If approved, the fixed charges in Wisconsin would be among the highest in the Midwest. That comes at a time when average electricity prices rank high among Midwest states.

Read the full article.

Electric-car Owners Choosing Solar Power over Gasoline

From Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 1, 2014

Owners of electric vehicles have already gone gasoline-free. Now a growing number are powering their cars with sunlight.

Solar panels installed on the roof of a home or garage can easily generate enough electricity to power an electric or plug-in gas-electric hybrid vehicle. The panels aren’t cheap, and neither are the cars. A Ford Fusion Energi plug-in sedan, for example, is $7,200 more than an equivalent gas-powered Fusion, even after a $4,007 federal tax credit.

But advocates say the investment pays off over time and is worth it for the thrill of fossil fuel-free driving. “We think it was one of the best things in the world to do,” says Kevin Tofel, who bought a Chevrolet Volt in 2012 to soak up the excess power from his home solar-energy system. “We will never go back to an all-gas car.”

No one knows exactly how many electric cars are being powered by solar energy, but the number of electric and plug-in hybrid cars in the United States is growing. Last year, 97,563 were sold in the U.S., according to Ward’s AutoInfoBank, up 83% from the year before. Meanwhile, solar installations grew 21% in the second quarter of this year, and more than 500,000 homes and businesses now have them, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Read the full article.

State Raises Possibilities of Banning Neonicotinoids

From Star Tribune, October 29, 2014

Minnesota regulators, for the first time, are considering banning or restricting a controversial class of insecticides that has been linked to honeybee deaths.

The possibility, disclosed this week by the state Department of Agriculture in a revised outline for a study of the chemicals, followed an outpouring of public concern over the dramatic decline in honeybee populations in recent years.

“Obviously people are very interested in this,” said Gregg Regimbal, an official with the department’s Pesticide & Fertilizer Management Division. “It’s a very complex issue and it’s highly charged.”

Read the full article.

Businesses Moving Toward Sustainability: Emy J’s

By Cassandra Lund, CLUE Student Office Assistant, October 28, 2014

Emy J’s, a local restaurant and café in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, is well known for their delicious, local food. In an interview with Guy Janssen, the owner of Emy J’s, I got a bit more insight into what they are doing as a sustainably focused business. Read full article.



Farmers Markets Move Indoors for Winter

From Stevens Point Journal, October 19, 2014

wintermarketEven though the cold weather and winter months are slowly nudging farmers markets out of the outdoors, it doesn’t mean consumers have to forgo their services completely.

The close of October will bring the end of the outdoor farmers market season, but some vendors still have products to sell. There might not be as much produce variety during the winter, said Bill Lubing, farmers market manager of Saturday Market on the Square in Madison, but vendors do make sure there’s an adequate supply of what they can offer. “There isn’t as much to buy,” Lubing said. “But there’s certainly a lot to purchase.”

In central Wisconsin, enthusiasts can soothe their hankering for niche and fresh goods found at farmers markets by visiting one of the area’s several winter markets. Both Wausau and Wisconsin Rapids have new indoor markets to shield vendors — and their customers — from the snow and freezing temperatures. Both started markets up last winter in response to farmers’ need for a venue to sell their products.

Read the full article.

UWSP Marks National Campus Sustainability Day with Fair

From Stevens Point Journal, October 22, 2014

The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point joined universities across the United States on Wednesday recognizing sustainability efforts on campus and in the community.

Nearly 30 businesses, nonprofit organizations and student groups took part in the university’s National Campus Sustainability Day fair, held in the Laird Room in the Dreyfus University Center. Started in 2003, National Campus Sustainability Day has been held to recognize the successes, challenges and innovation in higher education to reduce the impact people have on the planet.

UWSP is nationally recognized for its green initiatives, sustainability and energy efficiency. The university was recently ranked No. 5 on a list of 50 affordable and eco-friendly colleges by the website www.bestchoiceschools.com.

Read the full article.

Saratoga Approves Monitoring Well Network around CAFO

From Wisconsin Daily Tribune, October 2, 2014

The Saratoga Town Board unanimously approved Wednesday night the installation of a $60,000 well network to carry out groundwater monitoring activities around a proposed large-scale dairy.

The purpose of the well network will be to record the groundwater’s present state, enabling the town to detect whether the proposed Wysocki Golden Sands Dairy — a concentrated animal feeding operation — is hydraulically or chemically affecting the local groundwater flow system, according to a proposal and cost estimate presented to the town.

“We got to get a baseline for what’s in the water as it is right now, before the farm comes in,” said Terry Rickaby, chairman of the Saratoga Town Board. “That’s the baseline we need — that’s the one that’s going to protect us.”

Read the full article.

Meet New Climate Change Warrior: Your Doctor

From TakePart, September 29, 2014

Doctors aren’t just worried about heart disease, diabetes, and obesity these days. Climate change is climbing to the top of their list of public health hazards, and that could have big implications in the political fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

Among the more than 310,000 demonstrators marching through Manhattan in last week’s People’s Climate March were contingents of physicians. Now The Journal of the American Medical Association, the voice of the nation’s powerful medical establishment, has issued a call to arms to doctors, urging those in health-related fields to throw their weight behind climate change prevention efforts.

Read the full article.

Report on Sustainability in State Lists Wins and Losses

From Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 13, 2014

A new report chalks up Wisconsin’s wins and losses in the three key areas important for sustainability — economy, environment and social.

Those three categories — often referred to as the triple bottom line — are documented in the fifth annual state report published by the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council in conjunction with the nonprofit group Cool Choices, which advises businesses and others on ways to reduce their carbon footprint.

Among Wisconsin’s wins: Its leadership in manufacturing and organic farming, renewable energy digesters on dairy farms and high school graduation rates.

Among the losses: The state is generating more power from coal after the shutdown of the Kewaunee nuclear power plant; its greenhouse gas emissions were on the rise while its renewable energy production is falling behind other states; and the racial disparity in Wisconsin high school graduation rates is third-worst in the country.

Read the full article.

EPA Finds Neonicotinoid Seed Treatments of Little or No Benefit to U.S. Soybean Production

From EPA Pesticide Program Updates, October 16, 2014

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an analysis of the benefits of neonicotinoid seed treatments for insect control in soybeans.  A Federal Register notice inviting the public to comment on the analysis will publish in the near future.

“We have made the review of neonicotinoid pesticides a high priority. During the review, we found that many scientific publications claim that treating soybean seeds has little value,” said Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “This propelled the agency to evaluate the economic benefits of this use. “We found that the benefits to U.S. soybean farmers on a national scale were just not there.”

The EPA assessment examined the effectiveness of these seed treatments for pest control and estimated the impacts on crop yields and quality, as well as financial losses and gains.

Read the full article.

Whole Foods to Rate Its Produce and Flowers for Environmental Impact

From The New York Times, October 16, 2014

WholeFoodsWhole Foods Market on Wednesday began a ratings program for fruits, vegetables and flowers aimed at giving consumers more information about pesticide and water use, the treatment of farm workers and waste management, and other issues surrounding the food they eat.

The upscale grocery chain will rate the produce of suppliers electing to participate in the program, Responsibly Grown, as “good,” “better,” or “best,” depending on, for example, how they handle plastic waste in their operations and whether they provide conservation areas to foster bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

Read the full article.