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Supporters: Bring Back the Buy Local Buy Wisconsin Program


Wednesday, May 8, 2013   

VIROQUA, Wis. - Supporters of the Buy Local Buy Wisconsin grant program want Gov. Scott Walker to put the money for the grants back into the state budget.

"It was very key to our growth here," said Sue Noble, executive director of the Vernon Economic Development Association and founder of Fifth Season Cooperative near Viroqua, which connects local farmers with food buyers.

The grants "allowed us that start-up push that we needed to get moving," she said. "We were awarded $40,000, which was $20,000 for each of two years. We leveraged a lot of other things with that, and I think that's key."

By "leverage," Noble said, she meant that one thing led to another, which resulted in a lot of new jobs being created as the cooperative expanded.

Supporters say the grants are a wise use of state dollars to continue programs that have a track record of creating economic development. They say Buy Local Buy Wisconsin grants have given a 6-to-1 return on investment in the past three years.

Another benefit of the program, Noble said, is that it helps connect people with their food. She said more people are beginning to pay attention to where their food is sourced.

"Definitely," she said. "We hear it all the time: 'How can we track where our food comes from?' With food security and food safety, people want to know where it's coming from."

The Buy Local Buy Wisconsin program is only a tiny part of the huge state budget, Noble said, but it has had a huge impact on economic development, helping the bottom line of farmers and creating new jobs.

"We should be building a community where we know who our farmer is and we know who's next to us, we know who's feeding us, we know where that's coming from," she said. "That's called community development, and I believe you can't do economic development without community development."

Information about Fifth Season Cooperative is online at fifthseason.coop.

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