Connection: It’s in the name and in the mission.
The Sauk County Farm Connect Guide, a free annual publication offered by the county’s University of Wisconsin-Extension, aims to help visitors and residents interested in buying local find local products.
“We’re really doing it for the people and for the producers,” said Program Specialist Haley Weisert. “I think it’s important that people know where their food is coming from.”
In existence since 2005, the guide received a “fresh new face” in 2016 when Weisert started working on it. She said she updates the directory of farmers, producers and tourist destinations every year and -- like she will Saturday at the Food Fair and Farmers Market in Reedsburg -- searches for new vendors in the area.
The 2018 edition includes about 70 vendors, organized by city, offering everything from meat, vegetables, trees and flowers to honey, cheese, jams and baked goods. Weisert said the number remains relatively steady as a couple producers drop off each year and a couple new ones are added.
Weisert said the guide ties together two vital industries in Sauk County -- agriculture and tourism. She doesn’t know how exactly how many people use it, but said all 2,000 copies printed last year were distributed.
Dorothy Harms, who co-owns Valley Springs Farm Bed & Breakfast in Reedsburg with her husband, Don, said the publication provides valuable free advertising for producers. Their business has appeared in the guide for about six years. They offer farm-to-table breakfast and guided farm tours to their guests, as well as sell a variety of homemade jams and beef.
“We really appreciate (the guide),” Harms said. “One of the biggest costs in trying to direct market and trying to sell services to the public is advertising, and to be able to have that available is just really helpful. Because for a lot of us, we don’t have a lot of money to invest in that.”
While Weisert is still working on the 2019 edition, she hopes to publish it by April. It will be available online at the Sauk County UW-Extension website or by calling the Extension office at 608-355-3250 for a paper copy. Copies also are distributed to each producer and to some local businesses.
Rowley Creek Lavender Farm of Baraboo has been listed in the publication for a few years, advertising its lavender and small-batch skin-care and bath products. Co-owner Kehaulani Jones said she appreciates the design and quality of the county UW-Extension’s guide so much that she offers copies to her customers.
“I think it’s great to see how many farms there are just in Sauk County. Especially if you’re not from around here and you’re touring the area, the Sauk County guide is a great way to see a fresher side of Sauk County,” Jones said.
While she noted she finds it refreshingly “old-school,” she would like it to also have a searchable online webpage aside from the PDF version available on the UW-Extension website.
Orange Cat Community Farm owner Laura Mortimore said the guide is a “great resource” that her farm has been listed in for about 10 years. Located halfway between Reedsburg and Wisconsin Dells, the 3-acre organic vegetable farm sells shares to people who want fresh produce delivered to them at regular intervals -- usually weekly, in the summer.
“There’s a really lovely community of producers of all sorts of different stuff in Sauk County,” she said. “If everyone just takes even one thing out of their pantry and tries to figure out where they can purchase it locally direct from a farmer, it just makes a huge impact for all of us.”